How green is your cell phone tower?


Photo courtesy of mtoreceptive at Flickr.com.

In the developing world, where electric grids are less reliable, many cell phone towers have to generate their own electricity. With diesel generators, that means that energy costs can add up to 2/3 of the total maintenance costs. Theft and vandalism are also a big problem with these systems.

As a result of these high energy costs, many cellular providers in the Third World have adopted green power supplies. In addition to wind and solar power, some of these cell phone systems incorporate biodiesel.



Photo courtesy of Tirau Dan at Flickr.com.

Designers are also rethinking the traditional cell phone tower. In 2007, Ericsson introduced the Tower Tube – a self contained concrete tower that has less visual impact and a smaller carbon footprint. Since they use concrete instead of a steel structure, and have no need for a perimeter fence, these towers release approximately 20% less CO2 than conventional towers. Other companies are getting rid of cell towers entirely by using trees!

If you look closely, the cell towers near your house may already be using solar or wind backup power supplies. Here’s an example of a solar panel that powers weather monitoring equipment on a cell tower.

Will Congress act to save Greentech jobs?


Photo courtesy of taryn_* at Flickr.com.

At the end of 2008, the cost of installing and operating alternative power generators is set to rise. There are currently federal tax credits that offer a 30% rebate on solar improvements (up to $2,000), but a sunset clause will reduce the rebate from 30% to 10% after January 1st, 2009.

Also, there’s a production tax credit that offers incentives for utilities to use wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, and other alternative power sources. It’s also set to expire at the end of 2008. Unless these two tax credits are extended, industry studies warn that the US could lose more than 100,000 green collar jobs.

The open question is – how much truth lies behind these numbers? Even if the solar tax credit is allowed to lapse, there will be no effect on projects that cost more than $20,000. Is it possible that self interested alternative energy companies are trying to get legislators attention through fear? Since when did green power companies start behaving like coal lobbyists?