Advanced Fuel Cells A Reliable and Green Solution to Reduce Operating Expenses of Telecommunication Networks

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1 Advanced Fuel Cells A Reliable and Green Solution to Reduce Operating Expenses of Telecommunication Networks White Paper Anil K. Trehan, Vice President, Energy Solutions CommScope, Inc. May 28, 2013

2 Contents Executive Summary 3 Fuel Cells 3 Advanced Fuel Cell Solution for Telecommunications Networks 3 Key Features of the Advanced Fuel Cell Solution 5 Global Field Installations and Results 6 Asia Field Installation 7 Europe Field Installation 9 North America Field Installation 10 Key Observations 11 Conclusion 11 2

3 Executive Summary Telecom networks require significant energy to operate. Even though energy prices are presently at relatively reasonable levels, the operators are trying to reduce the energy consumption of their networks. There are several factors behind this focus. For example, energy bills contribute to more than half the operating cost of the network. In addition, lower energy usage is an effective way for operators to minimize their environmental impact, reduce carbon footprint and use more sustainable forms of energy. Since telecom networks typically have tens of thousands of sites, operators must reduce operational and maintenance costs to compete effectively. Operators around the world are exploring applications of alternate energy solutions in their networks. Solar arrays, wind turbines and fuel cells have all been implemented in various telecom applications with varying degrees of success. These solutions have higher initial costs but offer significantly lower costs of operation and maintenance with substantially lower carbon footprint. The options for reducing costs and the environmental impact of running a network are not only good for the environment; they also make excellent business sense for operators and support sustainable, profitable business. Some governments, such as the United States, are even offering tax incentives to help foster the adoption of these technologies. This paper provides evidence that hydrogen fuel cell back-up power systems are not only reliable and green, but result in real operating expense reduction. Fuel Cells Fuel cells are electrochemical devices that convert chemical energy in fuels into electrical energy directly, thereby generating power with high efficiency and low environmental impact. There are a variety of different types of fuel cells. This paper focuses on the Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell which utilizes hydrogen as a fuel. PEM fuel cells are best suited for backup power applications as they provide high power densities and operate at low temperatures (60 to 80 C), which allows them to startup faster than other fuel cells. Typically, backup power for telecommucation sites is provided by lead-acid batteries and diesel generators, which have considerable environmental impact. Fuel cells provide an eco-friendly backup power solution as the only byproducts are heat and water. They are efficient, reliable, quiet, and designed to last a long time. Advanced Fuel Cell Solution for Telecommunications Networks Wireline and wireless telecom networks have a wide range of power loads and an extensive set of compliance requirements. The CommScope solution incorporates a compact fuel cell solution in an enclosure, which has been deployed over the past 6 years with other active electronics in the outside plant for several other applications by leading telecommunication companies. The combination of existing industry knowledge and numerous field deployments was instrumental in development of this highly reliable solution for outdoor power backup applications. 3

4 Figure 1 illustrates a 8-kilowatt fuel cell module housed in a 63-inch (H) x 45-inch (W) x 52-inch (D) cabinet, which is Telcordia GR-487 compliant. The cabinet contains all necessary power conditioning equipment for providing regulated DC Voltage to match site requirements, typically at battery float voltage. The system provides instantaneous power upon loss of AC or DC power using a small bridge battery located in the battery compartment of the cabinet. Figure 1 The equipment stack in the cabinet from the top to the bottom includes the following: 1. AC to DC Rectifier, used to provide primary power when grid electricity is available 2. Overall System Controller (OSC) 3. A Power Conditioning Modules (PCM) a DC-DC converter, which provides regulated voltage to load 4. Wireless Radio and Microwave backhaul equipment 5. An 8-kilowatt Fuel Cell Power Module (FCPM) Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) based hydrogen fuel cells In addition, the cabinet has a DC distribution panel with breakers for connecting the DC load, the PCM and bridge batteries. The OSC provides the necessary means to detect loss of AC or DC power in order to turn on the FCPM for providing power when needed. The PCM s prime function is to take unregulated DC voltage from the FCPM stack and convert to a steady-state DC voltage as required by the telecommunications application. Typically 54 volts of direct current (VDC) is provided with a +/- 0.5 volt variance. The system operates in a hydrogen fail safe mode in accordance with ANSI/CSA FC-1 requirements. The OSC also provides a series of alarms such as open door intrusion, power major/minor and other alarms along with those specific to fuel cell technology. In addition, the OSC controls the time necessary to purge five volumes of air from the system, per the FC-1 requirement. This purging operation followed by turn up of the FCPM to full power is about 90 seconds. 4

5 The cabinet equipment configuration discussed above is recommended for new site installations or for sites where the existing radio equipment can be accommodated in the fuel cell cabinet to reduce the overall site footprint and power consumption. For existing sites, the fuel cell cabinet can also be installed with only the fuel equipment in the cabinet, and it can interface with the existing power supply, batteries, and radio equipment located in other cabinets or shelter on the site. Key Features of the Advanced Fuel Cell Solution The following list highlights the key features of the solution: No monthly start up requirement Unlimited start/stop capability Industry leading fuel cell efficiency Patented Dry/Dry Operation No humidification required for the hydrogen or air feed to the fuel cell Highest power density in the industry Single footprint capable of accommodating electronics in the cabinet, which houses the fuel cell Power conditioning with a range from -42 VDC to -58 VDC, which matches most telecommunication sites. Typically these sites are set at battery float voltage around -54 VDC. Design in accordance with ANSI/CSA FC-1, CE and Telcordia requirements All aspects pertaining to the proper and safe handling of hydrogen fuel source. A system controller capable of maintaining all aspects relating to fuel cell operation and safety as well as providing all Telco required alarms Cabinet thermal systems and controls required to meet Telcordia -40 C to +46 C ambient temperature conditions Cabinet ventilation controls required to operate the fuel cell to their maximum efficiency Electrical system including bridging power in order to ensure no loss of DC power to the site load during an AC power outage The hydrogen to the fuel cell cabinet is provided by hydrogen cylinders stored in a hydrogen storage cabinet (Figure 2), which has the capacity to store 16 standard hydrogen cylinders. The hydrogen cylinders are configured in two banks of eight with an automatic switch-over from one bank to another. This cabinet includes the pressure regulator, manifold, flexible hoses, check valves and safety relief valve. The storage cabinet can be placed next to the fuel cell cabinet or located away from it for hydrogen logistics reasons. The hydrogen pressure of each bank is continuously monitored and an automatic can be issued when it reaches a preset threshold. This feature allows notification to the hydrogen distributor for refueling the cylinders in the cabinet. 5

6 Figure 2 All aspects of the fuel cell operation are monitored by the system controller and can be communicated remotely using an Ethernet connection or a wireless modem. Several alarms are also reported by the system controller. Following is a partial list of these alarms: Door Open Alarm Ventilation Fan Alarm DC Power Major and Minor Alarms AC Fail Alarm Battery on Discharge Ambient Temperature (Internal and External) Hydrogen Storage Pressure for each Bank Cabinet Low Temperature Alarm FCPM Major and Minor Fail Alarm Data collected through remote fuel cell activation or as gathered when actual power outages occurred can be used to evaluate the reliability and durability of the fuel cell. Global Field Installations and Results The fuel cell solution was installed in various configurations at several locations around the world to test the operational reliability and durability of the system in different climate conditions with varying quality of power grids. These deployments ranged from outdoor and indoor wireless cell sites to wireline huts and shelters in Asia, Europe and North America. 6

7 Asia Field Installation Figure 3 illustrates an application on a cell site in an emerging wireless market in Asia. The existing backup power solution on this site included several strings of lead acid batteries and a diesel generator. The site has numerous power outages every day and considerable amount of diesel fuel is consumed, thereby creating significant air pollution. In addition, diesel pilferage is rampant, which increases the cost of operating the site. Figure 3 The fuel cell and the hydrogen storage cabinets were placed next to each other on an existing concrete pad on this site. The DC bus of the wireless site was connected to DC distribution panel in the fuel cell cabinet. The system controller monitored and recorded data on all aspects of the fuel cell operation. The data was transmitted remotely through a wireless GPRS modem. This site experienced frequent power outages and as such the fuel cell operated each day to provide power. The daily power outages ranged from as low as 15 minutes to as high as 17 hours. The fuel cell provided the required power load and kept the wireless cell site operational at all times. The system monitored the hydrogen fuel consumption at the site and generated automatic for the local hydrogen distributor to schedule hydrogen delivery on the site. This notification scheme worked very well in ensuring timely delivery of the hydrogen to the site. Figure 4 depicts the power outage on this wireless cell site for a 50-day period, during which there were 235 outages. The fuel cell supported all the outages and operated for a cumulative time period of 126 hours. Figure 4 7

8 Another installation in Asia was on a cell site shared by several wireless operators and owned by a tower company. Figure 5 illustrates this application. The fuel cell provided backup power for two operators on this site. The DC bus for the wireless operators was tied to the DC distribution panel in the cabinet. This site also experienced frequent power outages and the fuel cell provided backup power during all outages. The setup of this installation was similar to the one described above with respect to monitoring and data collection. Figure 6 depicts the power outage on this wireless cell site for a 30-day period, during which there were 48 outages. The fuel cell supported all the outages and operated for a cumulative period of 31 hours. The ambient temperature during these operational periods at these sites was about 45ºC. Both of these field installations have demonstrated the high reliability and durability of the fuel cell cabinets in providing backup power. Figure 5 Figure 6 8

9 Europe Field Installation Figure 7 illustrates the deployment of the fuel cell cabinet on a wireless cell site in Europe. Prior to this deployment, the BTS equipment on the site was housed in a shelter with an airconditioner, which consumed considerable amount of power. The shelter was removed from the site and all equipment in it accommodated in the fuel cell cabinet within 6 hours. The site footprint was reduced by over 50 percent and the energy consumption was reduced as the air-conditioner was eliminated. This site is located in a remote area in Eastern Europe and it experiences several utility outages. Figure 8 depicts the power outages on this site for a 6-month period, during which there were 82 outages, which ranged from a few minutes to up to 8 hours. The fuel cell supported all the outages and operated for a cumulative time period of over 56 hours. This fuel cell controller on site is connected to a GPRS modem and the wireless operator can remotely log in to monitor all aspects of the fuel cell operation. Contrary to the initial perception, hydrogen delivery to the site was not an issue. Figure 7 Figure 8 9

10 North America Field Installation Figure 9 illustrates the deployment of the fuel cell cabinet outside the headquarters of the Society of Cable Telecommunication Engineers in Exton, PA. This building has solar panels on the roof, which are connected to an inverter to provide AC power. When required, the AC power from the inverter provides backup power to the data center located in the building. Otherwise it offsets the AC load in the building. In this installation, the fuel cell was tied to the DC side of the solar power system. The fuel cell operates when there is an AC outage and the solar panels can t provide the power required, because either it is nighttime or there isn t enough solar irradiance due to cloud cover. This office building has few power outages during a given year. Figure 9 During Hurricane Irene, the office building had an 18-hour power outage. The fuel cell provided the backup power during this period. The office building has recently experienced other power outages due to bad weather in the area and the fuel cell has supported all these power outages. 10

11 Key Observations The field installations in various parts of the world, and with different equipment configurations, have demonstrated that the advanced fuel cell solution provides a reliable and cost-competitive means of providing backup power. A summary of the key observations from these field installations is listed below: The fuel cell operated in diverse environments with 100 percent availability Average maintenance costs were reduced by 77 percent and average operational costs were reduced by 37 percent On average, the footprint space was reduced by 50 percent Real time remote monitoring of power backup reduced truck rolls Hydrogen is widely available and misconceptions about safety easily were dispelled after installation and operational experience Conclusion The fuel cell application, in various geographical locations around the world and in different equipment configurations, has demonstrated that it is a highly reliable, durable and costcompetitive solution. Several telecommunications companies around the world have started to evaluate the fuel cell technology for backup power. Some governments and agencies are providing incentives to help companies embrace this environmentally friendly technology and deploy it in significant volumes. Visit our website or contact your local CommScope representative for more information CommScope, Inc. All rights reserved. All trademarks identified by or are registered trademarks or trademarks, respectively, of CommScope, Inc. This document is for planning purposes only and is not intended to modify or supplement any specifications or warranties relating to CommScope products or services. WP EN (06/13) 11

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