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Public Plug: sharing excessive energy

The Public Plug showcases the generation of excessive renewable energy by a plug that is publicly available.

Photo of Anja Kantowsky

Written by

Often those who are generating renewable energy have more than they actually need.
In many communities it's possible to feed that into the system and get money back. This happens without anyone noticing it.

The Public Plug can be accessed publicly at the energy source.
E.g. if a city house has solar panels on its roof there will be a plug on street level. Whenever there is excessive energy, the plug is showing that it has power to share - maybe it is glowing.

 

What community does this idea benefit and who are the main players?

This idea is for renewable pioneers who have a running system for renewable energy. The plug is their "conversation piece" with the following messages: - renewable energy is effective - I've got more than I actually need - I'm generous and sharing my energy with you

How does your idea specifically help your community rapidly transition to renewables?

The Public Plug is a conversation starter to inspire more people to use renewable energy sources.

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

One could easily install a Public Plug prototype on a busy street in a sunny or windy city, start a conversation with some pics on social media and see what happens.

What skills, input or guidance are you keen to connect with from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

This idea needs some skilled designers and someone with a solid knowledge how the feed-in of excessive energy is managed in power circuits.

Please indicate which type of energy is most relevant to this post:

  • A combination of various types of renewable energy

This idea emerged from:

  • An Individual

17 comments

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Comment
Photo of Natalie Lake
Team

Hi Anja,

This idea would create such a nice sense of community on so many levels! I love that it creates an opportunity for neighbors to interact beyond the "Hi, beautiful weather we are having" conversation. It makes these energy pioneers into energy ambassadors.

How will the public plug get the energy without the energy company being charged for the energy they are buying back from the household and without the person using the public plug being charge? Perhaps, if you did it in areas like SF where neighborhoods are fairly crowded with people and shops etc., the public plug could be right outside someone's house who is utilizing renewables.

I think it'd be interesting if pre-pilot, you could talk to some households in your area about how much excess energy they typically have in a given day, and if each household tends to have a lot perhaps the public plug could be open 24/7. Also, quick question about the plug, would someone sit with the public plug or would you have an educational plaque that accompanied the plug?

All in all, a super sharing is caring idea! I love the community it creates, thank you so much for sharing your idea!

Photo of Anja Kantowsky
Team

Natalie, thank you for your great comments!
The main engeneering for this idea indeed would need to program the management of excess power betw. the public plug and the local energy company.

I think the design of the plug would need to be self-explanatory - no extra educational plaque. It holds the potential to become a typical local specialty.
Here in Berlin, we have the so-called "Stolpersteine" (stumbling blocks; http://www.stolpersteine-berlin.de/en/stolpersteine). These are memorial little blocks in the pavement to remember people who were deported during the nazi regime. There are no explanations; the concept is easy to convey and I am sure they're mentioned in many guides. I live close to many of these memorial stones and I constantly see tourists reading the names.

Photo of Natalie Lake
Team

HI Anja,

The Stolpersteine is a really nice memorial idea. Thank you for sharing.

I really like Meena and Joanna's ideas of creating cellphone charging stations! I can totally see this becoming a reality and then an app eventually being created where people in need of a free charging station can search for the closest one.

I look forward to seeing your pilot!

Photo of Alper Yaglioglu
Team

Love the app idea! It'd be useful especially for tourists.

Photo of Joanna Spoth
Team

Love the conversation happening here. Anja - as your idea evolves be sure to update the text in your idea so the community can follow along! :)

Photo of Tosh Szatow
Team

Would be awesome for people that drive electric vehicles to be able to find the nearest plug with excess energy (emergency trickle charging). Might be an excuse to pop in for a cup of tea and get to know the neighbourhood too. Cool idea

Photo of Alper Yaglioglu
Team

Hey Anja! I heard you are looking for a skilled designer! We are approaching to the Refinement phase and I should say I really like your Public Plug concept. That's why I couldn't stop making a quick brainstorming around it.

http://s14.postimg.org/6tvw8u7ox/image.jpg
http://s9.postimg.org/b4veyrrwf/status.jpg

I think it'd be really good to have a 4-digit lock system. By this way, people can just leave their phones and don't wait until it's fully charged. Also, there might be a light ring that indicates if PP is vacant or occupied. When there's no excess energy, screen would be plain black as there's no energy even for light itself.

Hope this can be a good starting point for your idea and Public Plug can make it to the Refinement phase. You can update your post and add the pictures. I also appreaciate if you can add me to your team as I'm willing to collaborate with you on this idea. Let's see how this idea will evolve.

Photo of Anja Kantowsky
Team

Hi Alper, thank you for these, great work!
Whereas I think the locking is a requirement that quickly comes up, I would still not offer it - I think it even is counter productive to the mission of the public plug.

It's main aim is to be a conversation piece and and an invitation to a more sustainable behaviour . I envision a bench or seat next to the plug where one can wait while the device is re-charging a bit. Re-charging for oneself in a way.

The plug will never end up being a reliable source and also the one's sharing the energy won't feel being generous and tranformative but rather being stupid enough to offer free charging for a fast and excessive lifestyle.

Photo of Joanna Spoth
Team

I love this creative idea, Anja! I'm curious to learn more about the end users and who you see adopting this idea. Is the idea that those who have already transitioned their home to renewable energy would then have a visible signal that they have excess, "free" energy, inspiring those who have not yet transitioned to switch to renewable energy? Or is it simply an awesome perk for those for are 100% renewable?

Photo of Anja Kantowsky
Team

Joanna, I think the main benefit is the signaling - but I would love to see it function as well. If I envision such a plug on our house, I see a tourist with low battery briefly recharging her mobile phone while checking the streetmap.

Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

A potential angle – to amplify the messaging, I wonder if it could be sponsored by telcos promoting phone charging spots while spreading the renewables message. They could even offer free phone minutes to community power providers and maybe team up with solar providers to provide info on how folks might get started on their own solar power? Just a thought on creating a virtuous circle... what else comes to folks' minds here?

Photo of Joanna Spoth
Team

Love the partnership angle, Meena! If we could incentivize cell companies that could be very influential in spreading renewables to homes that don't already use them. It could also be a powerful way to transition to electric vehicles from the fossil-guzzlers. If there were plugs and parking spots at houses it would be even easier to get a charge in.

Photo of Meena Kadri
Team

Nice build! Anja – next steps might be reaching out to potential partners to get their early feedback on the idea as you iterate it further. We're excited where it might all lead.

Photo of Jaime Gusching
Team

And one can never have to many charging stations at airports! With all the waiting time between flights, having a solar-powered charging station at various gates would definitely catalyze conversations.

Photo of Anja Kantowsky
Team

Hi all, sorry for joining back into this conversation that late.
I was musing about the phone charging & sponsoring aspect and ended up with the conclusion that I don't like the angle of a public plug (at least at an airport)

The main thing is the sharing on a peer-to-peer level and the individual generosity towards the community that is something seldom to be seen in our society. I think it would just be the right twist to be thought provoking.

The sharing of excess energy should be on an individual level. But maybe the design, development and installation of such a plug could be sponsored by telco providers, why not.

Photo of Shuting Zeng
Team

Hi Anja, thanks for this great idea for community. I will be repeating some of Natalie's questions about the payment/fees for sharing home energy. This reminds me of home sharing activism by Airbnb tho the sides are reversed and that real estate is not renewable energy.

I will suggest that instead of letting each household give out a public plug, it can also be given by several households together so that there may be more excessive energy around all time -- to guarantee the flexibility and availability. But this can be totally unnecessary if according to your research most single households can provide excessive energy to a community guest.

And yes I like the message you want to deliver by doing this :)

Photo of Anja Kantowsky
Team

Hi Shuting,
Thank you for your thoughtfulness! From my Berlin perspective the public plug's main aim is its visibility and the message it is sending so I wasn't too much looking into the reliablity of this energy source.

I think practically the duration of someone connecting to this plug on a public street it quite limited - one won't let her phone or CPU load for hours without being next to it.

I once witnessed someone charge her electric car with several extension cords from a shop to her car in the street I live in. People were constantly tripping over the cord ;-)