Telia increases network operating reliability with fuel cells

This summer TeliaSonera is launching an experimental project in which fuel cells will be used as a backup power system for the company’s telecom exchanges in Sweden. In addition to increasing network operating reliability and decreasing maintenance costs, the new fuel cell technology will be a major environmental improvement since emissions will only consist of water. The technology will also minimize disturbances to subscriber service when a power outage occurs.

TeliaSonera has thousands of telecom exchanges all over Sweden which control telephone traffic for the country’s subscribers. These exchanges are powered by the ordinary electricity grid. When there is a power outage, different types of backup power systems supply electricity by using lead batteries and/or diesel generators until power is restored.

In the long term, TeliaSonera wants to replace these backup systems with more reliable and environmentally friendly energy systems. The company is therefore starting a test project using modern fuel cells. The cells function in accordance with the same principle as fuel cell buses operating in Stockholm and will be more reliable and efficient, reduce maintenance costs and especially result in zero emissions to air. If the trials prove successful, TeliaSonera plans to initially use the fuel cells at small telecom exchanges in rural areas and at exchanges in sensitive urban environments where noise and emissions have to be avoided. The field trials will start in August and continue until the end of 2006.

“Fuel cells can minimize emissions to the environment, reduce costs and especially eliminate many of the problems that affect our customers’ telecom service when there is a power interruption. When there is a long power outage – as was the case last year during the autumn storms in Sweden – it is difficult to know how long we can operate our backup power supplies. With fuel cells, we will have a very good overview of the situation. Fuel cells are also silent in operation and environmentally friendly,” says Dag Lundén, environmental manager at TeliaSonera Networks and Production.

A fuel cell is basically a battery that does not have to be charged. The technology is based on supplying hydrogen gas and oxygen to the fuel cells. A chemical process occurs that produces electricity, heat and water vapour. The advantage of fuels cells is that direct emissions to atmosphere consist only of water. Another benefit is that fuel cells have few moving parts, which minimizes wear and tear and maintenance needs.