In April 2016, President Street in Brooklyn witnessed a historic first: one resident sold the excess energy from his rooftop solar installation to a neighbour across the street, all paid for and recorded through blockchain. This was the world’s first small-scale power grid to use a consumer blockchain transaction. The houses aren’t connected directly to each other, of course, but rather to TransActive grid, a local microgrid, so the sale was a transaction of renewable energy ‘attributes’ only, rather than a transfer of electrons.
This development is notable because it marks a new phase of more secure and monetisable peer-to-peer energy transactions.
Microgrids are small energy systems capable of balancing supply and demand resources to maintain stable service, especially during potential disruptions like extreme weather events. They tend to be centred around renewables and experience less energy loss during the transfer process than large-scale grids. In the case that an extreme weather event knocks out the main grid, a community microgrid offer the possibility of maintaining local power in that area.
A blockchain, which is the computer science innovation underlying Bitcoin, is a distributed “ledger” of transactions that resides in a network of computers rather than a centralised server. Changes to the ledger must be authenticated across the entire network, which makes it near-impossible to tamper with the data. By using blockchain to manage the transactions of a microgrid, a new level of transparency and security can be achieved.
If this type of arrangement were to scale up, it would help prove the commercial viability of microgrids, improve energy efficiency, and foster community resilience.
Image credit: Dmitri Popov / Unsplash