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A Look At Brooklyn Microgrid's Operations

Typical microgrid installations require expensive physical infrastructure and complex systems to ensure fail-safe mechanisms. The complex nature and costs required from such installations can become a deterrence from communities interested in the concept. 

But Brooklyn Microgrid is using technology to implement a separate layer for transactions between the consumer and electric utilities. 

There are two parts to their system. The first part consists of a mobile app with options for consumers to source or sell local green energy in real-time. Using this app, consumers can bid for energy rates supplied by prosumers (or consumers who produce energy). According to Scott Kessler, Director of Business Development at Brooklyn Microgrid, the bids are “bunched together” before being displayed to prosumers. The app technology is based on Blockchain, the technology that underpins digital currency Bitcoin. 

Local energy is one among several energy options available in the app. Brooklyn Microgrid, which is a benefit corporation, has partnered with multiple energy supply and distribution companies to offer options to consumers. A wheel display within the app categorizes and displays color-coded consumption patterns for each consumer, with options for conventional energy sources, energy credits and renewable energy sources. 

The second part of Brooklyn Microgrid’s operations consists of establishing the physical infrastructure for a proper microgrid. The company will fit prosumers with a TransActive Grid element (TAG-e) device. The device contains an electric meter and a computer connected to the WiFi network at home. The meter will measure production and consumption of energy while the computer will share this data with other TAG-e devices in the neighborhood.

Brooklyn Microgrid is taking over a sub-portion of Consolidated Edison’s physical infrastructure to install switching gear at key locations within the community that they are working in. Kessler says it has already taken over a five-block radius within the Gowanus Housing Development for this project. This development will function as a “physical grid island” such that it will be resilient and power will be available here even in case of failure.      

Kessler says that the company’s products are aimed at fulfilling different consumer aims from maximizing economics to price arbitrage between producers and consumers. “We are combining the economic layer with the physical layer,” he says, adding that it changes incentives for utilities. “The days of guaranteed business models on infrastructure are going away,” he says.

According to him, competition and choice of energy sources will help utilities “shift their perspective from viewing energy consumers as rate payers to customers.” 
 

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