NREL explores blockchain for renewable energy

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), a U.S. federal laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficient technologies, is exploring the possibilities of using blockchain for renewable energy.

The intersection of solar energy and other renewable energy sources can be improved. As users share energy during peak moments rather than sourcing from the power grid, they need to trust the data about the volume of energy transferred. They also need a less expensive medium of payment—blockchain meets both requirements.

NREL will work with energy utility, Exelon, and the Energy Web Foundation (EWF) to research blockchain for community-based energy markets. The project will focus on enhancing coordination between utilities and consumers.

The NREL is analyzing ways to connect distributed energy resources (DERs) like solar panels to local distribution networks by using digital identity and hardware created by NREL’s Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF).

Dane Christensen, an NREL engineer, said: “Distributing grid operational decision-making is revolutionary. It’s really like somebody in the 1980s expounding on the economic opportunity of the Internet. Everyone would have laughed at you. That’s kind of what’s happening right now with blockchain applications—the foundational tools for another technology revolution are emerging, and this could be one of them.”

NREL plans to leverage blockchain to create a scalable solution for electricity feeders, which can be customized as desired. Currently, they are running a virtual pilot that connects electric vehicles, smart appliances, batteries, and other components, to a blockchain.

Other NREL blockchain energy projects

Two years ago, the NREL created ‘forsee,’ a home energy management system that predicts potential energy consumption in houses.

They also trialed a distributed energy marketplace using data from forsee. The marketplace allowed them to use blockchain smart contracts to purchase electricity at lower prices and settle payments with digital currency.

The NREL is a member of Blockchain for Optimized Security and Energy Management (BLOSEM), and provides expertise on accelerating blockchain adoption in the energy sector.

The BLOSEM project is led by the National Energy Technology Laboratory and is funded by the Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium.

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