Before I begin; let me brief on how the blockchain came to exist. So there was a need for a decentralized method to process transactions; all that existed out there was purely centralized (bank and online payment processors are an example); centralized meant that the organization had full control of the operation.
Now the idea of decentralization is not new. There were many attempts before but failed. For those that did not fail were still centralized in most of their operations. For example stanford’s Folding at home (participants would donate their computing power for academic/scientific research; the whole process is distributed). This maybe be operational but not as popular as the blockchain.
Why those platforms did not thrive as the blockchain did? Simple. no economics to it. People’s machines consumed electricity without being rewarded. So people did not contribute as much as you would expect. That is exactly why the blockchain came to shine. It had the incentive aspect. People were rewarded for processing. Despite the mechanism people started competing to get the reward.
With Bitcoin the rewarding system is what is called the proof of work. You need to prove that you can solve a given problem (hashing according to a specific pattern) if you are the first to solve the hashing problem you get the reward. Hashing depended on the CPU power so people started customizing CPUs and later came miners which were just custom CPUs dedicated to hash the SHA256. Here is what an miner looks like
The algorithm in bitcoin evolved; it got complicated every-time. As powerful machines started competing, people started mining farms; since the coin (reward) became hard to get. Its price went up as well. One drawback or let me say a hickup came to shine. Electricity consumption got really high. To get an idea here is how a farm of miners might look like (the farm below has 10,000 Antminer S3):
1 Bitcoin transaction has been known to consume as much power as 30.5 US households for a day; some even classified bitcoin mining as an environmental disaster .
4NEW decided that they can solve this problem. Given bitcoin and the blockchain in general had more pros than cons the solution was worth making. Guess what 4NEW did?
In an innovate way they decided to contribute to both the environment on one end by consuming waste (burning waste reduces the volume of waste by about 87%  so you would not see much of the image below) and to the mining process on the other end by providing Energy and a rendering farm.
You might be wondering how does the waste turn into energy? There are many techniques and technicalities to it but could be simplified or categorized to two main categories. Thermal and Non-Thermal.
Thermal meant that the process involves heating up the waste enough to generate specific compounds in which those compounds are safely treated. Since you will have to account for the pollution and dangerous substances. 4NEW details on the techniques and mentioned the pros and cons of each technique. They even mentioned the details on how they are accounting for safety. like the adoption of carbon filters in the plants.
How about we brief on the two categories to get an idea how technical the process is. It is in constant research which is really great. As we mentioned thermal methods involve burning the waste/garbage. The process of burning produces steam that interns is used to generate electricity. Usually there is a large incinerator with a boiler connected to a generator.
Consider the image below:
Image from WTE plants installed in 10 European Cities Research by Chaliki, et al 2014
The process happens as:
- Collection of waste into a pit (we see in blue on the left side of the image above).
- Passing the waste to a combustion chamber and burned (the crane in the image above moves the waste)
- Heat resulting from the burn results in steam in the boiler.
- The steam would enforce pressure which will turn the turbine and produce electricity.
- Pollution prevention systems would filter the gas resulted from the process before releasing smoke.
Now let us see a sample of the non-thermal technique. Non-thermal can involve Bacteria. Yep I said Bacteria. Bacteria is not all about diseases or sicknesses. Ever imagined it can be used to produce Electricity as well?
It turns that some Bacteria exist in waste and naturally produces electricity. Using microbial fuel cells we can harvest that electricity off that bacteria. The microbial fuel cells have two electrodes (anode and cathode) connected using an electrical connection.
As part of the Bacteria metabolism it breathes out electrons to the anode and through the electrical connection they are passed to the cathode to complete the electrical circuit. You can visualize this like a battery.
Those were examples of the methods used to generate electricity from waste and you can see it is a research in progress because of the value those method bring forth. 4NEW opting for waste-energy means they are here to stay for the longest possible period. They have really come a long way. they have recently published a video of one of the plants and described how the plant will operate. The two operating Waste to Energy power plants currently generate ~ 10 megawatts per hour.
The thought that is likely to circulate in your head now is; “that is great but what is that has to do with blockchain?” That’s what we are going to talk about next:
Recall earlier I mentioned that 4NEW aims to solve problems from two ends? the environment on one end by using waste and providing energy the other hand. 4New has its own coin to use throughout its system. The coin is called KWATT.
Energy is not the only contribution offered by 4NEW; Currently they have two plants set. One would be a plant and a mining farm. You can use their mining power backed by the energy captured from waste from the first plant. The second plant’s energy is used to push electricity to the UK national grid.
What this means is that you enable the physically constraint business to operate internationally. You can own KWATT token and utilize the 4NEW power plants remotely. How is that?
KWATT is an ERC-20 tokens. Which means it utilizes the Ethereum network. The total number of coins that can ever exist is 300 million KWATTs. It is estimated that each plant will generate about 10 megawatts/hours on launch. The plant as it develops is expected to generate 4x that value of 40 megawatts per hour. To keep this in perspective 1 megawatt equals 1000 kilowatts (KWATTs). Each household consumes about 1.5 kilowatts per day. So 1000 kilowatts would operate 650 households.
The KWATT coin is pegged to the actual WATTs and would represent 1 Kilowatt and that is how you can own electricity internationally and without having to be constrained to a specific location. With KWATT tokens it means you can do two things. You can sell the tokens to the UK national grid as energy; since 1 KWATT represented the same actual Kilowatt. The other option is apply the token to 4NEW’s cryptocurrency mining farm.
With the many ideas taking place we can see how the blockchain made these great ideas come to shine. I hope to see 4NEW expanding to other regions as well. Waste is a huge problem. Electricity consumption is just as huge.