T-Mobile builds first solar cell phone tower

T-Mobile unveiled the country’s first solar-powered cell phone tower earlier this week in Pennsylvania.

The tower—located in Chalfont, Penn., just outside of Philadelphia—helped T-Mobile USA to expand its services while at the same time doing something positive for the environment, said Kerri Strike, T-Mobile’s Pennsylvania market director.

“We are committed to enhancing our network,” Strike said. “But, at the same time, we’re intensely interested in environmental preservation. This allowed us to accomplish both goals.”

The tower in Chalfont is a brand new site for T-Mobile and was built with hopes that it could operate entirely without energy from the grid. Strike said that’s still a possibility, though it hasn’t been achieved yet. Preliminary observation at the site has revealed that the tower uses about 20,000 kilowatts (kW) of power, while the photovoltaic panels feeding it produce only about 8,000 kW, Strike said.

While solar-powered cell towers seem like a logical answer to questions of electricity and grid access issues in more remote and rural locations like Wyoming and Aslaska, necessity doesn’t have to be the only reason to explore renewable energy use when it comes to erecting cell phone towers, Strike said.

“We’re committed to partnering with the community,” Strike said.

When T-Mobile considers establishing new towers and enhancing its network, Strike said the company typically meets with community member to discuss locations and desires. In the case of the tower outside of Philadelphia, the community had urged the company to consider solar power.

It’s a trend that is expected to continue.

While Strike said she wasn’t aware of any plans for future T-Mobile solar-powered cell towers, it’s likely that the company will continue to apply the technology when it’s appropriate.

“I certainly hope we’ll see more of these towers,” Strike said. “This is just one of many different configurations we could see. There are different renewable energies, and the best fit just depends on the situation.”