Our blockchain/microgrid research might become a reality: working with the Blockchain@Berkeley team, we’ve submitted a proposal to the Wanxiang Global Blockchain Challenge, an international competition for blockchain infrastructure ideas. If all goes well, this research might turn into the actual metering and scheduling system for a city that is being planned in China.
The Wanxiang Group, an automotive supplier based in Hangzhou in southern China, is planning two large infrastructure projects that are characteristic of China’s approach to development: investing USD $30B in building a new city ex nihilo for 90,000 residents, and investing a further $1B in creating a model low-carbon model smart town. As both are being built ex nihilo, all infrastructure decisions can be made from scratch- and Wanxiang is interested in using blockchains to coordinate the infrastructure for both of these towns.
To coordinate this, Wanxiang Blockchain Labs, a venture capital arm of the group, is requesting proposals for a number of key infrastructure components, all to be based on blockchains:
- Power Generation Dispatch and low-cost power procurement
- Distributed energy trading
- Blockchain-enabled smart meter
- Vehicle battery life cycle management
- Intellectual Property registry and exchange
The strong emphasis on energy infrastructure is a perfect match for our research on using blockchains for scheduling distributed energy resources, as we address the generation dispatch and energy trading algorithms. The challenges for these new smart towns are exactly the types of problems we set out to address, with grid-connected microgrids and the chance to build a large swath of infrastructure from scrath. I’m optimistic that a decentralized optimization algorithm would be a good match here, and from discussions with utilities and developers know that the cost of interconnection -or microgrid management- can create the type of problem that blockchains are well-suited to solve.
As our research is the first to combine decentralized optimization and a blockchain security component, we’re well-positioned here. In addition, the request for a smart meter meshes well with work I’ve been doing on using a Raspberry Pi to serve as the computation node for a private Ethereum network running our decentralized algorithm.
Working closely with a team of Berkeley undergrads who organize the Blockchain@Berkeley team, I’ve been working on crafting a business proposal around our research, scoping out the costs of building smartmeters and what a timeline for deployment would look like.
The proposal is now in, and in a few weeks the winners will be announced at the 3rd Wanxiang Global Blockchain Summit– til then, stay tuned!