Ikea’s Innovation, Making Solar More Accessible

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It’s undeniable that humanity’s dependence on fossil fuels needs to change if we are going to mitigate the disastrous impact of climate change. One of the best alternative energy sources is solar power because it is so plentiful–to meet the Earth’s current energy needs, we would only need .025% of the energy the sun emits every year. It’s also cheap: If you can put the infrastructure in place to collect and store it, the solar energy itself is free.

Right now, SolarVille is a 1:50 scale model village, where the homes are decked out with mini solar panels that harvest energy from the sun. All the buildings are hardwired together, creating a microgrid that enables everyone to share their energy. In the concept, some people will generate excess energy either by using less energy themselves or by installing more solar panels. A blockchain technology platform will enable them to sell that extra energy to their neighbors without any intermediary–instead, the transactions between neighbors are logged in a secure and transparent ledger. Space10 says that the design is meant to be easy to use and install, and all the software that runs the blockchain is free.

The working prototype, consisting of a tiny village of wooden houses that were designed by the Danish architecture firm SachsNottveit, currently lives at Space10’s new gallery and will soon go on a global tour, where the public can play around with it. To demonstrate the flow of energy, the designers embedded tiny LED lights that glow when energy is moving from one place to another. You will also be able to look under the hood to see how the energy transactions between neighbors are being recorded through a visualization of the blockchain technology that underlies the system.

There are currently real-world projects that operate using these same principles as SolarVille: the Brooklyn Microgrid, for instance, is an experimental local grid that harvests solar energy that’s distributed to and traded between neighbors using the blockchain. Similarly, a startup in Bangladesh is trying to create a similar peer-to-peer system, both using solar energy and more traditional energy sources.

With the support of a megacorporation like Ikea, which is known for its ability to produce inexpensive but well-designed products, solar energy could become more accessible.

source:  Fast Company