Some interesting news out of Brooklyn this week as a group of residents and local businesses have banded together to create their own ‘microgrid’ – powered by the exciting new technology known as the blockchain.
Siemens Digital Grid Division have set up the Park Slope area of Brooklyn with a full physical microgrid which includes battery storage, converters, control systems, and smart meters. The microgrid involves decentralised distributed energy generation and is able to exist and function completely outside the conventional regional power grid. Theoretically this could work for entire cities who would be able to use their own energy for residents, and even make money by selling it back to the central grid if required.
Administration is also quite simple (this is a bit of a relative term but when you consider the inherent challenges of such a system it is a very neat fit) – this microgrid technology is powered by the cheap to run and impossible to forge Blockchain – which is also used for decentralised currencies such as Bitcoin. The Park Slope blockchain platform has been set up and is being managed by LO3 Energy.
About the blockchain
LO3 Energy will be using the blockchain to run what they call a “TransActive Grid” – which ensures each energy transaction is securely timestamped. This allows every movement of energy, however small, to be securely documented and applied to the correct account. The energy will be purchasable under an auction agreement where one of the ~50 homeowners/businesses are able to set a maximum price per kWh and receive energy accordingly. Lithium Ion energy storage will back up the microgrid in situations where there isn’t enough power being generated. In the event of no energy storage being available they are also connected to the main energy grid where they’re able to feed and receive power at general rates.
Potential further application of blockchain technology in the solar industry
The Park Slope project’s goal is to have 1,000 participants by next year – with a commensurate increase in the amount of battery storage and solar PV systems. LO3 Energy were quoted as saying they hope to make it possible “to establish a self-sufficient power supply for the microgrid in the event of a city-wide blackout’. It’ll be interesting to see how much power they’re able to generate, how much the average price per kWh ends up being, how much they still need to buy from the grid (or how much they make selling excess back in peak times). There are lots of variables which will help us see how viable this is with the current cost of PV solar and energy storage, and how well it will complement the existing grid.