Ready to Purchase Solar Power Right From Your Neighbor's Roof?
By Jeremy Deaton
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 home-grown clean energy.
Eric Frumin stands in front of his solar panels on the roof of his Brooklyn home alongside architect David Cunningham and AeonSolar's Allen Frishman. Eric Frumin
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."
Typically, consumers by electricity from a centralized utility. LO3 Energy is making it possible for them to buy power directly from their neighbors. Source: Nexus Media/Freepik.
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.
A map of people in Brooklyn who want to buy or sell clean energy through LO3's digital network. Source: Nexus Media
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."
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Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.
How to Rock Your Walk<p>Walking isn't just fun and healthy. It's accessible.</p><p>"Walking is cheap," says Dr. John Paul H. Rue, a sports medicine doctor at <a href="https://mdmercy.com/" target="_blank">Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore</a>. "You can do it anywhere at any time; [it] requires little to no special equipment and has many of the same cardio benefits as running or other more intense workouts."</p><p>Want to up your walking game? Try the tips below.</p>
Use Hand Weights<p>Cardio and strength training can go hand-in-hand when you add weights to your walk.</p><p>A <a href="https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2019/03000/Associations_of_Resistance_Exercise_with.14.aspx" target="_blank">2019 study</a> found that weight training is good for your heart, and <a href="https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(17)30167-2/abstract" target="_blank">research</a> shows it reduces the risk of developing a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/nutrition-metabolism-disorders" target="_blank">metabolic disorder</a> by 17 percent. People with metabolic disorders have a higher chance of being diagnosed with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.</p><p>Rue suggests not carrying weights for your entire walk.</p><p>"Hand weights can give you an added level of energy burning, but you have to be careful with these because carrying [them] over a long period of time or while walking could actually lead to some overuse injuries," he says.</p>
Make It a Circuit<p>As another option, consider doing a circuit. First, put a pair of dumbbells on your lawn or somewhere in your home. Walk around the block once, then stop and do some bicep curls and tricep lifts before walking around the block again.</p><p>Rue recommends <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/running-with-weights" target="_blank">avoiding ankle weights</a> during cardio workouts, as they force you to use your quadriceps rather than hamstrings. They can also cause muscle imbalance, according to the <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/wearable-weights-how-they-can-help-or-hurt" target="_blank">Harvard Health Letter</a>.</p>
Find a Fitness Trail<p>Strength training isn't limited to weights. You can get stronger by <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/bodyweight-workout" target="_blank">simply using your body</a>.</p><p>Often found at parks, fitness trails are obstacle courses with equipment for pullups, pushups, rowing, and stretches to build upper and lower body strength.</p><p>Try searching "fitness trails near me" online, checking out your local parks and recreation website, or calling the municipal office to <a href="https://calisthenics-parks.com/" target="_blank">find one</a>.</p>
Recruit a Friend<p>People who workout together stay healthy together.</p><p><a href="https://bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12877-017-0584-3" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that older adults who exercised with a group improved or maintained their functional health and enjoyed their lives more.</p><p>Enlist the help of a walking buddy with a regimen you aspire to have. If you don't know anyone in your area, apps like <a href="https://www.strava.com/" target="_blank">Strava</a> have social networking features so you can get support from fellow exercisers.</p>
Try Meditation<p>According to the <a href="https://www.nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/nhis/2017" target="_blank">2017 National Health Interview Survey</a>, published by the National Institutes of Health, meditation is on the rise, and for good reason.</p><p>Researchers <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29616846/" target="_blank">found</a> that mind-body relaxation practices can regulate inflammation, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/biological-rhythms" target="_blank">circadian rhythms</a>, and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/glucose" target="_blank">glucose</a> metabolism, as well as lower <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension" target="_blank">blood pressure</a>.</p><p>"Any form of exercise can be turned into a meditation of some type, either by the surroundings you are walking in, like a park or trail, or by blocking out the outside world with music on your headphones," Rue says.</p><p>You can also play a podcast or download an app like <a href="https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app" target="_blank">Headspace</a> that has a library of guided meditations to practice while you walk.</p>
Do Fartlek Walks<p>Typically used in running, fartlek intervals alternate periods of increased and decreased speed. These are <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-hiit" target="_blank">high-intensity interval training (HIIT)</a> workouts, which allow exercisers to accomplish more in less time.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154075" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that 10-minute interval training improved <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/metabolic-syndrome" target="_blank">cardiometabolic</a> health, or lowered the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, just as well as working out at a continuous pace for 50 minutes.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111489" target="_blank">Research</a> also shows that HIIT workouts increase muscle <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fast-twitch-muscles" target="_blank">oxidative</a> capacity, or the ability to use oxygen. To do a fartlek walk, try walking at an increased pace for 3 minutes, slow down for 2 minutes, and repeat.</p>
Gradually Increase Pace<p>A faster walking pace is associated with a lower risk of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/copd" target="_blank">chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)</a> and respiratory diseases, according to a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30303933/" target="_blank">2019 study</a>.</p><p>Still, it's best not to go from a stroll to an Olympic-worthy power walk in a day. Instead, increase your pace gradually to prevent injury.</p><p>"Start by walking at a brisk pace for about 10 minutes per day, 3 to 5 days per week," Rue says. "Once you've done this for a few weeks, increase your time by 5 to 10 minutes per day until you get to 30 minutes."</p>
Add Stairs<p>You've likely heard that taking the stairs instead of an elevator is a way to add more movement into your daily routine. It's also a way to step up your walking. Stair climbing has been shown to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335519301123?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">decrease the risk of mortality</a> and can easily add a bit more challenge to your walk.</p><p>If you don't have stairs in your home, you can often find them outside a local municipal building, train station, or at a high school stadium.</p>
Is Your Walk a True Cardio Workout?<p>Not all walks are equal. A walk that's too leisurely may not provide enough burn to qualify as cardio. To see if you're getting a good workout, try to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-check-heart-rate" target="_blank">measure your heart rate</a> using a monitor.</p><p>"A target goal for a good walking workout heart rate is about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate," Rue says, adding that maximum heart rate is <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/fat-burning-heart-rate" target="_blank">typically calculated</a> by 220 beats per minute minus your age.</p><p>You can also monitor how easily you can carry on a conversation while you walk to gauge your heart rate.</p><p>"If you can walk and carry on a normal conversation, that's probably a lower intensity walk," says Rue. "If you are slightly breathless but can still have a conversation, that's probably a moderate workout. If you are out of breath and can't talk normally, that's a vigorous workout."</p>
Takeaway<p>By shaking up your routine, you can add excitement to your workout and reap even more rewards than a basic walk provides. Increasing the pace and intensity of a workout will make it more effective.</p><p>Simply pick your favorite variation to add some spice to your next walk.</p>
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