Small Solar Panels Can Drastically Reduce the Carbon Footprint of Radio Access Networks
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The limited power requirements of new generations of base stations make the use of renewable energy sources, solar in particular, extremely attractive for mobile network operators. Exploiting solar energy implies a reduction of the network operation cost as well as of the carbon footprint of radio access networks, but previous research works indicate that the area of the solar panels that are necessary to power a standard macro BS is large, so large to make the solar panel deployment problematic, especially within urban areas. In this paper we use a modeling approach based on Markov reward processes to investigate the possibility of combining small area solar panels with a connection to the power grid to run a macro base station. By so doing, it is possible to increase the amount of renewable energy used to run a radio access network, while also reducing the cost incurred by the network operator to power its base stations. We assume that energy is drawn from the power grid only when needed to keep the BS operational, or during the night, that corresponds to the period with lowest electricity price. This has advantages in terms of both cost and carbon footprint. We show that solar panels of the order of 1-2 kW peak, i.e., with a surface of about 5-10 square meters, combined with limited capacity energy storage (of the order of 10-15 kWh, corresponding to about 3-5 car batteries), and a smart energy management policy, can lead to an effective exploitation of renewable energy.