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Backup Power

Considerations for Using Backup Power to Harden Sites

Alleviate internal resources and receive peace of mind with Backup Power solutions

With the 2019 hurricane season upon us, I am reminded of the importance of our industry and what we do. Severe weather events can have devasting impact on a community. A top priority during an emergency is the ability to communicate wirelessly. Network hardening and being prepared for power outages is an extremely important initiative for our customers. Our Backup Power program can help customers enhance their network resiliency, while providing a reliable service they can depend on. In the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in September 2018, over 100 generators helped sustain open lines of communication for those affected by the storm in the Carolinas. In fact, one of these generators was active for over 215 hours.

It takes time and effort to ensure backup power solutions are ready-to-go at any time and will run smoothly for weeks, should the power grid fail. Ensuring access to a large and reliable fuel supply for the backup generators is a major task. After Florence, we relied on our strong relationships with suppliers to provide the 16,500 gallons of diesel fuel needed to run those generators.

Everything You Don’t Have to Do

Looking back at Hurricane Florence, and other natural disasters that affected so many, made me think about all the things our customers can take off their to-do lists when they don’t have to worry about backup power.

1. Select the Right Approach

The diesel generators we use are the best option for most sites, because they provide instant access to backup power for extremely long periods of time. But, you’ll have to do your own due diligence and consider your options. We have customers who prefer to harden their networks, while other customers partner with us and experience the great benefits of a fully turnkey model. We believe our program provides great value and helps our customers preserve their resources to focus on additional network priorities.

2. Deploy the Selected Solution

It’s not as simple as just installing the backup power solution. You also need to:

  • Negotiate leasing costs for additional ground space to ensure proper setback from active equipment at the site
  • Ensure the solution meets fire safety, fuel storage, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements

3. Develop Detailed Procedures

You need to put a lot of procedures in place to properly manage backup power operations and prepare for anticipated weather events.

Even before Hurricane Florence hit, our Network Operations Center (NOC) staff were carefully tracking the storm to determine the potential impacts on customer sites

Throughout, we were following detailed procedures to ensure:

  • All generators in the storm path had fuel levels of at least 85 percent
  • Active generators were refueled when levels reached 60 percent
  • Any generators that ran continuously for more than 250 hours received the appropriate maintenance and service
  • Any generators that broke down were quickly repaired

Happily, we didn’t run into any refueling or restarting issues during or after Florence, but we had the procedures in place to deal with the situation if we did.

4. Maintain the Backup Power Solution

Ongoing maintenance and refueling are essential to ensure the backup system is ready to go when you need it most. You have to verify operation of the following items on a regular basis:

  • Fuel system
  • Lubricating system
  • Exhaust system
  • Air intake system
  • Control system
  • Electrical system for the engine
  • Generator and alternator systems
  • Transfer switches
  • Safety and alarm systems
  • Overall functionality

5. Plan for Replacements

Unfortunately, generators don’t last forever. That means you need a plan to:

  • Identify and monitor aging generators to ensure they are replaced before they fail completely
  • Deploy suitable replacement generators and make any required site adjustments
  • Dispose of legacy generators in an environmentally acceptable way

We believe shared generators, just like our shared tower business, offer our customers many benefits. They help them accelerate network hardening and alleviate internal resources for other important initiatives, like expansion and network upgrades, during a critical time in our industry. The goal of the program is to provide a totally turnkey and worry-free solution. Established storm protocol ensures we’re ready for any weather events, and our performance speaks for itself. Our program brings great value and helps to support our relationships with customers by providing a critical solution they need.

Leverage the exceptional value and performance of our Backup Power program to help enhance the strong reputation of your network.

Jared Hirsch
With years of telecom experience, Jared Hirsch was part of the inception of the American Tower Backup Power program.

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