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Smart Grids: Decentralization and energy access for all

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Smart grids are an interesting upgrade for the traditional electric grid, as we mentioned in our first post about them. However, their potential is much broader than just allowing for two-way communication of data between energy producer and consumers.

For instance, the decentralization of smart grid systems may allow rural communities to have energy independence from the grid, which can be nonexistent in certain areas. This means that the community produces its own energy through solar or/and wind energy systems and are self-sustaining.

Decentralization may play a fundamental role for the 13% of the world population who have no access to energy at all (Ritchie, 2019). Systems that do not rely entirely on the Power Grid decrease the transmission and supply cost of electricity because the power generation is located closer to the end-users.

A decentralized network can participate three parties: consumers, producers, and prosumers. The prosumers are the new contributors that produce energy for their own use and when they have a surplus, they sell it to their neighbors or to the private producers, and consume from the grid when their own energy production does not cover their demand.

An example of a decentralized system that functions nowadays is the Brooklyn Microgrid, project located in New York City that is not completely off the grid. However, it uses a platform in which the energy is interchangeable between the solar energy producers, consumers and the energy companies.

The platform in which the Brooklyn Microgrid runs is Exergy, a permissioned data platform that creates localized energy marketplaces for transacting energy across existing grid infrastructure through blockchain and other technologies. They also use charging systems that allow the prosumers to storage and then sell the energy surplus that they produce.

Besides the green energy consumption benefit, the Brooklyn Microgrid is an example of how decentralized energy systems may influence the social dynamic in a neighborhood. The interaction between people that are part of a Microgrid system is mutual support. This strengthens the social bonds and reinforces the local-consuming notion.

These reflections are contemplated in SJEI actions. I invite you to check on our website the amazing projects we are working on and support us on the ones to come by donating here or connecting with us in Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and here, in Medium. You can also join us as volunteer, we will be happy to have you!

REFERENCES

· Ritchie, H. and Roser, M. (2019, November). Access to Energy. https://ourworldindata.org/energy-access#what-share-of-people-have-access-to-electricity

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We seek to research, develop, and implement engineering practices, designs, products, and methods that promote social and environmental justice and overall sustainability.

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Valenttina Cardozo

Valenttina Cardozo

Chemical Engineer, volunteer at The Social Justice + Engineering Initiative.

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