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Backup Power

Backup Power: Getting Ahead of Weather-Related Outages

The critical nature of wireless networks means preemptive measures need to be taken to ready communications equipment for the upcoming winter season, and any weather event. See how American Tower is preparing sites for potential power outages.

At American Tower, we are always looking ahead and preparing our Backup Power generators program for weather-related outages. Snow and ice can wreak havoc on power grids in the Northern part of the country, tropical storms and flooding can impact much of the South, and wildfires have become too frequent in the West. Our annual maintenance and storm preparedness protocol helps us maintain our strong performance of 99.99% availability year over year. No matter what type of weather is thrown at us, we keep networks up and running.

Before Outages: Preparation Is Everything

  • Proactive generator monitoring and repair. With remote monitoring and troubleshooting, we can detect and resolve generator issues faster and reduce site visits. Our 24/7 Network Operations Center (NOC) continuously monitors 36 indictors on all generators and is ready to respond to any issue, with an average repair time of just over 3.5 hours.
  • Preventing startup failures. We conduct weekly startup tests on every generator. We also apply extra measures to protect against some of the common causes of startup failures, including coolant leaks, fuel degradation, and battery failures.
  • Maintenance inspections. A dozen systems—from the fuel and exhaust systems to the engine system and transfer switch—on every generator are regularly inspected. Our factory-trained, generator specialists also conduct a thorough 111-point inspection on every generator annually.
  • Automatic refueling. Our generators are refueled when they reach a fuel level of 60 percent, and all generators in a storm path are refueled to 90 percent in advance of the storm. We also proactively fuel up potentially impacted generators prior to the winter, hurricane, and fire seasons, preparing our sites for extended outages. This can mean topping up hundreds of generators to ensure they can run uninterrupted for multiple days.

During Outages: Refueling, Troubleshooting, and Reporting

Maintaining fuel levels in generators is the most important—and sometimes most challenging—task during power outages. Developing a plan, ahead of a storm, and establishing permanent fueling partnerships help deliver peace of mind during severe weather events with outages that extend into days. As part of our program, we have developed strong relationships with leading fuel providers and a proven methodology to work together, ensuring we never have an issue accessing fuel.

The fuel tanks at our sites are 300 gallons, much larger than a tank an individual mobile network operator would have on-site. That means our fuel supplies last longer, reducing the risk that fuel will run out before refueling can occur.

In the event of needed repairs or fail-to-start scenarios, our program has implemented remote troubleshooting. Nearly 40 percent of error alarms can be addressed remotely, resolving issues immediately without the need to mobilize staff for a site visit. This remote-access capability is unique to our program. For other instances where remote troubleshooting is not possible, we deploy resources quickly to repair or replace generators. Our average time to address fail-to-start issues is fewer than four hours, less than our service level agreement with customers.

To keep our customers fully informed about generator status, we provide detailed monthly reports and daily reports during storm events. We are also developing a secure portal that will allow customers to see the status of their generators at any time. We expect the portal to be available early next year.

After Outages: The Preparations Start Again

Once the outage is over and the site is back on the electrical power grid, additional equipment inspection and damage assessment is also performed at the impacted site. Our teams clean up and ensure generators are refueled, serviced, and ready to start the next time they’re needed.

Hurricane Isais Performance1

9,800+

hours of backup power energy

628

sites activated over five days

15

states affected

1Data from August 3 – 7, 2020 for Hurricane Isaias-impacted sites

Our turnkey solution alleviates mobile operators from the extensive time, costs, and resources associated with developing, preparing, and maintaining an in-house backup power program. With this solution, the potential exists to lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) compared to an in-house program. Mobile operators would be able to avoid the operational burdens of:

  • Leasing of additional ground space at tower sites
  • Generator inspection and maintenance
  • Disaster preparedness and recovery
  • Fuel supply monitoring and management

Looking Ahead

The program currently includes 4,400+ generators, and we’re expanding by adding an estimated 5,000 generators over the next five years. These sites provide a cost-effective way for our customers to harden their network quickly and effectively.

Our Program Growth

Backup Power Icon

4,400+

generators currently included in the program

Plus Icon

~10,000

number of generators expected by 2025

This past summer was an active hurricane season, and who knows what winter will bring. We have a dedicated team of professionals solely focusing on our generator program and keeping our customers’ critical networks running. It is crucial to have the right procedures and measures in place, and we’re ready for whatever comes our way.

Get More Information

To learn more about our program and resources, visit the Backup Power solutions page.

Eric Dudek
Eric Dudek joined American Tower in 2012 and is responsible for the field operations and maintenance of our assets across the U.S. He has over 25 years of experience deploying and operating wireless networks.
Kamran Taqui
Kamran Taqui has been with American Tower for four years and has 10 years experience managing energy spending. He currently manages the Utilities, Telecom, and Backup Power programs in the U.S.

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