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Sarah Malakrah

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Green cell sites: STEM-talents develop ideas

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March 1, 2021 / 28 STEM scholarship holders have developed a patent-ready solution for smart, energy-autonomous cell sites. A partnership between the women’s career network Femtec and Deutsche Telekom made the project possible. They have now presented their results.

At the start of the project in September 2020, the participants had no idea where the journey would take them. The female students in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) all decided to pursue the topic voluntarily. Their deliberations focused on major questions, such as: How can the power consumption of cell sites be controlled intelligently? How can energy be generated from renewable sources on site, and how can the generated energy be stored?

In a collaborative project between the Femtec network – an organization devoted to supporting women’s careers – and Deutsche Telekom, they would develop ideas for implementation options over the following five months, together with experts at Deutsche Telekom. Their motivation was twofold: the young talents would have the opportunity to work in an innovative, digital growth area hands-on, while at the same time making a valuable contribution to fighting climate change.

A flying start was followed by weeks of intensive collaboration, resulting in patent-ready innovation concepts for smart, energy-autonomous cell sites. At the virtual closing event of the Femtec Innovation Lab, the participants raised the curtain and presented their results for the very first time. In addition to employees from the innovation area, Claudia Nemat, member of the Deutsche Telekom Board of Management responsible for Technology and Innovation, also attended and opened the event with a keynote speech.

The idea: develop the energy-autonomous cell sites of tomorrow

The impetus behind the solution developed by the participants was to eliminate “white spots,” i.e., places where there is currently no mobile communications coverage. They began the search for an innovative solution. To provide an autonomous energy supply for the radio antennas that is independent of the electricity grid, the scholarship holders conducted research on an alternative power supply based on existing and innovative renewable sources.
 
After an extensive examination of the options, the budding scientists focused on generating power from wind and solar cells and assessed the latest storage options. As part of the solution, they developed the prototype of a GPS-based planning tool, which automatically compares relevant parameters, such as geographical, economic, and topological qualities. This will make it possible in future to derive recommendations as to where the concept for energy-autonomous sites can be realized and in which combination. To control the power consumption of the cell sites intelligently, the participants worked in parallel on smart software to regulate the interchange between the energy source and the loads as efficiently as possible. The emphasis here was to ensure resource-friendly and reliable operation of a cell site. To enable storage of energy that was not used immediately and to create reserves, they also researched an innovative, sustainable (carbon neutral) energy storage option. And their concept even won over the experts at Deutsche Telekom. Shortly before their final presentation, their solution was filed as a patent for the company.

More about the Femtec Innovation Lab and talent promotion

Deutsche Telekom has been a partner to the Femtec Innovation Lab since 2007, a career-building program for female STEM students aimed at developing and supporting young STEM talents in parallel to their degree courses. Deutsche Telekom supports this project, since the Group offers exciting entry and development opportunities to graduates of STEM subjects. Through regular partnerships on innovative topics and in digital growth areas, the scholarship holders experience first-hand the many innovation topics and career prospects that Deutsche Telekom has to offer.

And how did the “Energy-autonomous cell sites” research project come about?

This year, the Technology & Innovation Program with its focus on sustainable, energy-efficient network technologies at Deutsche Telekom, under the responsibility of Leif Heitzer, really put something exciting together in collaboration with Deutsche Funkturm GmbH (DFMG), Power And Air Condition Solution Management GmbH (PASM), and Technik Deutschland. With this Program they applied at Femtec Innovation Lab and won one of the two finalist positions.

By the way: As a part of the Group-wide sustainability program “we care for our planet”, it aims to develop innovative technical solutions for sustainable, energy-efficient network technologies and their operation, together with partners from industry. And thus reduce the Group’s CO2 footprint, even as increasing digital connectivity demands more energy. 

The virtual event at a glance

Apply until March, 14th for the Women’s STEM Award 2021 and get the 3,000 € prize money! Your bachelor or master thesis deals with: Cloud, IoT, AI, CyberSecurity or Networks. More information is available here.

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