Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Ready to Purchase Solar Power Right From Your Neighbor's Roof?

Popular
www.facebook.com

By Jeremy Deaton

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 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."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Pexels

By Charli Shield

At unsettling times like the coronavirus outbreak, it might feel like things are very much out of your control. Most routines have been thrown into disarray and the future, as far as the experts tell us, is far from certain.

Read More Show Less
Pie Ranch in San Mateo, California, is a highly diverse farm that has both organic and food justice certification. Katie Greaney

By Elizabeth Henderson

Farmworkers, farmers and their organizations around the country have been singing the same tune for years on the urgent need for immigration reform. That harmony turns to discord as soon as you get down to details on how to get it done, what to include and what compromises you are willing to make. Case in point: the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R. 5038), which passed in the House of Representatives on Dec. 11, 2019, by a vote of 260-165. The Senate received the bill the next day and referred it to the Committee on the Judiciary, where it remains. Two hundred and fifty agriculture and labor groups signed on to the United Farm Workers' (UFW) call for support for H.R. 5038. UFW President Arturo Rodriguez rejoiced:

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A woman walks to her train in Grand Central Terminal as New York City attempts to slow down the spread of coronavirus through social distancing on March 27. John Lamparski / Getty Images

By Julia Conley

A council representing more than 800,000 doctors across the U.S. signed a letter Friday imploring President Donald Trump to reverse his call for businesses to reopen by April 12, warning that the president's flouting of the guidance of public health experts could jeopardize the health of millions of Americans and throw hospitals into even more chaos as they fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Read More Show Less
polaristest / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

By Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner

Over six gallons of water are required to produce one gallon of wine. "Irrigation, sprays, and frost protection all [used in winemaking] require a lot of water," explained winemaker and sommelier Keith Wallace, who's also a professor and the founder of the Wine School of Philadelphia, the largest independent wine school in the U.S. And water waste is just the start of the climate-ruining inefficiencies commonplace in the wine industry. Sustainably speaking, climate change could be problematic for your favorite glass of wine.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

By Rachael Link, MS, RD

Spinach is a true nutritional powerhouse, as it's rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Read More Show Less