Written by Jennifer KhoBallard Power Systems ( BDLP) this week announced it has signed a deal to supply 10,000 fuel cells to wireless telecom base stations in India. The Vancouver-based company plans to sell the cells -- 1,000 in 2009 and 9,000 in 2010 -- to a new joint venture between IdaTech, which makes fuel-cell systems, and the Acme Group, which sells green-energy and energy-efficiency systems to telecom companies and others. The cells are slated to provide backup power for Acme customers' wireless base stations, which connect calls to and from mobile phones. The agreement gives Acme exclusive rights to sell Ballard's fuel cells for stationary power applications in India and for telecom backup-power applications in the Middle East and Africa, except for South Africa. It's a big deal for Ballard. Guy McAree, director of corporate relations and strategic marketing, said it's the biggest supply agreement the company has ever signed, and probably the biggest one in the industry. To compare, the company shipped 850 fuel cells in 2007 and wants to ship about 1,700 cells this year, he said. So 9,000 in 2010 would be a big jump. "This high-volume, binding agreement represents a big step forward for Ballard and the broader fuel-cell sector," Ballard CEO John Sheridan said in a company statement. "The 10,000-unit volume will enable significant cost reductions." The agreement also marks a change for the company, which has been making hydrogen fuel cells. The cells it is making for Acme will use natural gas instead of hydrogen.