Solar COW Aids Wyoming Firefighters

A solar cow? No, a solar COW.

It stands for “cellular on wheels,” and it’s a portable wireless tower that’s being used to provide communications services to those fighting the remote West Battle Creek Fire in Carbon County, Wyoming.

solar cow

image via Union Wireless

“Since there is no power source close by, the C.O.W. we are moving on site has both a built-in array of solar cells and a wind turbine,” Union Wireless chief technology and operations officer Eric Woody said in a statement earlier this week.

solar cow

image via Union Wireless

Union Wireless began deploying mobile cellular towers back in 2011, then last year got the first of what is now a squad of four COWs that rely on solar and a wind turbine. The company said last year that the technology isn’t cheap, but it was turning out to be a good investment:

Since there is no need to run power or pour concrete, in many respects, the new Green COWs are actually very cost effective. So far, Union has deployed a Green COW on Parachute Peak, between Meeker and Rifle, Colo., with excellent results in providing extended coverage to people who are with Union and on the big wireless companies that roam on Union’s vast regional network. Permits are currently under consideration for locations throughout Wyoming.

Now this year, a COW has been helping battle a blaze that began early this week in the Sierra Madre Range of the Medicine Bow National Forest. By Saturday the fire was reported to be near 100 percent containment.

“The firefighters within the command center will be using this system to receive updates on weather conditions and to provide feedback to the State and Federal agencies supporting the field operations,” Woody said just before the tower was put into operation.

 

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.