I am working on a university masters research project where I want to investigate the use of the blockhain as, not only a platform for energy trading, but also as a decentralised database describing the state of the microgrid at any given time. In short, for those of you that don't know, a microgrid is a small electricity network, that typically has multiple points of energy generation, energy use and energy storage, within a relatively small area. Think of an example as 20 houses which are all interconnected is some way where 8 have solar arrays, 5 of them have energy storage and all twenty consume electricity. This network can also be connected to the grid at one location.
Microgrid architecture and control is a complex affair, much like the grid, where the quantities of energy being generated and consumed need to be balanced. Each point of generation, use and storage is typically known as a node and would have a controller measuring power in and out of it whilst allowing electricity get to where it needs to be. There are different types of microgrid designs and of course the one that interests me is the decentralised kind. The term decentralised is not necessarily correct though because there is still no way of having all the nodes communicate with each other without having some form of central communication controller to let the node controllers know the state of power and reactive power in the network.
Enter the blockchain and what I would like to investigate for my project...
I want to experiment on the viability of using ethereum as a shared database so that all the nodes know the state of play at a given time and can react appropriately to any transactions that take place on the blockchain.
2 complications that I am already aware of are the provenance of electricity and the latency in the network for consensus to be achieved. Other than those two issues, does anyone know of any other reasons why this might not be a good idea to investigate?
Some of the challenges that I face which I hope the community might be able to advise me on...
-Despite seemingly endless reading on blockchain tech and ethereum, I feel like I am still confused as to the different ways the platform works. Do tokens have to be mined or can they be created and assigned to a node if I wanted to?
-I don't know much about coding. I have seen that it's relatively easy to copy and paste ethereum scripts to develop my own currency/token but there would certainly have to be some manipulation for it to be fit for purpose. How feasible is it for a guy like me to make suitable changes and understand what I am doing after a couple of weeks of playing with the ethereum software?
-The following is the controller that is used for the university microgrid http://www.ni.com/en-gb/shop/select/compactrio-controller
How would I get a controller to read or be told of whats happening on the blockchain? Is there any kind of software out there for this or some sort of API I could use? I am completely out of my element here. This could be the part where someone highlights my fundamental misunderstanding of how things work and tells me not to continue to waste my time.
That's my first round of questions. If we get past them, I'll be impressed, very grateful and then back with a load more questions.
Please bear in mind that this is just a masters project and I am not trying to prove anything in particular. If it's actually possible for me to set this up as I hope and then I demonstrate that it was a bad idea, then great, I will have learnt a load about ethereum and microgrid control and I'll spare someone else the research and effort writing about it.
Thanks for the help