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Blockchain-based microgrid gives power to consumers in New York

New Scientist, March 2, 2016. Image credit: Unsplash

Transactive Grid aims to enable people to buy and sell renewable energy to their neighbours. To deal in energy at the moment, you have to go through a central company like Duke Energy in the US or National Grid in the UK, or one of their resellers.

Transactive can skip this central authority because its energy market is built on a technology called blockchain. First used to underpin the bitcoin currency, a blockchain is a cryptographically secure list of transactions. The list is stored on every computer in the system, and is continuously updated as each transaction is completed. The list for President Street is built using blockchain software called Ethereum. It deals with buying and selling electrons generated by solar panels. No central authority is in control: the computers monitor each other to stop fraud.

The first devices were installed on President Street a few weeks ago. On one side of the street are five homes that produce some of their own energy through solar power. On the other side are five consumers interested in buying excess energy from their neighbours.

Decentralised systems may also prove more resilient than a centralised grid in natural disasters such as hurricane Sandy, allowing people to rely on a local microgrid when the major infrastructure fails.

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