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National Conference on Communications

Analysis of a Hybrid Renewable Wind - Solar Power System for a Rural GSM/UMTS Site. Case Study - Uganda

Paul Asiimwe Kyoma

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Makerere University Kampala, Uganda kyomapaul@gmail.com Abstract The mobile cellular communications industry in Uganda is one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy. However, mobile operators are faced with high costs of operation which hamper service provision and reduce profit and further investment in the industry. One of the major contributors to the total operating costs is the electricity needed to run the base station sites and other system components. This problem is more prominent in rural areas, most of which are not connected to the national electricity grid and have to run on diesel generators all the time. For such sites, service providers incur high operating costs due to the high cost of diesel and associated generator maintenance costs. Operators are always looking for solutions to reduce their operational expenses. This paper proposes low cost and economical configuration of a stand-alone PV/wind hybrid energy system for a typical GSM/UMTS site in rural Uganda. The meteorological data of solar insolation and wind speed for a typical rural area in Uganda, and the energy consumption of a typical rural site are studied and simulated using the HOMER energy modeling software. The simulations show that such a power system can reliably run a typical rural site. The proposed system is not only more environmentally friendly than a diesel generator system but also more cost effective in the long run considering the ever increasing fuel prices. This hybrid system also reduces maintenance costs and makes it cheaper for operators to roll out sites in rural areas.
Key words rural, mobile communication, hybrid, operation

Edwin Mugume
School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering University of Manchester Manchester, United Kingdom edwin.mugume@gmail.com generators are always required (one for redundancy), power costs account for over 60% of the total OPEX per site [1]. This makes it very expensive for the network operators to install GSM/UMTS sites. For rural areas where there is less potential for acquiring new mobile subscribers, the average revenue per user (RPU) is low which makes the operators to shun such areas. Operators must therefore reduce their OPEX in order to recoup their initial investment faster. Since power related costs make up most of the OPEX, operators are always looking for cheaper alternatives to run their sites. With the stiff competition that characterises Ugandas mobile communications sector, operators are seeking ways of providing very quality service with minimal OPEX so as to maximise their profits. Another issue is the need for operators to become more environmentally friendly and reduce their carbon footprint. According to Bell labs research, it is estimated that base stations in the whole world produce roughly 18 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually [2]. The manufacture and use of information and communication technology (ICT) contributes 2% of the total global carbon emissions and it is estimated that this value will reach 3% by the year 2020 [3], [4]. Due to the above reasons, operators, vendors, researchers and other industry players are exploring cheaper, renewable and energy efficient equipment not only to reduce OPEX but also to enhance the effort towards greener communications. Studies have shown that the radio access network (RAN) contributes up to 57% of the total energy consumed by the network and therefore, the biggest priority for operators is to find solutions that can reduce the consumption of the RAN [5]. Fig. 1 shows the contributions of the different components of the telecommunication network. A typical base station in a rural area has a number of microwave transmission links for backhaul to connect 900MHz and/or 1800MHz transceivers that provide GSM coverage. In addition, some sites have a NodeB for 3G coverage. In the radio base station (RBS), the power amplifier consumes the highest amount of power.



Operators of Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) and Universal Mobile Telecommunications Systems (UMTS) in many rural areas in Africa incur high operational expenses (OPEX) due to limited extent of the national electricity grid in such areas. In Ugandas case, most rural areas are not connected to the national electricity grid and operators are forced to run diesel generators in a 1+1 configuration. Due to high costs of diesel and the fact that two

considered so that more energy efficient fans can be considered as opposed to indoor base station sites which require air conditioners. Using specifications given by Alcatel-Lucent, the electrical load of the site was calculated. Using NASA data for this region, the wind speed and solar insolation was obtained [8]. A battery bank was considered for storing the excess power from the solar and wind system. This was obtained from the simulation using HOMER. Fig. 2 shows a schematic of the hybrid power system that was designed to run the site. Each of the power sources will be dimensioned in the next section. Table 1 shows data was obtained from NASA for the Kalangala area that includes the solar insolation and wind speeds. It can be seen that the average solar insolation on a horizontal surface is 5.1kWh/m2 per day and the average wind speed at a height of 50m above the surface of the earth is 4.6m/s.

Figure 1. Electricity usage in a mobile network [3]

Uganda lies in the solar belt and therefore, it receives 25003200 hours of sunshine per year and a mean solar radiation or insolation of 5.1kWh/m2 per day on a horizontal surface [6]. Solar insolation is essentially a measure of the radiation or solar energy received over a given area on the surface of the earth per unit time. According to Rodolfo and Sebbit in [7], Uganda has an average wind speed of 3 m/s. This is higher in some areas such as the Karamoja region, high altitude areas and on the shores of Lake Victoria. Most base stations in rural areas are located on high hills so as to provide a wide coverage footprint. Most of them use tall masts to gain a high elevation over the surrounding reflectors, scatterers and other obstacles which would otherwise hamper the signal propagation. Thus, in general, rural base stations are located in areas with a high wind speed. This means that wind and solar have potential to provide alternative energy sources that can ultimately contribute to the total energy requirements of the network. Diesel generators can then be used as back up especially during major maintenance works. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the potential of a hybrid solar and wind generation system as a solution to provide extra energy that can be used to run some of these components. It will provide a mathematical analysis of a typical rural base station and discuss qualitatively the potential energy savings, pay back period and provide an optimum system design suitable for rural deployment. II. CASE STUDY

Figure 2: Schematic diagram of hybrid solar-wind for GSM/UMTS site with a possible diesel generator backup.


Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec Average

Insolation (kWh/m2) 5.2 5.7 5.6 5.0 4.7 4.8 5.0 5.2 5.4 5.0 4.7 4.9 5.1

Wind velocity (m/s) 4.1 4.4 4.6 4.7 4.9 5.2 5.0 4.8 4.8 4.5 4.2 3.8 4.6

A site in Kalangala District (coordinates S0.3084, E32.2250) has been chosen for the subsequent analysis in this paper. Kalangala is a typical rural area in Uganda but its tourism, palm oil and fishing industries are booming. Thus, such a place would easily pass the initial marketing feasibility study because of the high traffic potential it possesses. Different operators in Uganda have stepped up their coverage in Lake Victoria and the fishing villages in and around it so as to provide sufficient coverage to the fishermen and tourists. In the analysis, typical Alcatel-Lucent equipment was used for the system design. This included a 900MHz GSM base station, a UMTS NodeB and one microwave link. An outdoor site was

Most of the base station equipment uses direct current but there is equipment that uses alternating current. For example, a socket may be provided for charging laptops which are used during installation, commissioning and maintenance of the base station. Thus, an inverter is normally used to supply power for such equipment. Table 2 shows the average hourly energy/power consumption by each component of the site obtained from the specifications of the equipment. Thus, the total power required to run a base station site with this equipment is 1783 Watts. In the following analysis, two scenarios have been identified. In the first scenario, the required power is provided by either solar or wind system independently. In the second scenario, a solar-wind hybrid system is used to provide the required power to run the site. Observations and conclusions are drawn based on results of the analysis. Scenario A: Stand-alone system Average Energy requirement per day = 178324 = 42,792Wh Wind Turbine dimensioning The power generated by a wind system can be expressed as:

Solar Photovoltaic Array dimensioning In the case of a solar system, it will be dimensioned to produce 130% of the power which will cover about 25% of the losses. Therefore, the required solar panel power rating can be expressed as:

1.3 * Load (Watts ) solar insolation


This design considers the worst case scenario to deliver a power system with the highest reliability. Therefore, the lowest solar insolation value of 4.7kWh/m2 (corresponding to May and November) was used in equation (3). For a load of 42,792Wh, the required solar panel power rating is: P = 11836Wp Scenario B: Hybrid System An independent solar system would have the weakness that solar power can only be harvested during the day. A hybrid system combines both the solar and wind systems to make one power source that optimizes the cost of powering the base station. Dimensioning such a hybrid system can be based on any of four criteria: a) Splitting the cost of the hybrid system 50-50.

1 P C p A 3 2


b) Splitting the power generated by both systems 50-50. c) Optimizing the total cost for the combined hybrid system.

P is the generated power available, C p is the efficiency of

the turbine, A is the area of the turbine ( A r where r is the rotor radius), is the wind velocity and is the density of air. According to the International Standard Atmosphere, air has a density of 1.22 kg/m3 at sea level and a temperature of 15oC. Assuming an efficiency of 25%, the rotor radius required to generate power of 1783W for an average wind velocity of 4.6m/s is obtained from equation (1) as:

d) Fixing power of one system and dimensioning the other. Since the major reason why operators would consider a hybrid renewable power system is to reduce their OPEX, then the third criteria is preferred and has been chosen for this analysis. However, there are other constraints that must be considered during the design of such a system. These include: The space available for the site might dictate the size of the solar array and the size of the wind turbine. The turbine can be accommodated on the same tower as the radio antennas. However, this has to be taken into account during the civil design of the tower as the turbine can add significant weight. Otherwise, a separate tower may be built for the turbine although this increases the total cost of the site including site lease costs.

2* P C p



TABLE 1. AVERAGE POWER REQUIRMENTS Equipment Compact BTS 900 Outdoor UMTS NodeB 1 Socket (for laptop) Microwave (IDU+ODU) Total Power (W) 1283 300 100 100 Number 1 1 1 1 Total (W) 1283 300 100 100 1783

A number of cost optimization methods exist. These are probabilistic, iterative or graphical [9]. For this paper however, HOMER (Hybrid Optimization Model for Electrical Renewables) simulation tool was used to optimize the cost of the system for a typical rural site. According to European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), the average cost per kW of wind power ranges between $1,000 to $1,265 while the average cost per kW of solar energy ranges between $3,300-$4,400 [10], [11]. From the simulation results, the cheapest system will consist of a 5kW solar array, two generic 10kW wind turbines at a hub height of 40m and 48 160Ah Narada batteries. Such a

system would cost $49,000 (1 USD = 2,600 Uganda Shillings at the time of writing this paper). Fig. 3 shows the possible combinations of the PV photovoltaic and wind systems that can be used for optimal system operation. The highlighted one in the figure shows the most optimal configuration considering the excess power that will be produced. The system summary is shown in Tables 3 and 4. Fig. 4 shows the percentage contribution of the different power sources towards the total power output of the system. It can be seen that most of the power contributed by the wind sub-system. This is the preferred scenario because the cost per kWh of wind is cheaper than that of a solar photovoltaic system. III. OBSERVATIONS
Figure 4. Monthly average electric production

If only solar energy is to be used, the total size of the solar array needed to generate significant solar power becomes very large. Thus, the solar array will require a very large area for its deployment. In addition to the high cost per kWh of a solar system, the costs associated with site lease will also increase. The wind and solar hybrid system can produce more power than is necessary to run the system. However, there are also periods when the generated power may be less than the load. This problem is countered by having bigger battery storage to store any extra energy and feed it back into the system later. This problem can also be countered by having a standby generator that provides any power shortfalls when required. Such a generator should be able to supply the 1783W required by the site. A 2kW generator should be sufficient for such a purpose. It is recommended that such a generator be a mobile diesel generator as it might be redundant of the time. A mobile standby diesel generator may be required in cases where major maintenance work on the hybrid system is due to take place or when the system breaks down. This will reduce the downtime of the site and enhance network availability further.

From the calculations and simulations, it was observable that: For enough wind power to be harnessed to supplement the power generated from solar, big wind turbines have to be used. This will significantly increase the initial investment cost of the project because of the huge turbine and a tower on which it has to be installed. It will also increase the amount of space that the operator needs for the site which increases cost of site lease. For this reason, two small wind turbines are proposed instead of one.

Figure 3. Most optimal hybrid system combinations

TABLE 3. SYSTEM COMPONENTS PV Array Wind turbines Battery 5 kWp 2 Generic 10kW at a hub height of 40m 48 Narada (each rated 160Ah).

Such a hybrid system also has significant advantages over current sources of power. Once installed, it reduces the fuel costs and CO2 emissions by 100%. This system also does not require a high maintenance effort and maintenance costs can be reduced significantly by over 80%. Considering that such a system has a life span of over 10 years, it leaves ample time for operators to regain their initial investment and then enjoy significant profits. It therefore makes good business sense for operators to consider it for most of their rural sites which are very difficult to connect to the national grid and for which they incur high OPEX with little return on investment (ROI). IV. CONCLUSION

TABLE 4. ELECTRICAL POWER DISTRIBUTION Component PV array Wind turbines Total Production (kWh/yr) 7,427 31,369 38,795 Fraction 19% 81% 100%

The analysis presented in this paper shows that there is enough potential to exploit solar and wind energy to provide power in rural areas in Uganda. In the context of cellular communication systems, an entire stand-alone base station can be supported on power generated by a solar-wind hybrid system at all times. However, a battery bank would be needed for redundancy purposes and will be charged by excess power generated by the hybrid system. Such a power source would significantly reduce the OPEX of operators, increase their desire to invest in rural

areas and hence enhance penetration of telecommunication services in rural areas. As governments start implementing climate change policies and as operators continue to seek more energy efficient power solutions, Uganda should not be left behind. The world is facing an energy crisis and Uganda is not immune. Fuel prices are very unstable but the general trend is that the prices are increasing. This reduces the profit margins of operators in Ugandas competitive mobile telecommunications market. Implementing a hybrid solar and wind system to run their base stations in rural areas would go a long away in reducing their costs, improving the potential for further investment in the sector and crucially, it would reduce their carbon footprint.


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