Energy consumers could soon be trading their surplus solar power with each other, courtesy of Bitcoin software.
Western Australian tech start-up Power Ledger is conducting an eight-week “virtual” trial of its trading system at a retirement facility in the coastal town of Busselton.
The trial is one of the first of its kind in the world, and simulates the trading of excess electricity generated by solar PV panels amongst a group of around twenty households.
Blockchains permit the trading of surplus electricity over the grid
Jemma Green, research fellow at Curtin University and chairperson of Power Ledger, said that their trading system makes use of the groundbreaking blockchain software behind the success of virtual currency Bitcoin.
“Blockchains can be used to manage the movement of electricity between different points, as well as settle the financial payments on the back of it,” said Green.
The software essentially enables consumers to use the electricity grid as a trading platform.
It achieves this by creating a cryptographically secure record of all the transactions conducted within the system, and storing these records amongst multiple computers.
Energy consumers stand to reap major economic gains
Dave Martin, managing director of Power Ledger, believes the technology could lead to a dramatic shift in the market for renewable energy.
“If you’ve got solar PV on your roof right now and you’re not consuming the amount that you’re generating, your only option is to feed it back into the network and sell it to your retailer, who then sells it to on someone else,” says Martin.
“With our model, you’re putting energy back into the network while also maintaining the rights to it.
“You can then sell to whomever is participating in the blockchain system; you can sell it to your neighbours, sell it down the road, or even gift it to your mum.”
This creation of a market of buyers and sellers for peer-to- peer trading of surplus energy promises to bring major economic benefit to consumers.
“It will enable them to sell or purchase electricity at prices that are far preferable to those provided by the retailer,” says Martin.
Will peer-to- peer energy trading boost solar PV Deployment?
“Making money off their roofs should serve as strong incentive for more people to install solar PV where possible,” said Green.
“If consumers are able to monetise their investment in renewable energy or assets such as solar panels and batteries, they’re more likely to install them.
“They’re also more likely to install capacity that’s beyond what they would need for their own domestic consumption.”
Peer-to- peer energy trading could make renewable energy accessible to a greater number of consumers.
“It spreads the benefit of having PV to a broader set of consumers beyond just those who can put it on their roofs, to people who can’t afford the installation costs or live in rental properties,” said Martin.
Would you be willing to trade surplus solar energy with other consumers? What kind of impact do you expect peer-to-peer trading to have on solar PV usage? Share your thoughts below.
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