Blockchain and cryptocurrency are powerful tools for enabling any electricity user to get their hands on solar and other renewables, even if they don’t have the big bucks to invest. With that in mind, last week CleanTechnica sat down for an in-person interview with Dr. Jemma Green, chair and co-founder of the startup Power Ledger. The company has come up with a system that helps solar owners monetize and trade their PV installations, based on — you guessed it — blockchain and a form of cryptocurrency.
Blockchain And Cryptocurrency
If you are new to the blockchain-crypto nexus, your eyes might be glazing over right now. No worries. Think of these tools like understanding that you can use an axe to chop wood for your fireplace.
You don’t have to know how an axe is made, and you don’t have to make one yourself, in order to chop the wood.
For that matter, you don’t even have to chop the wood. You can just pay someone else to deliver a load of pre-chopped firewood to your doorstep.
To put it another way, Dr. Green noted that most people who engage with the Power Ledger system don’t know how the system works on a technical level, no more than they would be expected to know how the Intel chip in their laptop “works.”
Dr. Green also suggested that it’s helpful to think of blockchain literally, as blocks of data linked together.
If you’re having trouble visualizing a block of data, she suggested “data lake ” as a more colorful alternative, in that it evokes the image of something that receives and holds data (fish, swimmers, boats, etc.), and that is visible to anyone who uses it (well, at least if the water is clear).
Or, you can forget the visualization and just use it.
The Solar Solution For A Big, Huge Problem
Dr. Green’s inspiration for Power Ledger grew out of her graduate studies. She was working on a model for addressing one significant roadblock to adopting rooftop solar, the multi-unit building dilemma.
The basic problem is getting landlords (or, for that matter, co-op or condo boards) to install rooftop solar panels, when they already have tenants who pay their own electricity bills through their own meters.
Another problem emerges for those who do install solar, which is how to ensure that tenants share equitably in solar access.
While researching solutions, Dr. Green connected with the blockchain community and realized that blockchain was the perfect tool.
Basically, blockchain eliminates the middleman. It enables each user to contribute their electricity data to a network of blocks (or lakes, or pools, whatever).
As for the cryptocurrency angle, that also falls into place when you eliminate the middleman. Say, for example, that each kilowatt is worth one credit. If you’re out of town for the week you won’t be using your solar credits during that time, so you can trade them to other tenants who can use them, or perhaps even sell them.
Extend that system out to a network of buildings, other PV sites, and electricity users, and there you have it: a democratized, peer-to-peer solar energy sharing and monetizing system enabled by blockchain and cryptocurrency.
Motivating Solar Adoption
Well, that’s all for Part 1 of the Power Ledger interview! When this writer reconnects with the interview notes later this week (they are currently 400 miles out of reach), CleanTechnica will bring Part 2 of Dr. Green’s journey from graduate student to blockchain and cryptocurrency entrepreneur.
In the meantime, Dr. Green and Power Ledger are not letting the grass grow under their feet.
The CleanTechnica interview took place just a few days before the final phase of Sir Richard Branson’s Extreme Tech Challenge, billed as “the world’s largest startup competition.” The company crossed the finish line in first place on October 19, which is a huge deal because, well, it’s a huge deal.
Sure enough, shortly after winning the top prize, on October 23rd the company released word that it is releasing the commercial version for its version of cryptocurrency, called the Asset Germination Event (AGE) token.
AGE tokens are designed to enable use by individuals as well as communities. Here’s the rundown from Power Ledger:
The AGE product intends to provide these groups the ability to collectively invest in renewable energy assets like solar and wind farms and community-owned batteries. Ownership of the token will be open to retail (ie non-sophisticated) investors, making the token a world first.
That’s just the beginning. Here’s where Power Ledger is heading:
The AGE token will also open new sources of capital for energy projects and use blockchain technology to maintain a secure asset and income register, with a view to developing renewable energy infrastructure across the world.
This is a good deal more expansive in solving the multi-tenant building dilemma. The AGE blockchain and cryptocurrency system basically enables anyone with a fireplace to get firewood, without having to know how to make an axe or grow a tree — or, for that matter, without having a wad of cash to invest in solar development.
In its home country of Australia, for example, Power Ledger makes the case that investing in solar development is generally limited to the class of “sophisticated investors,” defined as people with people with an annual income of at least AUD250,000, or net assets of AUD2.5 million.
With blockchain and cryptocurrency, that field blows wide open:
The AGE token will be available to investors who do not have these financial means. If an eligible investor can afford the cost of the token, they can invest in renewable energy technology and infrastructure.
So, how do you get your hands on an AGE, or several of them? Stay tuned for next steps. Our interview with Dr. Green touched on projects that Power Ledger already has under way in various spots around the globe. The tokens will become available after the company completes the acquisition of its first grid-connected, commercial solar facility as well as its first storage facility.
Want more? Our sister site Solar Love describes a blockchain based solar trading system in Brooklyn, and CleanTechnica has the lowdown on other clean tech uses of blockchain such as saving the trees and generally enabling a more innovative business environment.
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Image (screenshot): via Power Ledger.