Ex-Tesla VP to advise on Solo Energy blockchain virtual power plant
What are electric cars if not batteries with wheels?
Ben Hill, former Tesla vice president of Europe, Africa and the Middle East, made a move to B3 New Energy in late 2017 and has since landed in the same pool as Solo Energy, a blockchain-based distributed energy system focused on deploying and operating distributed energy storage systems, such as home batteries and electric vehicle chargers to let anyone store excess renewable energy.
At scale, the effect is the creation of virtual power plants and a more decentralised energy grid.
The catch is that these solutions need to be deployed on a very large scale. The energy produced by distributed solar and wind systems is extremely variable. If the wind doesn't blow or the sun doesn't shine, you typically need central back-up power plants to make sure the power stays on.
Location plays a huge role in how much energy people consume, but focusing on renewables also introduces more factors into energy creation. "Smart" power plants that can manage creation and storage in real time are arguably one of the most promising ways to accommodate this added complexity.
The Solo Energy vision is to install small-scale batteries and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) solutions in homes and offices, which can be combined into virtual power plants to be intelligently switched on to supply energy when demand exceeds generating capacity at a given time.
The construction of the first virtual power plant, in the form of the distribution and installation of battery storage units, will be financed by the sale of shares in the power plant – to stretch the analogy to the breaking point. More literally, Solo Energy will be funding the project with the sale of asset-backed security tokens. The asset in this case being battery storage.
The V2G elements might be especially worth highlighting in the context of a huge and largely untapped battery network that can plug in and out of the grid and Hill's previous experience at Tesla.
The blockchain elements are also worth highlighting as a way of sharing locally generated energy across the grid a la Power Ledger and Enosi. Solo Energy's difference might be more of a focus on the actual "hardware" elements like battery storage and the creation of virtual power plants rather than on energy markets in themselves.
The focus on battery storage is probably no coincidence. Power Ledger and Enosi are both based in Australia, which is simultaneously cursed with hilariously inefficient energy infrastructure and blessed with bountiful sunlight, making it a perfect place to focus on energy generation.
Solo Energy is based in the UK though. Meteorologists may note that the region isn't exactly sun-kissed beach country. The potential of solar and wind is still very real though, albeit requiring a keener focus on battery storage to be viable. Hence the emphasis on digital power plants backed by a P2P energy market, rather than a P2P energy market backed by virtual power plants.
Furthermore, development in the UK and Europe tends to be considerably more compact than in Australia, and the most efficient energy solutions will tend to favour energy created as close to its final destination as possible. In Australia, this means the creation of semi-separate local markets as envisioned by Power Ledger. But in the UK, this might be a more fluid grid, able to be managed in a slightly less modular way, further making it a potentially more suitable place to break earth on digital power plants.
"I'm incredibly excited to be working with Solo Energy," Hill said. "The team have a strong vision for the future, and its peer to peer trading concept using the latest blockchain technology is cutting edge. In helping Solo Energy bring its business model to reality, I’m fulfilling my own ambitions to push forward the sustainable and renewable energy revolution. By making reliable low carbon, low cost, sustainable energy accessible to homes across the UK and Europe, we believe we will change the face of energy generation forever."
"We are delighted that Ben has agreed to be a part of Solo Energy’s journey," said Mark Hamilton, CEO and co-founder of Solo Energy. "Our company goal is to lay the building blocks for a 100% renewable world, and Ben’s experience encompassing both energy and battery technology will be invaluable in achieving this goal."
Disclosure: At the time of writing, the author holds ETH, IOTA, ICX, VET, XLM, BTC and ADA.