What does it take to make a neighbourhood truly self-sufficient, or in the terminology popular with today’s urbanists, ‘resilient’? Two new community concepts argue that, beyond the expected commitments to sustainable energy, food, water and waste management, it’s really the way data flows between such initiatives and their users that is paramount to the success of the whole.
Space10’s proposed SolarVille project uses a network of solar panels to create an energy network that operates on a neighbour-to-neighbour trading scheme. Central to the system’s operability is the blockchain, which establishes a decentralized platform that users can trust to manage transactions on their behalf.
Individual households would collect solar energy, with those who use less or produce more selling on any excess directly to others in the vicinity via what the Ikea think-tank describes as a ‘community-driven microgrid’. All money generated therefore stays in the local economy, while the lack of an intermediary such as a national operator with massive infrastructural overheads also means the per-unit cost of electricity should be cheaper. This independence is central to the SolarVille proposition, which is targeted primarily at providing those who live in ‘energy poverty’ – that is without access to a national grid – with an affordable solution that doesn’t rely on state or enterprise intervention.