Bitcoin mining power plants cause anger for environmentalists


The obstacle to large-scale Bitcoin mining is finding cheap enough energy to run a huge power-consuming computer array that creates and trades cryptocurrencies. A mining project in central New York has come up with a new solution that has surprised environmentalists. We are using our own power plant.

Greenidge Generation operates a once abandoned plant near the shores of Lake Seneca in the Finger Lakes region, generating approximately 44 megawatts to run 15,300 computer servers and adding additional power to the state’s power grid. Will be sent. Bitcoin-only megawatts can be enough power to power more than 35,000 homes.

Proponents call it a competitive way to mine increasingly popular cryptocurrencies without draining the existing power grid.

Environmentalists see plants as a climate threat.

They fear that the waves of the resurrected fossil fuel power plants will emit greenhouse gases for private rather than public benefit. Considering Greenidge as a test case, they are urging the state to refuse to renew the plant’s air quality permit and put a brake on similar projects.

“The current state of our climate requires action on cryptocurrency mining,” said Liz Moran of Earthjustice. “We are endangering the state’s ability to reach climate goals, and as a result, we have set the stage for the whole country.”

The former coal-fired power plant, located in a tourist area known for its glacial lakes and Riesling wine, was converted to natural gas by Greenwich and began generating electricity in 2017. Bitcoin mining at this power plant, which has a capacity of 106 MW, has begun in earnest. Year. The company said it “brings a part of the world’s digital future” to northern New York.

“For decades, the region has been said to see new industries and opportunities,” Greenwich said in a prepared statement. “We’re actually doing that, and we’re doing it entirely within the state’s nationally leading high environmental standards.”

Bitcoin Miner unlocks Bitcoin by solving complex and unique puzzles. As the value of Bitcoin increases, puzzles become more difficult and require more computer power to solve them. Estimates of the amount of energy used by Bitcoin vary.

Greenidge said it had mined 729 Bitcoins in the three months leading up to September 30th. The value of cryptocurrencies fluctuated, and on Friday, 1 Bitcoin was worth more than $ 59,000.

Opponents are dissatisfied with Greenwich’s application to run the power plant, but are now operating a mine that consumes more electricity from the power plant.

Note that when the plant came back online, Greenidge said mining wasn’t part of the plan and continued to power the grid. Greenidge said it used 58% of its electricity for mining from January to June.

Supporters see it as an economic benefit of having help available in parts of northern New York. Yates County Parliament Chairman Douglas Paddock testified at a hearing this week that the factory brought 45 high-paying jobs and made a “significant contribution” to the region through tax payments and fixed investment.

Some opposition to the plant is focused on the potential impact of water withdrawal from Lake Seneca. However, air quality issues are at a central stage as the state environmental protection ministry is considering a factory air emission permit.

Greenidge states that the plant is 100% carbon-neutral, thanks to permit compliance and the purchase of carbon offsets such as forestry programs and projects to recover methane from landfills.

Opponents claim that the plant is undermining the state’s efforts to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next few decades under the 2019 Climate Act.

This week, a large coalition of environmental groups and other organizations will take similar steps to deny Governor Kathy Hokul an aerial permit for Greenwich and prevent an existing factory near Buffalo from becoming a mining site. I requested. The coalition hopes Hochul will set a “national precedent” and establish a state-wide moratorium on the energy-intensive “proof of work” cryptocurrency used by Bitcoin miners.

Environmentalists estimate that there are 30 factories in New York that can be converted into mining operations.

“I think this plant is, above all, an important test of whether the state’s climate law is really valuable,” said Judith, who was the EPA’s Northeastern United States Regional Director under President Barack Obama. Enk said.

Senator Chuck Schumer and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand have requested the Federal Environmental Protection Agency to exercise surveillance separately.

Around the country, there are other power plants used for cryptocurrency mining under various types of arrangements.

In Venango County, Pennsylvania, a power plant that converts coal waste into electricity is used to mine Bitcoin, which can power the grid as needed. Stronghold Digital Mining plans to duplicate such operations at two other sites in Pennsylvania.

And in Montana, coal-fired power plants provide Marathon Digital Holdings with 100% of their energy for Bitcoin mining under a power purchase contract.

“We used to do what many miners do, that is, we find an industrial building, set it up for mining, and then contract power from the grid,” said the marathon. CEO Fred Thiel said. “And I knew there were a lot of underutilized energy sources in the United States, so I wanted to turn that model upside down.”

Thiel said the plant will be carbon offset by the end of next year, with less harmful emissions due to coal quality and pollution control. He said his company is focusing on the transition to renewable energy and that cryptocurrency miners can provide significant financial incentives to build cleaner energy projects.

The state of New York has not yet made a decision on a permit for Greenwich.

Greenidge said that even if the plant were at full capacity, its potential emissions would correspond to 0.23% of the state’s greenhouse gas emission reduction target for 2030.

However, state environmental commissioner Basil Segos tweeted last month that “Greenwich has not shown compliance with New York’s climate law,” based on New York’s climate law goals.

“New York is a leader in climate change, and there are some major concerns about the role of cryptocurrency mining in generating additional greenhouse gas emissions,” Segos said in a prepared statement. Said.

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