Blockchain to Track Solar Power Production, Ethereum to Utilise The Data

A host of companies, nonprofits and consortiums gathered in London to discuss how the blockchain could be used to track solar power production across the globe, while Ethereum smart contracts could utilise the data.

Author: Charlie McCombie

Democratization of energy

The ‘Chain-of-things IoT, Blockchain and Security Conference’, that took place in London on 1st June, saw the presentation of a full stack data-logger, that connects multiple blockchains to the digital output of solar energy plants.

“We think we are onto something here; by connecting a data-logger that grabs solar energy output in near-real time and then pushing that securely to multiple blockchains for different purposes we can help democratise energy wherever it is generated,” explained Luke Johnson, co-founder of ElectriCChain and CEO of Solcrypto.

The full-day event examined potential use cases for the full stack, and a two-hour ‘hackathon’ midway through the event allowed for the brainstorming of some wider use cases, with a $100 prize presented to the winner by the Intel Software - Code for Good initiative.

Representatives from Solcrypto, the company producing the node and data-logger software, Bitseed, the node manufacturer, and the SolarCoin Foundation, who distribute the SolarCoin digital token to incentivize solar power production, were present to discuss the solar power case study.

In addition, representatives from IOTA, a new type of blockchain 3.0 technology termed a ‘tangle’ that allows for direct machine-to-machine token discovery on a shared ledger seamlessly and efficiently, allowing for zero-fee microtransactions and quantum security, and the Chain-of-things (CoT) research laboratory, a research consortium for blockchain and Internet-of-things (IoT), were present.

Various speakers working in the IoT space also discussed the security, or the lack thereof, in the IoT space and “how blockchains could be employed to address the multiple attack vectors that have been hampering the development of the IoT industry throughout its history.”

ElectriCChain

“Trusted data about energy production and consumption is key to managing small grids and finance for the bottom of the pyramid,” says ElectriCChain.

ElectriCChain is the blockchain behind the SolarCoin digital asset. It helps to gather and publish non-confidential data related to solar owners for scientific (e.g. climate change), meteorological (e.g. weather/microclimate forecast), and financial (e.g. solar hedging/derivatives tools) applications.

It is aiming to deploy a network of over 7 million of these solar power-data-logger installations around the globe, according to IEA numbers, and exceed 200 million installations within 15-25 years.

However, co-operation is still ongoing as the data-logger transitions to a minimum viable product. Eventually, multiple blockchains could be integrated into the Bitseed node to serve different purposes, including interfacing with apps installed on the data-logger and with distributed apps written as smart contracts for Ethereum. The only limit to the number of blockchains that can be added to the stack is the size of the physical storage on the device and associated hardware.

Francois Sonnet, co-founder of ElectriCChain and solar industry veteran, says of the burgeoning solar power-blockchain collaborative industry:

“With Solar Energy, IoT and blockchains all on their own growth paths, we believe that this is a significant beginning to a new industry that could be phrased as ‘Blockchain-Energy’ with many applications from micro-finance of small solar home systems in developing countries to rewards based mechanisms for large scale solar plants to increase their return on investment.”

Source: Cointelegraph

Video: The Blockchain: Enabling a Distributed and Connected Energy Future

The High-Level Details

With the energy industry trending toward a distributed and connected future, entrepreneurs and industry leaders have an opportunity to look ahead for solutions they can start building today. Bitcoin’s underlying protocol, called “the blockchain”, is a distributed consensus-driven infrastructure enabling trust between connected assets.  While currently considered only a financial tool, the blockchain’s actual capability is extremely broad.

And just as advances in TCP/IP created vast opportunities for the internet, the blockchain is enabling us to rethink the basic infrastructure of how energy is distributed, accounted for and secured. For example, microgrids could become more resilient with peer-to-peer communications.  P2P enables intelligent electronic devices to share information directly without the need for a centralized system.

Also data about the asset activity, and hence the value, can be exchanged instantaneously 24/7, giving rise to new business models and applications for many distributed energy sources as well as increasing the security and reliability of the grid.

We will also have a live demonstration by Grid Singularity on how blockchain can be used in the energy sector.

Sounds exciting?  Join us to learn:

  • What is the blockchain, really...isn’t it just a financial tool?
  • Why blockchain is and isn’t like the internet.
  • How can entrepreneurs and industry leaders leverage blockchain technology?
  • What is the business impact, opportunities and potential disintermediation?
  • What are the regulatory hurdles and how might blockchain help us address issues of national security?

Speakers

The distinguished panel will be moderated by:

Scott Clavenna,  CEO, Greentech Media, Inc

Panelists:
Joi Ito, Director,  MIT Media Lab
(For some background, read: Why Bitcoin is and isn't like the Internet)

Paul Brody, Ernst & Young, America’s Strategy Leader, Technology Sector; Leader, global strategy on Blockchain

Ed Hesse, CEO, Grid Singularity

Lawrence Orsini, CEO, LO3 Energy

Thanks to our friends at WGBH’s Forum Network, we’ve got this great video from our February 2016 event on the use of the blockchain in distributed energy!

This packed house event with Scott Clavenna, CEO, Greentech Media, Inc, Joi Ito, Director, MIT Media Lab, Paul Brody, Ernst & Young, America’s Strategy Leader, Technology Sector; Leader, global strategy on Blockchain, Ed Hesse, CEO, Grid Singularity and Lawrence Orsini, CEO, LO3 Energy discussed how we might use the blockchain to rethink the basic infrastructure of how energy is distributed, accounted for and secured.

As a bonus, we had an amazing demo at the end of the event (and the video below) — a Bitcoin transfer was made that bought electricity for a small school in South Africa, in real time. It was awesome.

Source: mitforumcambridge.org

To fight climate change, we need to ‘Uberize’ the energy industry

Written by Hemant Taneja, Managing Director, General Catalyst Partners

Organizing capital, in isolation, isn’t enough to get hundreds of Elon Musks dedicating themselves to building companies that develop critical new wind, solar, nuclear and battery technology.

In June, I attended a breakfast organized by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Bill Gates, with top business and policy leaders from around the world. The investors in the meeting were dedicated to increasing funding of early-stage energy companies. Of course, that’s a much-needed step. As the data below shows, exponential decrease in solar costs has led to exponential increase in solar capacity, despite limited technology investment. This has been principally driven by consistent, long-term policy that drove deployment at scale.

But while entrepreneurs recognize the importance of the mission and want to work on advanced energy, markets aren’t creating long-term opportunities to lure them. I’ve lived this myself. I started investing in this space a decade ago because entrepreneurs began moving in. I witnessed the market design problem companies ran into and created Advanced Energy Economy to help policy, technology and finance come together to create long-term markets. But persistent unwinding of policies made entrepreneurs give up and instead go into sectors that were more likely to pay off. Today, in Silicon Valley, I just don’t hear great entrepreneurs wanting to take on one of the most important challenges of our time.

Look at just one example of the market hurdles: earlier this year, regulators in Nevada gave in to push-back from NV Energy, and significantly dropped the price paid to homeowners who sell excess energy generated by their rooftop panels back to the utilities firm. The price drop was so damaging to solar customers that the nation’s biggest rooftop solar company, SolarCity, decided to pull out of the state. While technologies that could significantly reduce carbon emissions are within our grasp, the energy market conditions get in the way and slow progress.

Uber and Tesla show that when companies create amazing consumer experiences, large, fragmented markets can organize fast around a new solution. Customer adoption of Uber, the enthusiasm for Tesla electric cars, and advances in self-driving vehicles have brought the transportation sector to a point of no return. The days of internal combustion engine and gasoline are numbered. Just think about that: in less than a decade, cars running on electric power will be a utility that we can access on demand. Far fewer of us will own cars. The most in-demand new cars will be electric. That is an amazing step forward towards reducing CO2 in the atmosphere.

The swift change to electric-powered transportation makes it all the more important to transform the 21st-century electricity system. An effective way to do that will be to employ the lessons from Uber and Tesla and let entrepreneurs lead the established companies.

How? A crucial early step will be to align utilities with entrepreneurs instead of against them. Let’s create regulatory and business models that give utilities a path to evolve their role from operating mammoth power plants and transmission grids to operating software-powered platforms that interconnect the small-scale power solutions in homes and small businesses. This then becomes a platform that supports entrepreneurial solutions, much like the internet or the iPhone and app store. Utilities can prosper, providing reliability and resiliency in the power network, while faster-moving entrepreneurs create ever more effective ways to generate, move, trade, market, share and store power.

Entrepreneurs will come in hoards to tackle this great mission if they can take advantage of the economies of unscale that have propelled other sectors. Airbnb is an unscaled response to hotels, re-assembling demand for places to stay in a whole new way. The Honest Company took advantage of unscaling to profitably compete against Procter & Gamble in consumer brands.

Time after time, we’re seeing small companies win in established sectors by building on existing platforms and finding a new market. That’s what has to happen in energy. If the right technologies get developed, entrepreneurs will unscale the energy industry, turning it into an ecosystem of small companies and producers generating and moving power in a distributed way.

What can entrepreneurs do in the field of energy? One important role: solve the problem of power storage. A major barrier to unscaling electricity is that it can’t be stored effectively. Tesla and a number of global companies are racing to build affordable battery technology for homes and businesses. Once energy can be stored cost effectively in small quantities, much less of it needs to be produced centrally and distributed on power grids.

Put all of this together, and this is systems thinking about the problem. It follows market principles, centering solutions around what customers actually want. We need to bring to the power industry the same mindset we apply to internet-based “utilities” like Facebook and Google. After all, how are they any less important to life today than energy?

If we do this right, no utility will ever again build a large-scale carbon-based power plant. Such a thing won’t be necessary if every home is generating electricity on its roof and the grid works more like the internet, moving power to where it’s needed and storing excess in new-age batteries for reliable access. Just as anyone can now be a hotelier because of Airbnb, in a decade anyone will be able to be a power company once these new technologies are in place. In an unscaled era, the mini power plant in a home or small business will be better, cheaper, cleaner and more resilient than the next massive power plant.

Customers will have choices, and if new energy technologies are better, cheaper and cleaner than old ones, that’s what customers will choose. And this is what COSOL offers with its crowdfunding model and community solar farms throughout Brazil.

Souce: World Economic Forum

Intersolar panel calls on investors to act fast to reap Brazilian PV rewards

By PV Tech, Danielle Ola

Brazil’s emerging PV market poses significant opportunities for foreign as it is still at a stage before consolidation occurs and the market becomes more saturated. A panel of experts at Intersolar Europe discussed why now is the right time to penetrate the Brazilian market.

The panel at Intersolar discussed Brazil's smart local content requirement policy. Source: Flickr/Charlie Phillips

The panel at Intersolar discussed Brazil's smart local content requirement policy. Source: Flickr/Charlie Phillips

Although Brazil’s PV industry is nascent – with 3GW of utility-scale solar installed to date, it yields attractive prospects.

“The underdeveloped Brazilian currency makes projects cheaper for foreign investors,” said Miguel Lobo, Brazil director of Martifer Solar. He also cited the country’s “stable and reliable regulation” and “20-year government-backed PPAs” as further reasons why Brazil is an ideal market.

Eduardo Tobias Ruiz from Clean Energy Latin America (CELA) attested the “competiveness and great business environment” of the market as “imperative to growth”.

Notably, Brazil does have one of the highest interest rates in the world but “if companies know how to exploit the significant tax burden, there is lots of potential for the Brazilian PV market,” said ASBZ Advogados lawyer Alexandre Gleria. The country is also currently enduring a fiscal crisis but still has “solar as a priority” according to Felipe Guth, manager of the department of renewable energy for BNDES (Brazilian Development Bank), who also emphasised the strength of the margins and returns.

Brazil has two PV auctions scheduled this year – for July and October respectively. Maurício Tolmasquim, president of EPE, Brazil Ministry of Mines and Energy, said that the two auctions may be combined, but the total amount of PV awarded would be the same. The country’s last auction in November awarded 1.5GW, with the preceding auction in August seeing 31 PV project wins.

“The first auction saw the chicken-and-egg problem,” said Tolmasquim. “If you put strong [local content] requirements, then there is the risk of having a failure of an auction. Anyone can import anything; but if you want to have the financing you need local content.”

“Auction winners are not obliged to follow local content requirements,” added Guth. “It is important to be flexible with content requirements.”

To this end, products can be assembled in Brazil to fulfill the requirement.

“Instead, create a market first and then increase the local requirement,” said Tolmasquim. "This is a smart policy because low level of content to receive BNDES money, with a bonus available if you have high content. Nowadays you may import everything and assemble it in Brazil and still have access to vendors’ money."

“Maybe in future we will increase the content requirement but now is not the time. The first to arrive are those that win more – the time to invest is now.”

Source: PV Tech

 

Brazil searches for a rooftop PV model

By Alexandre Spatuzza in Sao Paulo 

 Monday, December 21 2015

A few days after the revision of Brazil’s net-metering regulation, and before the government announced a new distributed power generation incentive plan, a researcher in the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA) launched a new 'Solar Condominium', spearheading the country’s search for new business models for rooftop solar.

“The project has been developed to be adapted to the new net-metering rules,” Hungarian born Csaba Sulyok told Recharge.

Brazil's rooftop sector has huge potential but is yet to take off


Brazil's rooftop sector has huge potential but is yet to take off

In a country where financing is scarce because of rates that can top 5% a month and average earnings stand at around $20,000 a year, a $15,000-$20,000 investment on a rooftop array of less than 10kW capacity is only available to the few.

As an example, despite a potential for more than 50 million rooftop arrays, just over 1,000 roofs have solar modules installed under the 2012 net-metering rules.

“The Solar Condominium (Cosol) is a 5MW plant that will sell or rent out panels to consumers,” said Sulyok, who has been living in Brazil for about half a decade and saw the opportunity to make money in solar power.  

The idea to build ground-mounted solar PV to supply power to homes and businesses through net-metering arrangements was only firmly permitted in the nine-month-long revision of the 2012 rules that concluded in November.

These rules, combined with rising power prices, wire-fee discounts and tax reductions now allow for this and other business models which promise to boost rooftop solar to over 4GW by 2030, from a current 9MW capacity.

“Brazil's electricity sector is facing a difficult moment and power prices will continue high for the next four to five years,” Leontina Pinto, a partner at Rio de Janeiro-based consulting firm Engenho told Recharge. “These factors have brought the payback rate down to four or five years from around eight years previously.”

Like Cosol, others have already come up with new business models.

Also in the state of Bahia, local Brazilian solar firm Brasil Solair built 2MW in a horizontal condominium of low-income houses. With financing from Brazil's National Savings Bank (CEF) the panels were installed and the power generated is now sold in the wholesale market, generating a monthly R$90 revenue per family after the managers of the condominium pay off all expenses.

In the state of Ceará, Prátil – an electricity services subsidiary of Italian power company Enel – built a 1MW ground-mounted solar plant to supply the retail shops of a local chain of chemists.

Rodrigo Sauaia, executive president of the Brazilian Solar Power Association (Absolar), said that under the new rules Prátil's project is now legal, since before the revision of the net-metering rules, it wasn't clear whether this business model was allowed.

In November, Sauaia had dubbed the revision a “historic day” for solar power in Brazil, and he was even more optimistic after the government announced a broad distributed generated power programme in December, which indicated that power distributors should contract 10% of their needs from small arrays in the concession areas and signalled new financing mechanisms.

“Private banks are looking more and more at solar power, but if the government created a credit line through one of its state banks it would grow in scale,” said Sauaia, pointing out that there is resistance from distribution companies to the installation of new solar arrays.

They consider that a growing number of rooftop arrays implies the use of the existing network, or new investments to upgrade it. As result they are questioning the exemption of wire usage fees. The solar industry says they fear losing revenue.

For Engenho's Pinto, however, for the rooftop solar market to accelerate and for banks to really commit with financing, power distribution companies would have start to investing in the sector.

“This is the only way for solar power to gain scale. In the middle of [an economic] crisis I don't see many people investing in solar power, especially because there is still a lot of doubts about its benefits in Brazil,” she said.

Among her clients are several power distribution companies and their trade group, Abradee, whom she advises on new business models.

“They could rent out roofs to install solar modules and resell the excess power through their network, making the modules free for consumers,” she said. “This works for consumers also: if someone doesn't have a roof, they could rent out roofs from other houses [according to the new rules]”.

Still, convincing power distribution companies will be an uphill struggle.

“In the long term, they are right, but, for now, with such a small number of arrays it doesn't have a big impact. But they should look in the long term because they could gain in other areas such as network stability, since the power will be produced close to where it is consumed,” Pinto said.

With surge of interest in solar PV, Brazil has now over 500 module installation companies, up from around 300 in 2014. As demand grows these companies will have to seek new business models to overcome the inherent problems of a developing economy that is currently facing a crisis.

“Many of these companies will fail. Let’s hope they won't harm the reputation of solar power,” Pinto said.

Meanwhile, Cosol's Sulyok has already obtained support from the university, keen to see a start up arise from its ranks, a green light from the National Development Bank (BNDES) that it would finance, and is looking for investors.

“People are interested, I just hope the rules don't change,” he said. 

Souce: RECHARGE

 

Brazil approves ‘historic’ net metering revision

Brazil’s energy regulator National Electric Energy Agency (ANEEL) has approved an “historic” revision of the country’s net metering scheme for small-scale renewable energy systems, making it amongst the most forward-thinking countries in this sector, according to Rodrigo Sauaia, the director of Brazil’s solar industry association, Absolar.

The revision, which has been scheduled since the net metering regulations were first implemented several years ago, came about after the realisation that the number of installed small-scale distributed generation energy systems is still relatively small compared to Brazil’s potential.

There are currently 1,300 installed systems connected to the grid of which 96% is solar PV, said Sauaia.

Under the revision, Brazil now has ‘virtual net metering’, which means any company or consumer can install an energy system at different points of electricity use and still get credits, which can be used to abate consumption costs on another unit.

Sauaia said this was already in place, but the revision clears up areas of doubt as companies and subsidiary companies are now able to share their energy under net metering.

He added: “This scheme has been fundamental for the growth of PV in small-scale in several parts of the US and in other countries.”

Credits are now also valid for five years instead of three years.

Furthermore this “landmark” revision from ANEEL creates a new business opportunity; now any group of clients can invest together in a single PV system for example and receive a share of the electricity generated and reduce their consumption from the grid, at a level proportional to the financial resources each entity has invested in the system.

Sauaia said: “This is an important way to give scale and to multiply interests in distributed solar.”

Systems up to 5MW can now also participate in the net metering scheme, up from just 1MW previously.

Finally Sauaia said there have been beneficial structural changes in the distribution area. Now the 63 distribution companies in Brazil will have three different power classes with three different standardised forms that will be used throughout the whole country.

Sauaia added: “In this way Brazil is also cutting the red tape significantly by standardising procedures for connecting the systems and for making new requirements for connections into the grid.”

There is now also a provision that the subscription processes for net metering systems delivered by distribution companies must only be done online and digitally by 2017, which will increase speed and reduce costs for all parties involved.

ANEEL predicts around 1.2 million consumer units will be installed in Brazil by 2024, totaling 4.5GW of installed capacity.

Sauaia concluded: “This is a massive improvement to the net metering system, incorporating several of the international best practices and this puts Brazil really into the forefront of public regulations in support of the development of small-scale renewable energy connection to the grid.”

“It also shows that Brazil as a government is starting to put into action what it has been sharing as words in preparation to COP21. Therefore the country is not only committing to reducing its carbon footprint and emissions but it is also putting plans into action that will make this happen.”

Over the last six months Brazilian states have gradually started to introduce an ICMS tax exemption for net metering from distributed generation solar PV. Rio de Janeiro became the seventh state to do this earlier this month.

Source: PV-tech