Harvesting sunshine from smart solar panels

Many communities in developing countries suffer from poor energy grid infrastructure, but technologies developed by the University of Hertfordshire are offering an affordable, locally-based solution.

The University’s Project Daedalus – Reaching the Sun with Solar Coins and Smart Solar Panels – is exploiting cutting-edge ICT, Internet of Things (IoT), cryptography and fintech to deliver technology that supports affordable rooftop solar power and local energy storage.

Solar power systems provide excellent low-carbon alternatives to back-up diesel generators for cheap, non-stolen electricity and as such can improve the supply of clean, affordable and resilient energy in countries where there is poor grid infrastructure.

Working in a consortium including Trusted Renewables Limited, specialists in renewable energy, carbon reduction and smart metering, the University’s Smart Systems Lab team has developed an encryption and security protocol that can be attached to solar panels to validate the provenance and ensure the legitimacy of the energy source.

The researchers have been working to improve energy security and reduce costs through decentralised database systems based on blockchains and distributed ledger technology linked to rooftop smart solar panels patented by Trusted Renewables.

A ‘solar garden’

The smart card chip attached to the solar panel contains secure MULTOS technology and communications circuits which link them to an IoT smart energy ecosystem. Secure applications running on each chip allow energy trading using smart contracts and validate renewable energy payments with certificates of origin. Individual panels can be grouped into a ‘solar garden’, where investors receive tradable rights to be rewarded for the renewable energy produced by their panels.

Project Daedalus is showing that blockchains and cryptocurrencies such as Solar Coins can complement income from selling electricity, to reward investors or repay loans. They may also help local enterprises trade solar power securely in new ways. The technology was awarded first place in the IoT category at the prestigious 2017 SESAMES Awards, presented each year to the best technology innovations in the trust-based technologies industry.

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