Last week I wrote about the problem with utility scale wind turbines and fixed wireless networks. Large wind turbines disrupt the signal of wireless networks; one turbine might not make a big impact but several or a whole farm would.
Then I learned something new – which always makes my day! Jason Kaplan, General Counsel and Head of Policy at United Wind, contacted me to tell me that this isn’t true with distributed wind systems – these are smaller turbines, ranging in size from 10 kW to 100 kW in capacity, and used primarily to off-set a customer’s on-site energy load. United Wind has a product that enables agricultural and rural business customers to lease a small wind turbine and save on their utility bills. In theory I knew this was possible, just hadn’t heard much about it out on the market. (It does require that you have at least 5 acres of land so, I won’t be outfitting my backyard in St Paul.)
Jason let me know that these smaller turbines do not disturb wireless signals, in fact United Wind is working with a local WISP to locate their wireless equipment on prospective customers’ turbines. This unique co-location is providing a win-win for rural communities; local farmers are generating electricity at their property resulting in a more resilient and reliable electricity service, and the local area is enabled to have much needed internet access. It has been a way for local WISPs to strengthen their existing network as well extend their service to new areas!
Here’s what else I learned: The reach of the network all depends on the number of towers installed and the local topography of the area. Since these towers require a line-of-sight to other access point towers in the network, one tower may have a range of 6 to 12 miles. These fixed wireless towers can provide speeds of 25 mbps download and 3 mbps upload. Level of service is a function of the equipment that can be installed and the demand for such service by the customer base. If there is demand for 50 mbps download and 10 mbps upload, the technology exists, but it comes at a cost. United Wind is currently working with one WISP to understand how its small wind systems can work within the WISPs current network, but United Wind is interested in working with other providers, communities, and stakeholders to see how its tower assets can be leveraged to strengthen and extend a providers network at a lower cost.
Again, it’s only going to work where the host customers have 5 acres of land but often those are hardest to serve with broadband.