Energy Startup’s Patent Uses Ethereum Blockchain For Transactions
LO3 Energy is a technology company focusing on distributed energy initiatives. They’ve recently been awarded a patent regarding their work using blockchain technology to allow peer-to-peer energy transfers. They’re specifically using Ethereum and smart contracts to manage how energy transfer is handled on microgrid networks.
LO3 partnered with blockchain developer ConcenSys to create TransActive Grid, a project that allows solar energy suppliers to trade energy with their neighbors. The project is currently running in Brooklyn, NY, between 15 households, two of which are energy producers with solar panels on their roofs.
The issue with selling and buying electricity directly from private individuals is that it’s against the law. To work around the law, neighbors looking to subsidize costs for green energy suppliers can buy green energy credits from local providers via Ethereum’s smart contracts. Data is gathered through smart meters that TransActive Grid energy producers have installed in their houses. Normally, someone with solar panels would have to sell excess energy back to the main power company in the area, but not with TransActive Grid. A person is able to pay their energy producing neighbor what they’d normally pay the power company by purchasing units of energy available for sale on an open market, powered by Ethereum.
A professor of finance at Duke University, Campbell Harvey, spoke about the benefits of trading energy resources in this manner, saying, "[b]lockchain contracting allows for very efficient low-cost contracting to solve problems like the purchase and selling of energy.”
LO3 aims to build on their TransActive Grid project through Brooklyn Microgrid, a startup hoping to create a neighborhood-powered grid that could actually run alongside the main grid. Seeing as how New York state is holding a $40-million competition to develop microgrid projects, their odds of smoothly integrating into existing institutions seem high. A primary benefit of having a microgrid running in parallel to a main grid would be the relief it could provide during high usage surges, power outages and even during natural disasters.
Their concepts are only becoming more legitimate as they move forward; they’ve recently secured a patent from the US Patent and Trademark Office. LO3 founder Lawrence Orsini and TRC Energy Services project manager Julianna Yun Wei are listed as the inventors. The patent focuses on a system they’ve created for capturing computer-generated thermal energy. Through the use of phase change materials and heat reservoirs, they can harvest the thermal energy produced by computational processing. Part of the patent details how Ethereum’s blockchain will be utilized to confirm transactions between individuals and machines on the network.
As far as energy use is concerned in the U.S., we’re pretty wasteful. Last year, over 59% of our energy produced was wasted, according to reports from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. This isn’t entirely avoidable, as much of the waste occurs during energy production, however, those numbers are disconcerting nonetheless. Converting coal, and natural gas into electricity isn’t an incredibly efficient process, and neither is transportation via the average vehicle. Thankfully, wind energy use is up 5%, geothermal energy is up 11%, and residential solar energy is up 11% as well. Add to this the new technology designed to recapture energy wasted in the form of heat, and we’re on our way to increasing our energy efficiency. When a coal plant spews out 100-times as much radiation as a nuclear power plant (expelled coal fly ash is more radioactive than shielded nuclear waste), green initiatives are definitely a planet saving protocol.
With all LO3 Energy’s projects in the energy field being powered economically by computers, this newly patented technology would only help to add a surplus of green energy to microgrids. With Ethereum powering the transactions, all the accounting is automated and transparent, making this whole system all the more feasible, and efficient.