In Brooklyn, You Can Now Sell Solar Power To Your Neighbours

Brooklyn startup LO3 Energy is revolutionizing the way homeowners buy and sell electricity

By: Jeremy Deaton

Typically, consumers by electricity from a centralized utility. LO3 Energy is making it possible for them to buy power directly from their neighbors.Nexus Media/Freepik

In Brooklyn, you can buy honey collected from an urban bee hive. You can buy lettuce grown atop an old bowling alley.

And now, you can purchase free range, gluten-free, fresh, organic solar power right off your neighbor’s roof.

Brooklyn startup LO3 Energy is revolutionizing the way homeowners buy and sell electricity. They are making it possible to auction rooftop solar power directly to your neighbors, creating a market for homegrown clean energy.

To understand why this is such a big deal, let’s take a look at the way power utilities have historically operated. Traditionally, a centralized utility would sell electricity to numerous homes and businesses. There was one seller and many buyers.

Rooftop solar has disrupted that model. Now, in many parts of the country, you can install solar panels on your roof, generate your own power, and sell the surplus power back to the grid. In this model, both you and the grid buy and sell power.

LO3 Energy goes one step further, allowing consumers to sell power directly to each other.

New Yorkers already have the option to buy clean power from the utility, but that electricity largely comes from hydroelectric dams in upstate New York. By creating a market for locally sourced solar power, LO3 Energy is allowing Brooklynites to support local solar installers.

“Folks want to know where their products came from. What’s the impact of their products? How does it benefit me and my community? We can apply that to the energy sector,” said Scott Kessler, Director of Business Development at LO3 Energy. “We can make sure that the dollars people spend on energy have economic and environmental impacts in the areas they live in.”

Here’s how it works.

Surplus electricity generated by a rooftop solar array gets dumped onto the grid. These electrons are indistinguishable from electrons generated by a gas-fired power plant in Queens or a wind farm upstate. Each of these power sources acts like a hose feeding water into the same pool. You, the customer, are buying water from this pool. It’s impossible to discern whose water you’re buying, but you can determine who you would like to pay for what you take out.

LO3’s flagship product, the TransActive Grid meter, works like a digital ledger, keeping track of who buys energy and how much they consume. It allows people to purchase electricity directly from their neighbor with the solar array. Consumers use an app on their phone to interact with the meter. The meter uses a blockchain, the technological breakthrough behind BitCoin, to validate these purchases.

“Historically, you’ve needed some sort of third party to ensure that I’m not going to send a dollar to you and a dollar to someone else,” said Kessler, explaining blockchain. Typically, that third party was a bank. “But now, through technology, if we all have the same information, we can transact with each other and simply update everyone’s own database.” This allows people to do business directly with each other.

LO3 is using Brooklyn as its test case, connecting dozens of homes through a digital network. The company plans to take its technology to other cities across the United States. This concept is taking off overseas, with startups setting up electricity trading networks in Germany, Australia, and Bangladesh.

Admittedly, from the grid’s point of view, this is bad for business. LO3 is allowing customers to circumvent the grid and buy electricity directly from each other. But Kessler said the grid can use the digital meter to their advantage. For example, in the middle of the day, when demand for power peaks, grid operators typically turn to small, expensive, and heavily polluting gas-fired power plants.

Using the TransActive Grid meter, the grid could instead pay homeowners to shut off their lights, TVs, or their appliances. Or, the grid could buy back electricity generated by rooftop solar panels or stored in electric cars. This would reduce transmission costs.

“You cut down on the amount of large infrastructure that’s needed because that generation is happening within the community,” said Kessler. “Additionally, it’s more efficient because you don’t have line losses from electrons traveling from Niagara Falls all the way down here to Brooklyn.”

Ultimately, LO3 wants to localize power generation. “Traditionally, your money really goes towards large corporations. The generating stations probably are located a distance away,” said Kessler. “Now, you can make sure that’s staying local.”

Courtesy: http://grist.org/

China Activates World’s Largest Floating Solar Power Plant

By: Steve Hanley

The largest floating solar power plant in the world is officially in operation. Located in the city of Huainan in the Anhui province in China, the system has a power output capacity of 40 megawatts, which isn’t huge by today’s standards, but was just a decade ago.

Floating solar farms have several advantages, not the least of which is they don’t use up valuable land in densely populated areas. China has over 100 cities with populations of more than 1 million. The US, by comparison, has 10.

The panels help to conserve precious freshwater supplies by lowering the amount of evaporation into the surrounding atmosphere. In return, the water keeps ambient temperatures around the solar panels lower, which helps boost their efficiency and limit long-term heat-induced degradation.

The most interesting thing about the floating solar power plant in Huainan, however, is that the lake supporting it was created by rain after the surrounding land collapsed in a process known as subsidence following intensive coal mining operations over a period of years. Anhui province is rich in coal reserves and has been the source of much of the coal used to power the Chinese economy.

“Sungrow supplied the plant’s central inverter unit, which transforms direct current from the solar panels into an alternating current for delivery to the local power grid,” I Drop News reports. “The manufacturer also supplied a customized combiner box that aggregates power from multiple solar panel arrays and sends it to the central inverter. The combiner box has been specifically designed for floating PV plants and can operate in environments with high humidity and salt spray.

Unlike the US, where government policies are shifting to support more coal mining and coal-burning power plants, China is committed to leaving its coal-powered past behind and keep becoming a global leader in renewable energy. It has pledged to invest hundreds of billions of dollars into solar power as well as wind and hydro by the year 2020.

Last year, a 20 megawatt floating solar power plant also came online in Anhui province. This past January, China activated the massive Longyangxia Dam Solar Park. Covering 10 square miles, it generates a whopping 850 megawatts of power — enough for 200,000 households.

In its quest to become a world leader in renewable energy, China is putting its money where its mouth is. By the time America figures out that it has been thrown under the bus by Donald Trump on energy, it will have ceded its global leadership in the area to China and will struggle to be anything other than a follower in the future as China reaps the financial rewards of its leadership.

Courtesy: https://cleantechnica.com/

LEGO Reaches 100% Renewable Energy Target Three Years Ahead of Schedule

Company builds wind turbine made entirely of LEGO bricks to celebrate


The LEGO group now says it is running entirely on renewable energy after reaching its 100 per cent target three years ahead of schedule. The company achieved its ambitious goal due to the completion of a 258 megawatt offshore wind farm in the Irish Sea, building a giant wind turbine made entirely of LEGO to celebrate.

“We work to leave a positive impact on the planet and I am truly excited about the inauguration of the Burbo Bank Extension wind farm,” said Bali Padda, CEO of the LEGO Group.

As a company, LEGO Group has been involved in a number of renewable energy developments. KIRBI A/S, working on behalf of LEGO, owns 31 per cent of the Borkum Riggrund 1 offshore wind farm in Germany, and a quarter of Burbo Bank, which sits in Liverpool Bay.

“Together with our partners, we intend to continue investing in renewable energy to help create a better future for the builders of tomorrow,” Mr Padda said.

Image Courtesy: Getty Images

The giant LEGO turbine, built to mark the occasion, has broken the Guinness World Records title for largest LEGO brick wind turbine. In total the model is made from 146,000 plastic bricks.

Children pose in front of the largest ever wind turbine built with LEGO bricks. (The LEGO Group)

Mr Padda said he hopes the record breaking turbine will raise awareness of the importance of renewable energy.

“We see children as our role models and as we take action in reducing our environmental impact as a company, we will also continue to work to inspire children around the world by engaging them in environmental and social issues,” he added.

Courtesy: http://www.independent.co.uk/

Mercedes-Benz and Vivint Solar Partner to Compete with Tesla in Home Energy

  • Mercedes-Benz Energy will combine home energy storage with Vivint solar panels in the U.S.
  • Will be available first to California homeowners in the second quarter.
  • Product is very similar to those offered by Tesla.
  • Part of Mercedes’ larger electrification strategy.

Image Courtesy: inhabitat.com


By: Robert Ferris

Mercedes-Benz is partnering with U.S.-based Vivint Solar to compete with Tesla and similar companies in residential solar energy and storage.

Mercedes-Benz Energy will combine its 2.5 kilowatt-hour energy storage batteries with a Vivint’s rooftop to make a combined product for homeowners.

“As Mercedes-Benz electrifies its vehicle fleet, solar plus storage is essential to enable those vehicles to be powered by clean energy,” said Boris von Bormann, CEO of Mercedes-Benz Energy Americas, in a press release. He added that a similar program has already been successful in Europe.

Costs will vary depending on the system, but a fully installed 2.5 kWh battery system, when paired with a solar energy system will cost about $5,000, according to a Vivint Solar spokesperson. A 20 kWh home energy storage system — made of several connected batteries —will cost about $13,000 fully installed.

The offering includes the complete package: batteries, inverter, all required technical components, professional installation, permitting, system design and consultation with Vivint Solar. The installation of the entire system, including the solar panels and the battery, typically takes one to two days, once permits are secured.

With the partnership, both companies will be able to provide a product offering similar to those that other firms are bringing to market.

Tesla in particular has touted the benefits of selling energy storage batteries with solar panels. The company has begun taking orders for its solar roof tiles, which can be connected to its Powerwall batteries.

But the news also comes at a time when some indicators have suggested slowdowns in the solar power business.

The Vivint/Mercedes program will begin rolling out in California in the second quarter, according to a press release.

“The choice to work with Mercedes-Benz Energy, a world-class innovator in energy storage, was an easy one,” said David Bywater, CEO of Vivint Solar, in the release. “We believe their energy storage system is going to delight our customers and are impressed with their ambitious plans for the future.”

Mercedes has been moving quickly toward electrifying its vehicle fleet, and some have suggested the company could become a formidable competitor to Tesla, especially in luxury vehicles.

For, example, the German carmaker announced in March that it plans to speed up the debut 10 battery-powered cars by three years, from 2025 to 2022.

Vivint Solar is one of the three largest residential solar installers in the U.S., though it trails SolarCity, which Tesla acquired late last year.

Courtesy: http://www.cnbc.com/

Printed Solar Tiles Are Thinner, Cheaper, and Easier to Use

Solar panels have become increasingly inexpensive in the past months. However, while a number of large-scale energy producers are shifting towards solar power, there is still a lack of homes that have adopted the technology. In Australia, a place bathed in seemingly constant direct sunlight, price is still a major stumbling block for homeowners considering switching to solar. Things may be about to change, however, thanks to a new variety of solar tile developed by researchers from the University of Newcastle (UON).

Image Credit: University of Newcastle

Instead of the photovoltaics (PVs) that traditional panels use, UON’s Paul Dastoor and his team are testing printable solar tiles. “It’s completely different from a traditional solar cell. They tend to be large, heavy, encased in glass — tens of millimeters thick,” Dastoor told Mashable. “We’re printing them on plastic film that’s less than 0.1 of a millimeter thick.”

Currently, UON is one of only three sites that are testing printed solar. “We’ve put in the first 100 square metres of printed solar cells up on roofs, and now we’re testing that durability in real weather conditions,” Dastoor said. As soon as the performance and durability of these tiles are confirmed, it could easily go into market production.

CHEAP AND FAST

Dastoor and his team are excited about the potential these printed tiles have in influencing the wide-scale adoption of PVs, especially for homes. “The low-cost and speed at which this technology can be deployed is exciting, particularly in the current Australian energy context where we need to find solutions, and quickly, to reduce demand on base-load power,” he explained in UON feature article.

Just for reference, Tesla’s solar tiles — which Elon Musk promised to be cheaper than regular roofs — are priced at around US $235 per tile. Meanwhile, Dastoor’s printed solars can be sold at less than US$ 7.42 per tile, which is comparatively very cheap, “[W]e expect in a short period of time the energy we generate will be cheaper than that generated via coal-based fire stations,” Dastoor explained.

Of course, whether tiles are printed or created with traditional PVs, solar energy is currently a major leading renewable energy source. And, solar power is not only incredibly environmentally friendly — producing energy without harmful byproducts that contribute to climate change —  it can also generate more energy than fossil fuels.

Courtesy: https://futurism.com/