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Ikea’s Space10 lab housing concept embraces renewable energy

A glimpse of the future

Neighborhood made of small wood homes Photo: Space 10

Renewable energy and blockchain—the two buzzy words are cropping up in various corners of the design world, but how do they work together? And what do they really mean for day-to-day life?

A new project from Ikea’s research lab Space10 explores how neighborhoods can harness solar energy and share it via blockchain technology—and they do it with adorable wooden houses.

Overhead shot of wooden neighborhood Photo: Space 10

SolarVille is a working prototype featuring a series of small wooden houses tricked out with solar panels. These solar panels, fed by artificial light coming from above the installation, are attached to a micro-grid that allows SolarVille neighbors to purchase excess energy from each other on a decentralized ledger that keeps track of where energy is stored and where it’s going.

Close up of wooden buildings Photo: Space 10

In real life, of course, these transactions are invisible. But Space10’s 1:50 scale village is meant to illustrate the abstract concept in a playful and easily graspable way. The flow of energy is shown through LED lights that illuminate the energy transactions that are happening.

Real-life companies and communities like Brooklyn Microgrid and Amsterdam’s Schoonschip are already harnessing blockchain technology to create a peer-to-peer energy sharing networks, but for the time being SolarVille is merely an exploration of the idea. The installation will travel around the world this year with the goal of inspiring communities to create their own networks in the future.