Solar panels an option for powering mesh nodes and backhaul

Is solar power an option for generating electrical supply to mesh nodes? What are the advantages to using solar power? What are the challenges? With many of the municipal wireless networks that I’ve been involved with, the lack of electrical power for mesh nodes in some areas leads to installation delays and unforeseen costs. Some light poles, for example, don’t supply adequate electrical power, or occasionally mounting assets, such as roof tops, don’t have any readily available power. In these cases, the use of solar panels may be an option for generating power for mesh nodes and backhaul equipment. In this case, the network equipment actually runs off a battery, and the solar panel generates electricity to recharge the battery and power the mesh node if the battery is charged. Without a battery, there would be no power available at night or when something, such as clouds, obstructs the sunlight.

This sounds like an ideal solution for supplying electrical power. The use of solar energy is free, which can save electricity costs when running a mesh network. Then why not implement a solar panel solution for every mesh node? A problem is that the cost of solar panels and batteries can be several hundred dollars for each mesh node. This makes the use of solar power generally only feasible where the cost of installing electrical lines is relatively expensive or where electricity is very unreliable. For example, Chittagong in Bangladesh decided to power some of their mesh nodes with solar energy because electrical power there is not stable enough.

If you choose to seriously consider using solar panels for generating electricity, then be certain to investigate average sunlight on a daily basis, and ensure that the solar panels and batteries that you’re specifying will supply an adequate amount of power for the equipment. This can be a bit tricky since predicting the amount of sunlight may not be accurate enough to satisfy network availability requirements. But, I feel that the results will be very good if you make a decision to move forward based on fully understanding the environment and capabilities of the solar panel approach.

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Jim Geier is an independent consultant and founder of Wireless-Nets, Ltd (, a consulting firm assisting municipalities, enterprises, hospitals, airports, and equipment providers with the development and deployment of wireless networks.


  1. We Agree!
    High efficiency purpose built solar panels for radio use are a great way to go. When amortized over the life of the system solar powered systems can be competitive to commerical power installations in most cases. As a manufacturer and installer of solar powered mesh network systems, we have found that sites requiring installation of local power are far more expensive than the cost differential of our solar powered model. We also provide a non-solar powered model for locations where local power is already available. So far, most installations have been a mix of systems. I might add, the only long term care item you have to worry about is the eventual battery replacement, which in our case is scheduled to occur every 2-3 years.

    Reagard, Doug

  2. Michael Germack says

    Need pricing for a solar unit for a Mesh Node,
    440W Unit.

  3. Yep once you establish the equipment load, duty cycle and location a properly designed solar or outdoor AC powered battery back assures the integrity of a mesh platform. Typically the model has been rush to deploy the RF and power provisioning gets relegated to patchwork deployment after the first “grid crisis” wave has impaired the networks integrity. Identifying and funding the mesh operational mandate into scheduled build establishes a networks integrity. Wireless and solar are both federally funded initiatives waiting for well defined complete holistic solutions.