A new digital currency with a green bent is looking to accelerate the clean energy shift. Built using the same technology as Bitcoin, SolarCoin debuted last month as an alternative currency that rewards owners of solar energy systems.
Like Bitcoin, SolarCoin allows anyone to get coins by "mining," which involves solving cryptographic math puzzles, or by buying them on Twitter. The difference is that SolarCoins can also be earned as a reward for generating solar energy.
Anyone who has solar panels installed on their home or business can earn SolarCoins, simply by receiving renewable energy certificates from their utility in return for feeding electricity back into the grid. The cryptocurrency can then be used to pay for goods or services from individuals and businesses that accept it.
Each SolarCoin represents the generation of 1MWh of solar electricity. The goal of the system is to incentivize the production of 97,500 TWh of global solar generation over the next 40 years.
Whereas Bitcoin has been criticized for wasting energy due to the computing power it takes to mine coins, SolarCoin claims to be a lower-carbon cryptocurrency, as stated on its Wiki page: "SolarCoin is believed to be 50 times more energy efficient than Bitcoin by its design rapid mining reward decay rate." And that's before factoring in the energy boost from solar panels.
Whether SolarCoins catch on remains to be seen. There are plenty of new cryptocurrencies hoping to cash in on the craze created by Bitcoin. It might also be hard to sell the idea to homeowners who are used to receiving cash rebates from utility companies. Even if the value of SolarCoins doesn't skyrocket, it shows some impressive private sector ingenuity in encouraging people to go green.