Sprint to deploy hydrogen fuel cell

Sprint will deploy hydrogen fuel cell technology as backup power to rooftop network sites with financial assistance from the Department of Energy (DOE).

The solution should allow for lower network site maintenance and cleaner network energy sources and will increase network survivability during power outages.

“We are excited to once again partner with the DOE to bring a new fuel cell technology solution to the market,” said Bob Azzi, chief network officer, Sprint.

“To date, we’ve deployed approximately 500 hydrogen fuel cells in our network. This technology will provide backup power for our network and could extend to other industries as well,” added Azzi.

This is not the first time Sprint and the DOE have come together to deploy hydrogen fuel cells as an energy source for their network. Sprint pioneered the introduction of fuel cell technology to ground-based networks in 2005.

In 2009, the DOE provided a $7.3 million grant for Sprint to support fuel cell technology advances. Rooftop cell sites comprise almost 25 percent of Sprint’s total network locations for which fuel cells have not been an option for fuel cell deployment until now. As much as 30 percent of total network cell sites are located on rooftops in some major metropolitan areas.

The technology, still in development, could enable innovative approaches to promote rooftop fuel cell deployments. One such approach is a modular and lightweight fuel cell solution that can be easily installed without heavy cranes and can be refueled from the ground – overcoming the need to transport fuel to rooftops.

Hydrogen fuel cells provide a much cleaner alternative to diesel-powered backup generators, a common solution with negative outcomes such as increasing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), increased risk of ground contaminants, and higher maintenance costs. Although their use is required in many cases, Sprint strives to limit the deployment of new fossil fuel generators that exhaust unhealthy GHG emissions.

Sprint is working to reduce its GHG emissions by an absolute 20 percent by 2017. Several states are in the process of instituting strict generator exhaust emission legislation that can impose hefty fines on violators. Unlike fossil fuel based generators most commonly used to provide backup power, HFCs generate no environmentally undesirable greenhouse gases in creating electricity.

Although the full scope and financial aid of the project is yet to be determined, but expected in the next 60 days, Sprint is hopeful to begin installing the hydrogen fuel cell solution by the end of 2014.

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