Solar electricity production + blockchain = a currency based on sunshine
Just as cryptocurrency has become a disruptive technology, so has renewable energy, and although those two distinct sectors haven’t really come into their own just yet, an innovative solar incentive program is incorporating both solar electricity production and the blockchain, with the intent of boosting and supporting one with the other.
Instead of a digitally “mined” product, this cryptocurrency’s proof of work happens in the physical world, and those who have photovoltaic arrays can earn SolarCoin just for generating solar electricity. It’s essentially a global solar rewards program, and is designed to help incentivize more solar electricity production, while also serving as a lower-carbon cryptocurrency than Bitcoin and similar alternative currencies.
We initially covered SolarCoin in 2014, right after it launched, and since then, the project has rewarded more than 10,000 solar installations for their electricity generation (totaling somewhere north of 200 megawatts). [As a side note, it’s actually somewhat surprising to me that the number is only 10,000 solar generators, considering that the currency is granted essentially for free to “any solar producer” that gets verified.]
This 90-second intro video explains SolarCoin in a nutshell:
“SolarCoin is like airmiles for global solar electricity producers.” – Joseph Zitoli, The SolarCoin Foundation
This longer (5 minute) video explains where SolarCoin gets its value from:
As of January of 2017, more than 34 million SolarCoins have been put into circulation, with that figure growing by about 5,000 per week, and some 240,000 SolarCoins have gone to solar producers in 23 countries. In addition, two solar-focused crowdfunding platforms, Lumo and TheSunExchange, are now incorporating SolarCoin, the Belgian energy monitor company Smappee includes SolarCoin in its features, and in March 2017, the French collaborative energy supplier ekWateur became the first energy company to accept SolarCoin as a means of payment.
SolarChange, the SolarCoin Foundation platform that integrates the SolarCoin Blockchain and incorporates a host of other monitoring and energy management features, was recently chosen to participate in the four month MassChallenge Israel accelerator program, which could help ramp up the solar currency’s adoption.
“The Goal for SolarChange in the MassChallenge program is to dramatically scale its AI-Blockchain interface solutions and Prosumer incentive capabilities from a Startup company to SME and expose its technology to utilities and the solar industry.”
As far as cryptocurrecies go, SolarCoin (SLR) has a lot of growing to do, as it is shooting for an eventual $30 price but is currently hovering just over $0.20. Aside from getting a lot more solar generators onboard, there are also issues with scaling up its adoption as an alternative currency for both buyers and sellers of goods. The Swiss currency marketplace Lykke Exchange has added SolarCoin to its offerings, with Lykke CEO Richard Olsen (who ended up joining the SolarCoin Foundation advisory board) putting it succinctly, “Our users can now convert sunshine directly into francs, euros or bitcoins.”
“Bringing the SolarCoin currency into the Lykke Exchange is a logical extension of our long-term plan. We are always looking for ways to expand market access and increase participation. Challenging conventional wisdom is what we do best, and we will be able to do it that much better with the passionate, forward-thinking SolarCoin community on our exchange.” – Olsen
A recent article in PV Tech by Florent Andrillon sums up the challenges facing SolarCoin, as well as a key selling point for the currency:
“SolarCoin’s success will depend on the capacity to generate a large and robust ecosystem, and leverage social added value to differentiate from other cryptocurrencies.”
In contrast to most other cryptocurrencies, it’s not just the financial value of the SolarCoin currency that’s at the core of its strength. Sure, SolarCoin could be a legitimate investment option for those looking for a future return, but far more value may come from its incentivizing of solar energy production, which the project hopes to underwrite for some 40 years, to the tune of about 97,500 TWh of solar electricity.
And it is gaining acceptance, as IRENA and Solar Power Europe have endorsed the currency, but there are still many challenges to overcome:
“Stakeholder engagement with power producers, investors, companies and individuals to convince, educate and reconcile on economic and financial and technical challenges is critical. Convincing power producers to share generation data is also a key challenge. At last, driving consensus among companies to promote SolarCoins depends on its liquidity and consumer attractiveness compared to other cryptocurrencies.” – Andrillon
Hat tip: Karl Graves. Images: SolarCoin
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