Press Release | 15 Jun 2022

Vodafone switches on the UK’s first live ‘self-powering’ mobile phone mast

The technology could not only support the race to net zero, but also help bring connectivity to ‘not-spots’ in remote and rural areas.

  • Mobile phone mast incorporates a wind turbine, solar panels and on-site battery storage.
  • Initiative raises the prospect of connectivity to cover ‘not-spots’ in remote and rural areas.
  • Supports Vodafone’s target of net zero UK operations by 20271.

Vodafone has switched on the UK’s first live wind- and solar-powered mobile phone mast in Pembrokeshire, Wales. The mast will provide 4G coverage to the community of Eglwyswrw2.

Credits: Alexander Viner

Credits: Alexander Viner
This cow won’t be disturbed as the new self-powering mast is very quiet

The specially designed mast, which potentially removes the need for a connection to the national electricity grid, could provide connectivity to ‘not-spots’ in the UK’s most remote and inaccessible locations – helping the industry achieve 95% of UK landmass coverage by 20253. It will also help Vodafone reduce carbon emissions and support its target of reaching net zero UK operations by 2027.

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The ‘self-powering’ mast incorporates a unique Crossflow Energy wind turbine that can generate power even in light winds. The mast can be installed without the need to dig trenches and lay electricity cables, making it faster and easier to install and reducing the impact on the local environment.

It is also extremely quiet, making it viable for sensitive sites such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It can also be ‘filtered out’ as a solid object by radar, birds and bats, so it is easily avoided, making it less harmful to wildlife.

The trial, in partnership with wind turbine technology specialists Crossflow Energy and mobile infrastructure partner Cornerstone, is at Home Farm in the village of Eglwyswrw. It will run for two years and data gathered will help Vodafone optimise the technology and determine which sites are most suitable for ‘self-powering’ masts.

Bringing mobile and internet services to rural communities helps boost the local economy, tackle isolation and close the rural digital divide. To date, building masts in coverage ‘not spots’ without an existing electricity connection has been a significant financial and logistical challenge.

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Andrea Dona, Chief Network Officer and Development Director, Vodafone, said: “Connectivity is vital to everyone, no matter where you live. This self-powering mobile phone mast, with on-site battery storage, could help us connect places that were previously impossible to reach. It will also help us reduce carbon emissions and minimise our impact on local environments.

“If this trial is a success, we would like to roll out more ‘self-powering’ masts, with a focus on areas with poor or no coverage.”

Simon Hart, Secretary of State for Wales, said: “Improving mobile coverage and digital connectivity across Wales is a priority for the UK Government and is hugely important for our economy.

“As we look to create more sustainable growth and jobs, it is fantastic to see green innovation being trialled in our rural communities.”

Martin Barnes, CEO, Crossflow Energy, said: “We are incredibly excited to be partnering with Vodafone on this UK first. Until now, the use of ‘small wind’ turbines in the race to net zero has been limited due to issues of performance, reliability, and planning concerns, such as noise, vibration, and damage to ecology.

“The unique design of our wind turbine addresses all these challenges head on. We believe that one day its use could be as widespread and commonplace as solar panels.”

Rhys Phillip, Chief Executive Officer, Cornerstone, said: “As the UK’s leading tower company, we are proud to be involved in this landmark project, driving innovation to create scalable, sustainable connectivity solutions. We look forward to our continued collaboration on our journey towards environmentally friendly site designs.”

Vodafone has committed to reaching net zero UK operations by 20271. Its switch to 100% renewable electricity has already had a significant impact, and it has reduced carbon emissions from its UK operations by 55%4 on the previous year. It recently signed a 10-year power agreement with three new solar farms in Lincolnshire, Worcestershire and Nottinghamshire, securing their development and bringing additional renewable power provision to the UK grid.

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-Ends-

Notes to Editors 

The Home Farm trial

The ‘self-powering’ mast is being trialled at Home Farm, Eglwyswrw, Pembrokeshire, Wales. This is the first live mast of its type in the UK.

To ensure local people stay connected while the ‘self-powering’ mast is being trialled, Vodafone has retrofitted an existing mast site that is connected to the national electricity grid. The mast will be mainly powered by the green energy generated on site but can be ‘topped up’ by electricity from the grid if required. In future, for remote sites with no national grid connection, another power source will be required as back-up. Vodafone is exploring a range of potential options.

About Crossflow Energy

Crossflow Energy is a renewable energy technology specialist. Having solved the issues that have inhibited the wider adoption of ‘small wind’ technology, the company is now focused on delivering wind turbine generation solutions to a wide range of industries in the UK and overseas.

Based in Port Talbot, Crossflow deploys fully integrated wind, solar, battery energy systems to provide a highly reliable, secure and complete source of renewable energy generation aimed at increasing clean energy penetration in existing markets.

The applications for its technology are many and include the telecoms industry, the built environment and major infrastructure development, in addition to providing standalone low-maintenance, clean energy solutions as a cost-effective alternative to diesel generation.

For more information about Crossflow Energy please visit: www.crossflowenergy.co.uk.

About Cornerstone

Cornerstone is the UK’s leading mobile infrastructure services company. It acquires, manages, and owns more than 20,000 sites enabling mobile connectivity to tens of millions of mobile customers. Its infrastructure keeps society connected across rural and urban communities. People and the planet are hugely important to Cornerstone, and it continually challenges itself to develop sharper, sustainable solutions for the benefit of all.

For more information about Cornerstone please visit www.cornerstone.network.

Footnotes

[1] Scope 1 & 2.

[2] Pronounced Egg-lis-oo-roo.

[3] As part of the Shared Rural Network (SRN) programme, a joint initiative between Government and the UK’s four mobile network operators to extend overall 4G coverage to 95% of the UK landmass by the end of 2025.

[4] Audited figures to 31 March 2002

About Vodafone UK

Vodafone UK is a technology communications company that connects people, businesses and devices to help our customers benefit from digital innovation. Our services span mobile, fixed-line connections, home and office broadband, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

We have a strong track record as a tech pioneer, making the UK’s first mobile phone call, sending the first text message, and making the UK’s first live holographic call using 5G in 2018. We were also the first to start carrying live 5G traffic from a site in Salford, Greater Manchester. As of March 2022, we have 5G in 380 locations across Europe – 141 in the UK and 239 across Germany, Spain, Italy and Ireland. Our 4G network coverage currently reaches over 99% of the UK population.

Today, Vodafone serves more than 18 million mobile and fixed-line customers in the UK. To help deliver Gigabit UK, our full-fibre broadband roll-out programme now covers 26 UK towns and cities, rising to 35 over the coming months, through partnerships with CityFibre and Openreach. Our full fibre services are now available to more than eight million homes across the UK.

Sustainability is also at the heart of what we do: as of 1 July 2021, 100% of the grid electricity we use in the UK is certified to be from renewable sources.

For more information about Vodafone UK please visit: www.vodafone.co.uk.

Vodafone UK Media Relations

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