Indian Cell Phone Towers Move From Diesel to BioGas with NextGen

I’ve recently returned from a trip to India (provided by SAP) to investigate how IT is helping address issues of sustainability – from energy use to economic development to everything in between.  Over the next week or two, I’ll be publishing some of my experiences.  You can follow along on this page.

One of the more astonishing facts I learned on my recent trip to India was that a significant percentage of India’s diesel fuel consumption (3.5 billion liters) goes not to trucking but to electric generators being used specifically for powering cell phone towers. While it’s a testament to the modern age that rural India has embraced mobile technology with the same zeal as anywhere else in the world, the constant burning of diesel fuel to power that revolution presents and expensive and dirty problem.

Although solar energy in India is quickly catching up, biogas may present a practical, cheap and quicker solution to the problem – especially as India moves to double the number of towers in the country.

One new startup, NextGen, is working quickly to build a network of biogas generation.  The company recently partnered with India’s largest provider of cell phone towers to provide compressed bio-gas fuel for 500 towers.

To make it happen, NextGen is planning to build 50 biogas plants in various locations. In addition to providing a cheaper and cleaner fuel than diesel, the company’s product can be made from anything from biomass to human waste, provides local employment, and is said to cost 50 percent less than traditionally derived compressed liquified natural gas (CNG) in an equivalent product.

NextGen has a true triple bottom line solution in mind – not only do their bio-digesters produce fuel, but they also produce fertilizer which can be sold off as an additional revenue stream.

Image credit: Kiwanja

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of has grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He worked for, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years and has also been an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.

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