Published on 29 October 2018 |
by Tina Casey
29 October 2018 of Tina Casey
Talk is growing on a new wave of solar development based on blockchain and cryptocurrency, so file this under U for You can not see anything yet. After all, a new revolution in the history of energy is well under way, yet energy transactions are still proceeding heavily on the same monetary platforms that have fueled the future fossil fuels era. Now imagine how fast the transition of renewable energy could accelerate when you enter some 21st century software.
If you're new to the blockchain-crypto-solar connection, do not worry! Last week CleanTechnica he sat down for an interview with Power Ledger, the blockchain-crypto-solar startup, * and the company's president and co-founder, Dr. Jemma Green, breaks everything.
How Blockchain fits into the framework of solar energy
Following the comments modified for clarity and flow.
CleanTechnica: What is the main obstacle to the acceleration of solar development and how does Power Ledger solve the problem?
Dr. Green: At the beginning I did not know much about the blockchain. I was doing applied research for my doctorate. in the disorder of the electricity market. I designed a rooftop solar system for a condominium, but there was no economic incentive to install one.
I needed software to be able to allocate energy to each unit and allow tenants to exchange their allocation if they were not at home.
The solution came together when I was introduced to people in the blockchain community. I was introduced to Dave Martin [who is Power Ledger’s co-founder and Managing Director]and has seen a problem with too many distributed energy resources, such as the solar roof, on the network. If too many people leave the network, those who are still on the grid will have to pay higher rates.
So here we are in 2017 and the price of solar is competitive, but some people will pay even more.
The solution is to create a real market. Blockchain allows you to enable peer-to-peer trading.
Wait – What is Blockchain?
CleanTechnica: How much should people know about the blockchain if they want to participate in this system? And where does cryptocurrency come from?
Dr. Green: Blockchain is a common registration system. Traditionally, buyers and sellers keep each one's books. With blockchain, both have access to the same book.
The software connects to smart meters and each payment is entered in that record. It allows a direct connection showing the amount of electricity used, by whom, when and where.
Blockchain literally means blocks of data connected to each other, but if you prefer another description, "data lake" is suitable.
There is no consumer interaction with the cryptocurrency at the technical level. Customers need Sparkz (cryptocurrency anchored to local currency) to buy electricity, and utilities need POWR tokens to acquire and sell.
Note: For more details, see this quick explanation of the Power Ledger and, for further details, see the complete rundown of Sparkz and POWR).
Is it really happening?
CleanTechnica: What are the next steps for Power Ledger?
Dr. Green: Our mission is to democratize power. We have made a lot of progress in our first two years.
One of our projects is a peer-to-peer exchange project at Northwestern University. We also have a virtual power plant project with KEPCO in Japan. This will focus on frequency control and other network services.
In Australia, we have a Smart Cities project involving 50 homes, a battery connected to the network, a fast EV charger and a Tesla.
In Thailand we have several sites for peer-to-peer business including a shopping mall, a dental hospital, a school and condominiums.
Petrodollar has been the default currency for so many years, and now electricity is becoming more an indicator of economic activity.
More and better solar energy
Well, this is the end of the interview. All this – and many other projects too – took place before Power Ledger set the first prize in Sir Richard Branson's Extreme Tech Challenge at the start of this month, so it will be interesting to see how the company adapts to this award.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the impact of blockchain and cryptocurrency in accelerating the transition of clean energy, btw.
Not for nothing, but guess who else is entering the blockchain-crypto-solar connection? Three hypotheses!
Ok, so it's the United States Department of Energy. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory of the agency was established just over 40 years ago in the heyday of coal, the geopolitics of petrodollars and centralized networks. Here's what the lab has to say about software that enables 21st century energy development through peer-to-peer transactions:
Blockchain technology is an innovative solution for managing network security, enabling distributed energy markets and the proliferation of distributed energy resources, opening new flows of value for customers and services.
Sweet! If you took that thing on distributed energy resources, it does not mean coal. Think of photovoltaics on the roof and anything else that does not involve a large-scale power plant, and you're on your way.
Last June, the NREL demonstrated a peer-to-peer solar power sharing system in real time on two homes and came out satisfied, so look for more activity from that quarter.
Here is another fragment of NREL's intuition:
The current energy markets lack an effective market interface for distributed energy resources, with a consequent reduction in opportunities for suppliers / producers and under-utilization of resources. Blockchain technology offers a convincing picture for the new market systems built around this emerging asset class.
And another, which reflects the attention of Power Ledger in providing fairer service rates that reflect the low cost of solar:
The emergence of such markets will improve customer choice, and will motivate an ecosystem of new products and services that will be able to mutually benefit network operators, public services, regulators, payers and technology providers.
Ok, it's enough. Speaking of coal, we ask ourselves when the Department of Defense, an early and enthusiastic user of solar energy, will come into play, so stay tuned for more information about it.
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Image (cut out): via NREL.