Vodafone to trial phone masts with inbuilt wind turbines

Image: Vodafone/ Crossflow Energy

The innovative new masts have taken two years to develop, with Vodafone working in partnership with Welsh cleantech start-up Crossflow Energy – a spin-out from Swansea University – on the design.

They incorporate a transverse axis wind turbine which can capture wind energy at a range of wind speeds. The design has already been patented and tested on an experimental basis, and Vodafone’s involvement will see the first proof of concept pilot beginning by the end of 2021.

Vodafone believes the masts will be a suitable solution for remote locations in particular, as they mitigate the need for developing a connection to the grid. This can be an expensive process; the firm has called it an “insurmountable civil engineering challenge” for the “most rural” parts of the UK

During the trials, Vodafone will co-locate the masts with onsite battery storage, so there is no need for diesel generators for backup power. They should generate more than enough electricity to power themselves.

edie has reached out to Vodafone for more information on how many masts will be trialled, how long the trials will last and what will happen afterwards in terms of a further roll-out.

In a statement, the company said: “Vodafone is committed to working with industry partners to expand mobile coverage to reach 95% of the UK landmass by 2025 and achieving net-zero for its UK operations by 2027.

“Adoption of innovative technologies like the self-powered site is essential to meeting both of these bold ambitions.”

Since announcing its net-zero target in June, Vodafone has kick-started several new cleantech innovation projects. In July, the firm partnered with UK Power Networks to trial ‘smart’ methods of delivering energy flexibility at electricity substations, designed to improve efficiency and cut emissions.

Then, in September, Vodafone confirmed plans to deploy 1,500 low-power 5G units, after trials in Central London delivered a 43% reduction in energy consumption.

Elsewhere, Vodafone is working with Ericsson to develop digital twin models for its networks. Drones collect high-definition images and Lidar-based technologies help to build 3D digital models. This enables engineers and network teams to work virtually, reducing the time – and carbon – needed to conduct work on the network.

Sarah George

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