SolarVille aims to develop a prototype off-grid community powered by solar | Credit: Irina Boersma

‘SolarVille’ project will develop prototype for ‘realistic, scalable, self-sufficient, community-driven microgrid’

IKEA’s research and design laboratory SPACE10 has teamed up with blockchain experts to develop a prototype clean energy microgrid that could enable whole communities to be entirely self-sufficient for their electricity supply.

The SolarVille project, which was officially announced today, aims to develop a solar micro-grid and a working energy trading platform powered by blockhain, which would allow community members to buy and sell green electricity to each other independent of a national power network.

The Danish scheme is a collaboration between SPACE10 and blockchain experts BLOC, Blocktech, and architecture practice SachsNottveit.

The project ultimately aims to create a “miniature neighbourhood completely powered by solar energy”.

“Centralised energy systems are often too slow and economically inadequate to reach the billion people who remain locked in energy poverty,” said Bas Van De Poel, creative director of SPACE10. “SolarVille showcases that, when working in tandem, technologies such as solar panels, micro-grids and blockchain open new opportunities: off-grid systems allowing people to leapfrog traditional grid electricity.”

IKEA already sells solar panels and battery storage systems, and the project from SPACE10 could be an indication the furniture retailer is looking to expand its activities in the energy sector in the coming years.

“At IKEA, we are curious and always looking for innovative ideas that can help more people live a better life within the limits of the planet,” said Torbjörn Lööf, CEO of Inter IKEA Group. “The IKEA funded research and design lab SPACE10 gives us new perspectives, discovering new opportunities within many different areas. It will be very interesting to learn how this combination of new technology and solar energy solutions can make lives better for the many people.”

Blockchain enthusiasts say the crypto-ledger technology could usher in a new era of community energy by bypassing central grids and allowing neighbours to trade power freely with each other over a trusted, incorruptible platform.

Energy start-ups are already exploring how the crypto-technology could be used to enable peer-to-peer energy trading, with the first transactions already completed in New York and London.

However, the regulatory barriers to rolling out localised electricity trading at a mass scale are considerable, with start-ups currently experimenting with trades only thanks to special permission from authorities.

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