Australian energy startup Power Ledger announced on Thursday that its trials have commenced using blockchain technology to “put power in the pockets of electricity consumers.”
People in Perth and across southwest Australia may soon have the power to buy, sell or swap excess solar energy with anyone connected to the Western Power network, if trials that began yesterday prove successful. “We’re all electricity consumers, and many of us are now electricity producers with roof-top solar panels,” said Power Ledger Co-Founder and Chair Jemma Green.
“Just as Airbnb and Uber have up-ended the hospitality and transport markets, Power Ledger has the potential to change forever the way we buy and sell energy to power our homes.”
- Jemma Green, Co-Founder Power Ledger
The centralized power grids that power the vast majority of homes and businesses globally today are expensive, surprisingly inefficient, and cause pollution. According to the Energy Policy Research Institute, power outages alone cost the US economy between $104-$164 billion each year. This is on top of the the stifling high price for energy when it is online.
Prices for solar panel-generated energy have fallen to about half of the price that residents commonly buy from central power grids today. If everyone could simply source power from their own rooftops or neighborhoods, this problem, among many others, would be a relic of a bygone era.
Today green-focused energy companies like Power Ledger are setting out to enable consumers to play a more direct role in their power ecosystems. “Power Ledger will enable producers and consumers to trade their energy directly – saving money, hassle and maximising the use of clean, green, solar energy,” Power Ledger Chair Jemma Green revealed to BraveNewCoin in an exclusive interview.
“For many consumers, the decision to put solar panels on their roofs wasn’t just about saving money or saving the environment, it was an investment decision. The ability to now sell their excess energy to other customers represents the return on their investment,”
However, such plans simply weren’t economically feasible before the price of solar technology fell to current rates. Not until the people generating excess energy could “sell their surplus to their neighbours for less than the uniform tariff but more than they would get from selling it to their retailer,” Green explained.
“The benefits of distributed renewable energy will flow on to those who, at the moment, can least afford to participate; we think that’s pretty special.”
Power Ledger uses a customized, “permissioned hybrid blockchain designed and developed in Australia by Ledger Assets.” Its blockchain uses Proof-of-Stake mining for security and energy costs, as well as powering its miners with “solar power making it the world's most eco friendly and sustainable blockchain,” according to Green.
In her opinion, this makes power ledger’s blockchain “ideally suited to data intensive applications such as required for Power Ledger's Peer to Peer trading and settlement platform.” Being a custom solution allows for other benefits as well. “It was also designed to allow power meters to communicate directly with the blockchain, removing many hardware trust issues,” Green said.
Since Proof of Stake mining requires more trust in people than bitcoin’s blockchain does, Ledger Assets has come up with a hybrid solution to offer the best of both blockchains in one implementation.
"A faster data block creation rate dynamically communicating with the stable and robust Bitcoin Blockchain (hence a hybrid) giving the blockchain a very high level of trust from the onset.”
The pilot project is being run at a picturesque residential complex in Busselton, south of Perth, called the National Lifestyle Villages (NVL). Power Ledger has signed an agreement with the complex to trial the technology where there is a good mix of consumers with and without solar panels, demonstrating the capability of the technology in a realistic setting.
According to the Australian publication RenewEconomy, the trials will last eight weeks and involve 10 households as well as approximately 20 people at NLV’s Busselton location, which is on the Western Power network grid.
“The Power Ledger trial will help to demonstrate the value opportunity created through solar energy, and we look forward to better understanding how solar, battery storage, and smart energy technology can deliver positive outcomes for NLV, our clients, and the environment.”
- Steve McGill, Sustainability Manager, NLV
Power Ledger is partially owned by Ledger Assets, and both are based in Perth, Western Australia. Other projects listed on Ledger Assets’ website include photo and video authenticity service Uproov.com, and it is developing Enome.io for “blockchain medical records applications.” It also has projects in the works for both fine arts and insurance.
While the test may be the largest blockchain power grid trial to date, it wasn’t the first. In March, a small pilot program in Brooklyn, New York, worked with solar power as well. The Brooklyn Microgrid runs on the Ethereum blockchain and is attempting to sell energy produced locally to other local buyers, all using existing powerline infrastructure.
Meanwhile, plans have already been set for a second Power Ledger trial in the first half of 2017, in the Perth metropolitan area.