Out in Brooklyn’s neighborhoods, Gowanus and Park Slope, testing has begun on a microgrid that could change the way we think of residential power. For good. Brooklyn Microgrid, a “benefit corporation” functioning as a for-profit that is legally bound to create a positive community impact, is developing a community microgrid that would function separately from the larger grid system currently serving Brooklyn, New York City, and the state. The company was developed by energy-tech company LO3 Energy.
Microgrids are small, centralized sources of electricity that can function independently for a small network of users to power clusters of homes, businesses, and municipalities. These power webs additionally provide energy during natural disasters, like ice storms. Because they are powered on-site by alternative sources such as wind or solar, they are not subject to the outages larger grids face during storms and emergencies.
Since power grids were first employed to bring electricity to residences on a massive scale, the production and distribution of these utilities was controlled by statewide utility companies. Technology has surpassed that old-fashioned way of thinking, with home solar installations becoming mainstream and the release of products like Tesla’s Powerwall making it possible for homes to generate—and store—their own power.
That’s the kind of ingenuity that Brooklyn Microgrid is applying to its development. For the test run, Brooklyn Microgrid has connected dozens of residents with nearby solar panels to see just how accessible and affordable alternative energy can be whether or not a customer has a rooftop or field to house the panels. From there, the project might be able to convince larger power companies to shift how they do business.
Large power companies currently allow solar panel owners to sell back the power they generate directly into the grid, and for customers to enroll in green energy initiatives through the purchase of higher premiums.
Brooklyn Microgrid’s design is meant to generate renewable energy locally that can also be shared locally amongst residents and not between client and corporation. The thinking is that will create a market for solar energy within neighborhoods, with people selling excess solar energy to neighbors through a secure blockchain system. It puts the power in the hands of the residents utilizing the power, not a power company. Monitors installed in homes track energy usage and generation, thereby creating a virtual market people can sell energy to each other in.
Think of it as the next phase of buying local. Awesome, right?