The UK’s first wind and solar-powered mobile phone mast has been switched on at a site in Pembrokeshire, Wales, mobile giant Vodafone has today announced.
The specially-designed mast is to provide 4G coverage to the community of Eglwysww, but unlike a conventional mobile network infrastructure it has been developed to operate without the need for a connection to the electricity grid. If the initial trial proves successful, Vodafone hopes the masts could provide connectivity to so-called ‘not-spots’ in the UK’s most remote and inaccessible locations, while also helping to slash carbon emissions.
“Connectivity is vital to everyone, no matter where you live,” said Andrea Dona, chief network officer and development director at Vodafone. “This self-powering mobile phone mast, with on-site battery storage, could help us connect places that were previously impossible to reach. It will also help us reduce carbon emissions and minimise our impact on local environments.”
The technology is being trialled in partnership with wind turbine technology specialists Crossflow Energy and mobile infrastructure partner Cornerstone. It has been installed at Home Farm in Eglwyswrw as part of a two-year data gathering project to allow Vodafone to optimize the technology and determine which sites are most suitable for such ‘self-powering’ masts.
“Until now, the use of ‘small wind’ turbines in the race to net zero has been limited due to issues of performance, reliability, and planning concerns such as noise, vibration, and damage to ecology,” said Martin Barnes, CEO at Crossflow Energy. “The unique design of our wind turbine addresses all these challenges head on. We believe that one day its use could be as widespread and commonplace as solar panels.”
Vodafone said the new masts had the potential to help it reach its target of achieving net zero emissions across its UK operations by 2027.
It added that a switch to 100 per cent renewable electricity has already contributed to a 55 per cent reduction in carbon emissions between March 2021 and March 2022. The company recently signed a 10-year power agreement with Centrica to procure power from three new solar farms in Lincolnshire, Worcestershire, and Nottinghamshire, securing their development and bringing 55GWh of additional renewable power provision to the UK grid.
Vodafone has also set a target, alongside three other major phone providers, to help the industry achieve 95 per cent of UK landmass coverage by 2025 which the new masts could help support.