This summer, I had the distinct privilege of spending a good deal of time near the shores of Lake Michigan. Days on the beach and the quiet, country surroundings were much appreciated, but when it came to communicating with friends and family, things were not so easy-going. I was just far enough into the vast rural areas of western Michigan that I could not get cell phone reception. Oh well, I would say, and dig my feet into the sand. For me, however, it was just a few months. But for millions of people around the world, it is a daily obstacle. Now it looks as if solar power may just hold the answer to rural phone customers’ problems. Reach Further, Save More VNL, an India-based company and world leader in cell phone infrastructure, has developed the solar cell phone tower to reach the many prospective customers in its own country and around the world. It just makes sense. Much of the problem has been the economics of powering and servicing towers in remote areas. What could be better than solar power to handle the load? Nothing, according to VNL, who studied their many options and decided on solar as the best tool. First of all, the entire Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) has been redesigned to use half the energy that cell towers used to need. This newfound energy efficiency has opened up doors for VNL, such as the feasibility of solar powered towers. And with that comes the many benefits inherent to solar power systems. Take maintenance, for example. Solar systems are traditionally low maintenance because there are no moving parts, so there is little need for the company to send out engineers on a regular basis, saving labor costs and millions of gallons of fuel. Small and Simple This technology, which is catching on quick in India, has two additional selling points. One, these WorldGSM systems are quite small and easy to transport. In fact, VNL is quick to point out that they can be transported in two ox carts side-by-side. Also, assembly and installation are easy enough for installers with minimal training, making it easier for local installers to do the work. Here’s yet another application for solar in a world pushing for inclusiveness and ever-increasing mobility. I imagine that mobile providers in the U.S. and other countries will wait a bit to see how things continue to pan out in India, but you can expect that it will catch on, and quickly. Solar cell phone towers will undoubtedly have a place in the electrical grid (or lack thereof) of the future as we move more to distributed generation and away from beefy power lines.