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The Sharing Economy Could Be the Future of the Energy Industry

Brooklyn, New York is paving the way for a new system, and it’s called the microgrid. Combining state-of-the-art software with solar power, the Brooklyn Microgrid is a small-scale proof-of-concept that could prove to be the future of the energy industry.

Brooklyn is a densely-packed urban environment, with little room for new buildings and a good distance from the nearest power plant. What it does have a surplus on, however, is roof space. The Microgrid takes full advantage of this, with solar panels on most of the rooftops allowing the 50 or so initial participants to gather energy from the sun. The microgrid’s system offsets the local power grid, and users take advantage of net metering and green energy credits.

Those are just the standard benefits that come from solar power, however.

microgrid conceptual power flow
In the future, sustainable community microgrids like this could provide power for entire cities, with solar and wind farms distributing power to homes, businesses, and other utilities hooked into their own self-sustaining grid.

Stabilizing City Infrastructure

four reasons microgrids are effective

So why is the Brooklyn Microgrid such a revolutionary idea? It reinforces city infrastructure and can provide emergency power in the event of an outage.

One of the biggest challenges facing communities is that when the power grid goes down – especially due to hurricanes or other extreme weather, people are cut off. It can take days or even weeks to restore it. There are only three main power grids in the US. If just one of these goes down or is disrupted – like we saw with Hurricane Katrina in 2005 – tens of thousands of homes could be without electricity. 

But with a microgrid, a community is able to sustain itself during an emergency. This reinforces the infrastructure of the city as a whole, functioning independently when other systems fail. By relying on renewable sources, such as solar, this makes the microgrid far more reliable and resistant to failure.

Secure, Sharable, and Locally-Sourced

Using Blockchain, a secure, encrypted data transfer method used for currencies such as Bitcoin, Microgrid users pay each other for their power, creating a micro-economy. This micro-economy benefits all participants, whether they’re “prosumers” producing solar power with solar systems installed on their roofs or “consumers” who rely on the power produced by their neighbors.

Right now, the Microgrid is just an experiment. Small-scale transactions and energy usage monitoring ensure that everything is running smoothly. LO3 and Siemens Digital Grid Division monitor all information, in hopes that the city of New York will grant the system proper market status and permission to function in a full-scale capacity. If the project is a success and the permits are awarded, however, the microgrid system could be applied to other cities all over the US.

The Brooklyn Microgrid represents a way forward for both the community using it and the sharing economy as a whole. Much like Uber, AirBnB, and TaskRabbit, the Brooklyn Microgrid cuts through the bureaucracy and red tape that a normal power grid requires, and if implemented on a wider scale in the future, could change the way we power our homes for good.

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