Cell Sites, Solar & Super Capacitors – Off-Grid for 5G & More

“The electrical load of the site has tripled, if not quadrupled,” due to the advent of 5G radio components according to CICUSA CEO, Marty Snyder. As he explains in the above interview, this means that his team needed to increase the photovoltaic (PV) solar panel array on an existing cell site to 15 kiloWatts to generate enough power for the added load due to 5G.

Snyder and his design engineers soon found that conventional battery storage would not be able to accept the peak current from an upgraded solar array, effectively reducing the efficiency of the entire system. As a result, the generator would need to operate approximately 8.5 hours per day, resulting in tens of thousands of dollars of fuel costs each year.

CICUSA took a different approach to energy storage with its selection of a supercapacitor-based system. The Kilowatt Labs supercapacitors with each unit capable of 3.6 kWh of storage. The fast charge (up to 125 Amps – see spec sheet PDF) captures all the charge from the solar panel. When the generator is needed to fill the gaps, it only needs to run for about 1.27 hours per day, compared to 8.5 hours for lead-acid batteries.

Advantages to the supercapacitor approach over lead-acid batteries include:

  • At least $65 to $70k in fuel savings per year for this site
  • No outgassing which means it is a much safer solution
  • Thanks to built-in overcurrent protection, the Kilowatt Labs units won’t explode if wires are crossed
  • Less HVAC is needed as they are more efficient than batteries in terms of heat generation
  • Although not critical for the above application, the specified operating temperature of -30C to 85C is much greater than a typical lead-acid battery of -10C to 30C.
  • Much lower maintenance, as the useful life is expected to be on the order of 1 million, compared to 500 to 5,000 cycles for batteries.

Echoing the comments from a 2016 interview with Kilowatt Labs CEO, Omer Ghani, Snyder is bullish on the role that supercapacitors will have in creating a more reliable and more efficient wireless network stating, “Our goal is to take this and put it inside all the cell sites in America and make the world a greener place too.”