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What else other than Bitcoin can a Blockchain do? Think solar energy.

January 24th 2018

SolarCoin: A digital asset to initiate the energy transition worldwide, by François Sonnet, ElectriCChain

This article is published in The Beam #5 — Subscribe now for more on the topic.

Ever wondered how much sunshine would be needed in order to power your house? What if a local microgrid would supply clean solar energy to your block of houses, or even your whole community, and you could share the bill with your neighbours.

Let’s take it a step further: how much solar energy would we need to power the world on solar — and how much time would it take to get that much solar power installed? Does it matter that the sun produces power on the other side of the globe while I’m sleeping? And how could I get batteries to work with the existing grid? Imagine the disruption of the market for the local utility if I kept energy within my batteries at home, essentially going off-grid.

Well, as it appears, there is a new technology around the block — one that will enable a new Industrial Revolution. Buckle up, we’re going for a ride into (not-so) Star Trek technology…

Introducing Blockchain

Blockchain is a peer-to-peer network database. Think Napster, or file-sharing within a common group, but in the case of a Blockchain, it comes with real-time and distributed updating. And its non-spoofable!

In a Blockchain, every transaction and data is recorded directly onto this database. One very promising Blockchain is that of Bitcoin, as its Blockchain serves as a tool for recording digital transactions occurring with this ‘internet’ currency. Unhackable. Why? Well, because all these transactions are recorded not only on your computer, but also in everyone else’s — in total anonymity — and every transaction is validated by all participants in that same network.

Great — what else other than Bitcoin can a Blockchain do?

Well, Blockchain can also serve for recording data and providing efficiencies for companies embedding such technology. One such example, in the finance industry, is that of the R3 Consortium which is developing Blockchain technology in order to ease and fluidify the processes of settlement, clearing and custody of market commodities and assets, hence allowing for transactions to take place (and being cleared under Blockchain technology) within a matter of minutes, as opposed to several days. It therefore allows these same banks — and you! — to send and receive assets and money instantly, anywhere in the world, securely.

As it appears, each and every industry is going to be impacted by Blockchain technology: from supply chain-management, to auditing and accounting. In this last industry, imagine that your account statements are self audited — because as they are recorded onto a Blockchain, it could be made available (online and in real-time) to your auditors. No more fiddling with the books… No more moonlighting…

Another such industry which is actively working with with Blockchain technology is the energy sector, a traditionally “un-innovative” sector with well established near-monopolies.

In this sector, Blockchain is already enabling peer-to-peer energy transactions between neighbours. Imagine that your solar panels are going to deliver energy to the grid and/or charge your batteries at the most convenient time. And it all lies in the palm of your hand. Indeed, a simple app will analyse the best moment for feeding the grid — at the best price — or charge your batteries and/or use the energy with, say, your dishwasher and internet-connected devices. And if you happen to need the energy to charge your electric vehicle and/or start the oven, the app (and the blockchain behind it) will adapt in real-time, in total transparency to the utility.

This represents a new business model for you, the utility, and your network operator.

Right — but what about solar?

Recently, the Brussels-based European Solar Association, SolarPowerEurope, set up a Digital Task Force for studying digitalisation and applications to the solar energy industry. A striking tool which is to be used soon is that of such peer-to-peer energy trading platforms enabling for energy billing and exchanging for prosumers: the consumers who are involved with designing or customising products to their own needs.

Okay — so I’m feeding the grid… what happens when everybody gets sunshine at the same time?

Expect energy prices to drop, it’s logic… and this is where the SolarCoin digital asset comes into perspective.

Indeed, in a world which is going to be predominantly producing solar power — 5,000GWp of it within the next 20 years, according to the International Energy Agency — an international and community-based initiative seeking to initiate the clean energy transition has used this disruptive Blockchain technology in developing the SolarCoin Digital Asset.

SolarCoin essentially works like an air mileage programme, whereby solar power producers register their solar install to the network and receive 1 SLR (ie SolarCoin, §) for each MWh of solar power produced. And you can exchange your SolarCoins for hard currency just like any digital currency.

Your tablet, your car, your house, your phone, your windows and perhaps your walls as well, are going to produce solar power.

Right — but where do we stand now with solar power?

Well, as it appears, some 300GWp of solar capacity have been installed in the past 20 years…

So… you’re telling me that a new blockchain-based global Feed-in-Tariff could be set forth with SolarCoin?

Yes!

Francois Sonnet

Solar Energy Blockchain Advisor, ElectriCChain & Solcrypto

François is an expert in renewable energy business development. He co-founded SunSwitch SA in Belgium in 2007 at a time of little focus for renewables outside of Germany. François currently works as a solar consultant on projects in Eastern Europe and advises Solcrypto on developing blockchain tools to initiate the clean energy transition.

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