Telstra, Australia’s primary telecommunications company, has deployed nine Ballard ElectraGen-ME fuel cell Telecom Backup Power systems in its network, primarily in rural and remote locations that are prone to grid power outages.
For Telstra, the benefits experienced as a result of using fuel cell systems in place of incumbent backup power solutions, such as diesel generators and lead-acid batteries include:
- Increased reliability across a wide range of operating conditions (including extreme heat and cold);
- Reduced maintenance costs;
- Longer operating life; and
- Reduced size, weight, installation footprint, noise and environmental impacts.
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼A recent example underscores the Telstra experience with fuel cell systems. A mobile base station located in a residential neighborhood of Queenstown, Tasmania, lost grid power due to a lightning strike. Had they been in place, battery backup at this site would have provided power for a maximum of 8-hours, and a diesel generator would have created considerable noise and required refueling during the outage. Telstra concluded that these options would have been less than ideal under the circumstances at this site.
Instead, this particular base station was a fuel cell trial site. As a result of grid infrastructure damage suffered from the lightening strike, extended duration backup power support was required until repairs to the grid could be completed. The Ballard ElectraGen-ME fuel cell system provided power to maintain wireless telecom service in the affected area for more than the 2-days it took to complete repairs to the grid. Based on the success of the trial program, Ballard ElectraGen fuel cell systems are now approved as one of the standard solutions for backup power at Telstra mobile base station sites and at smaller network exchanges, where power requirements are less than 5 kilowatts.
In October, Ballard launched a standardized fuel cell backup power cabinet suitable for outdoor deployment as part of its ElectraGen product portfolio for telecom network operators.