Since the catastrophic events of hurricane Maria in September 2017, many in Puerto Rico have been working desperately to return to some sense of normalcy. It’s not easy — while food and water options are slowly becoming more available, over fifty percent of the population still lacks access to electricity. Despite the vast damage to vital infrastructure, a local solar energy project is trying to get people back on the grid, and believes blockchain is the perfect tool to help Puerto Ricans get their lives back on track.
Decentralized Energy Provides More Options
Turning on the news and watching the destruction in his local community wasn’t easy for Enrique Martinez. Originally an engineer focused on the aerospace industry, he knew after seeing how helpless his fellow Puerto Ricans were without access to electricity that he had to do something.
That is when a thought came to him: What would a world look like in which citizens weren’t forced to acquire electricity through one provider? What if they had other options through other means, such as solar panels? Would that help convince thousands of locals who were looking to abandon their native home back to their once vibrant community?
The solution was a bit complicated. Local laws had made it illegal for natives in Puerto Rico to obtain energy from any other supplier besides the local government, but with thousands displaced from Maria, the government decided it would do whatever it took to help get people their power back.
That’s when Martinez’s vision for a blockchain based energy marketplace started to gain traction.
Connecting to the Microgrid
After an official announcement at the Tech Retreat Conference earlier this year in Jamaica, Martinez spoke on Web Capitalists vision to help connect Puerto Rico, and how he thought the blockchain may be the perfect backbone to the platform. The buzz was in the air.
The project is based on three phases. First is a crowdfunding process in which one community with resources donates to fund solar panels for displaced Puerto Ricans throughout the area. These homes will be connected via a microgrid that is not only harnessing energy from the sun, but connecting them so that local hospitals and treatment centers have a backup option in case the government is displaced — or there is another natural disaster.
The third phase involves complete blockchain integration and a wide-reaching solar farm that can act as a grid for the whole community.
Martinez has even higher hopes for the project. He believes that by connecting the panels to the Ethereum protocol, he can create a decentralized marketplace similar to platforms such as Power Ledger in Australia.
In his ideal world, users would be able to buy and sell energy in a decentralized marketplace that would not only help provide electricity during times of great need but could be an additional revenue opportunity for locals who are struggling to get back on their feet.
Providing Individual Incentives – and Backup Power
Speaking to Bitsonline, Martinez elaborated on what success would look like:
“Success means to us that each house can produce its own energy… Each house is incentivized to save energy. If everyone can connect via the microgrid it will incentive each house and give them opportunities for revenues and provide a backup in case the government cannot provide.”
Looking to implement the first phase of its project in early 2018 with $5 to $10 million USD in funding, the first priority will be buying and installing the solar panel infrastructure. It will be led by Web Capitalists’ partnership with New Energy PR.
So far there has been a great response to the team’s official announcement earlier this year, and now Martinez plans to expand to other tropical areas where citizens are displaced by natural disasters.
This is just another example of where blockchain technology can provide value where it’s needed, and how local entrepreneurs are building on top of growing protocols to provide those solutions.
How do you think your local government would respond to you buying and selling your own electricity in a third-party market? Let us know what you think.
Images via Pixabay, Wikipedia