Nokia Siemens Networks, Ballard Power develop fuel cell backup power for mobile networks

System being tested at a DOCOMO R&D Centre test site in Japan’s Yokosuka Research Park.

November 20, 2012

VANCOUVER—Nokia Siemens Networks is working with Ballard Power Systems, Inc. to develop mobile power networks that will operate during power blackouts.

Japanese operator NTT DOCOMO has evaluated the Nokia Siemens Networks Flexi Multiradio base station with integrated fuel cell backup for potential commercial deployment.

The solution has been installed at a DOCOMO R&D Center test site in Japan’s Yokosuka Research Park (YRP).

“Mobile networks can be vital when a natural disaster strikes, and power outages make other forms of communication difficult,” said Mark Donaldson, head of mobile broadband energy solutions at Nokia Siemens Networks. “Integrating fuel cells with our base stations can significantly increase the resilience of the mobile networks we provide.”

A fuel cell converts the chemical energy from a fuel into electricity through a reaction with oxygen or another oxidizing agent, such as hydrogen. Hydrocarbons, such as natural gas and alcohols such as methanol, are sometimes used. Fuel cells are different from batteries because they need a constant source of fuel and oxygen to run, but they can produce electricity continually for as long as these inputs are supplied.

The fuel cell weight and size are significantly less in comparison to existing lead acid batteries that are typically used in many base stations. The base station and fuel cell combination developed by Nokia Siemens Networks with Ballard can provide 4.5 kilowatts of power for approximately 40 hours on a single tank of fuel.

The solution has already received the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) statutory approval in Japan.