This project is the future of energy systems

There is no denying that to mitigate the disastrous impact of climate change the human dependence on fossil fuels needs to change. And what could be the best alternative energy source other than solar power?

However, incentivising people to build the infrastructure for it still remains a challenge. Perhaps that’s what instigated furniture giant IKEA to reinforce its renewable credentials. IKEA’s innovation lab Space10 is envisioning a new research project – SolarVille – in Copenhagen. The project promotes purchasing excess electricity directly from the producer using blockchain technology.

Let Me Breathe had a conversation with Neel Tamhane, The Solar Strategy Lead at Space 10. “SolarVille is a playful research project that was created in 2019. It spun off from innate curiosity around understanding energy systems and realising that democratisation and decentralisation of energy systems could be the future of how we should imagine and see our energy systems in the world,” says Tamhane. 

The project sees small solar panels and blockchain tech applied to a miniature wooden village built to 1:50 scale demonstrating how small communities can have access to affordable and accessible clean energy. 

Tamhane further says, “It’s a hypothetical village with about 30 households. Half of the homes have little solar panels on them and half don’t. The solar panels indicate homes that can generate and use their own energy, but also sell energy to their neighbours. The intention of this is to work with a concept called swarm electrification or peer-to-peer energy trading.”

The installation, a wooden miniature, travelled the world starting in Copenhagen. “We interacted and opened up to the public. There were a lot of conversations and interactions of how energy is used at home in different parts of the world, how people engage with it differently, what energy reliability means, etc. The installation also travelled to Nairobi in Kenya where it was positioned at UNHCR and the campus there. And as we speak there are pilots actually being tested in Delhi itself,” Tamhane notes. 

Discussing a solution for climate change, Tamhane says, “There is not going to be one golden bullet that’s going to solve all our problems. There is going to be a mix of solar panels at home, solar panels in large solar parks, there are going to be wind farms, there are going to be small wind farms, there is going to be a lot of hydro that we already have plenty of. But I think it’s going to be in different pieces and sizes and I think it’s going to be the cutting down of coal.”

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