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Reliance Jio selects Ballard Power Systems for backup power system

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MUMBAI: Ballard Power Systems has received a purchase order from Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited (RJIL) for 100 ElectraGen-ME fuel cell backup power systems to be deployed in its wireless telecom network in India.

Shipment of these initial 100 systems is expected to be completed in 2015.

The purchase order follows successful completion of a 12-month trial by RJIL of fuel cell systems from various vendors, with Ballard's ElectraGen-ME methanol-fueled system ultimately having been selected for use in backup power applications. This purchase order is the first of a series of planned deployments in RJIL's India network.  

“This is an important commercial milestone for our telecom backup power growth strategy in a major emerging market. Based on the performance and value demonstrated by our systems throughout the trial, we are now advancing to extensive commercial deployments with a major telecom service provider,” said Ballard chief commercial officer Steve Karaffa. 

As the only company with a pan-Indian broadband wireless access license, RJIL is in the process of building out a new 4G telecom network, which requires the acquisition of hundreds of new base station towers.

India is one of the fastest growing telecommunications markets, with more than 10 million new subscribers added each month, according to the Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA). This growing demand for telecom services is also driving increased energy consumption in India, a challenge given the poor quality of the country's electrical grid.

According to a KPMG report, approximately 300,000 telecom towers in India face electrical grid outages in excess of 8-hours on a daily basis. As a result, telecom network operators have been relying on diesel generators and lead-acid batteries to provide backup power, resulting in the consumption of more than 475 million gallons (1.8 billion litres) of diesel fuel annually, with the attendant negative greenhouse gas impacts. Therefore, there is an acute need for reliable and cost-effective extended duration backup power solutions – such as the ElectraGen-ME fuel cell system – at telecom base station sites.  

To limit the environmental impact, India's Department of Telecommunications has mandated that tower companies reduce the dependence on diesel generators by powering at least 50 per cent of rural towers and 20 per cent of urban towers with clean energy systems by 2015. Increasingly, telecom network operators in India are considering zero-emission fuel cell technology as an extended-duration solution that effectively addresses this clean energy requirement.

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