Wednesday, August 04, 2021

Old coal plant now powers Bitcoin 'mine' in upstate N.Y.

From the BBC: "Bitcoin mines require a lot of energy to power the computers inside. Greenidge Generation in New York has converted a former coal plant into a gas-fired Bitcoin mine. Facing criticism from environmentalists, the company argues it offsets its emissions, is 100 percent carbon neutral, and has plans to invest in solar energy." BBC's North America technology reporter, James Clayton, takes viewers on a visit to the mine on Seneca Lake, one of the Finger Lakes.

What is Bitcoin mining? CNet's Oscar Gonzales explains: "When Bitcoins are traded, computers across the globe race to complete a computation that creates a 64-digit hexadecimal number, or hash, for that Bitcoin. This hash goes into a public ledger so anyone can confirm the transaction for that particular Bitcoin happened. The computer that solves the computation first gets a reward of 6.2 bitcoins, or about $225,000 at current prices.

All that computing makes Bitcoin mining a notorious energy hog. "The Digiconomist's Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index estimated that one Bitcoin transaction takes 1,544 kWh to complete, or the equivalent of approximately 53 days of power for the average US household. To put that into money terms, the average cost per kWh in the US is 13 cents. That means a Bitcoin transaction would generate more than $200 in energy bills," Gonzales reports. Bitcoin mining uses more electricity each year than Argentina, "according to an analysis from Cambridge University in February. At 121.36 terawatt-hours, crypto mining would be in the top 30 of countries based on energy consumption."

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