Bitcoin-mining power plant raises ire of environmentalists | AP News
An obstacle to large-scale bitcoin mining is finding enough cheap power to run the huge power-hungry sets of computers that create and transact cryptocurrencies. A mining operation in central New York has come up with a novel solution that has alarmed environmentalists. uses its own power plant.
greenidge generation operates a plant that was once mothballed near the shore of seneca lake in the finger lakes region to produce about 44 megawatts to power 15,300 computer servers, plus additional electricity it sends to the power grid of the condition. megawatts dedicated to bitcoin could be enough electricity to power more than 35,000 homes.
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Advocates call it a competitive way to mine increasingly popular cryptocurrencies, without draining the existing power grid.
Environmentalists see the plant as a climate threat.
They fear a wave of resurrected fossil fuel plants that emit greenhouse gases more for private gain than public good. Seeing Greenidge as a test case, they are asking the state to deny renewal of the plant’s air quality permit and stop similar projects.
“The current state of our climate demands action on cryptocurrency mining,” said liz moran of earthjustice. “We are jeopardizing the state’s ability to meet our climate goals, and setting the stage for the rest of the country as a result.”
greenidge converted the former coal plant, in a tourist region known for its glacial lakes and riesling wines, to natural gas and began producing electricity in 2017. bitcoin mining at the plant, which has a capacity of 106 megawatts It started in earnest last year. The company said it was “bringing a piece of the world’s digital future” to upstate New York.
“For decades, this region has been told it would see new industries and opportunities,” Greenidge said in a prepared statement. “We’re really making it happen, and doing it entirely within the nation’s leading high environmental standards of the state.”
bitcoin miners unlock bitcoins by solving unique and complex puzzles. As the value of bitcoin increases, the puzzles become increasingly difficult and require more computing power to solve them. Estimates of how much energy bitcoin uses vary.
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greenidge said it mined 729 bitcoins during the three months ending in September. 30. The value of cryptocurrencies fluctuates and on Friday, a bitcoin was worth more than $59,000.
Opponents are frustrated that Greenidge applied to operate a power plant, but now they are operating a mine that is consuming more power from the plant.
greenidge says mining was not part of the plan when the plant came back online and notes that they continue to provide power to the grid. From January to June, Greenidge said it used 58% of its energy for mining.
supporters see it as an economic benefit in a part of upstate new york that could use the help. douglas paddock, chairman of the yates county legislature, testified in a public hearing this week that the plant created 45 good-paying jobs and made a “significant contribution” to the area through tax payments and capital investments.
Some opposition to the plant centers on the potential effects of its water withdrawals from Seneca Lake. But air quality issues have taken center stage as the state’s department of environmental conservation reviews the plant’s air emission permits.
greenidge has said that it is in compliance with its permits and that the plant is 100% carbon neutral, thanks to the purchase of carbon offsets, such as forestry programs and projects that capture methane from landfills.
Opponents claim the plant undermines the state’s efforts to slash greenhouse gas emissions in coming decades under its 2019 climate law.
This week, a large coalition of environmental groups and other organizations called on Govt. kathy hochul to deny the greenidge air permit and take similar action to prevent an existing facility near buffalo from becoming a mining site. The coalition wants Hochul to set a “national precedent” and enact a statewide moratorium on the energy-intensive “proof-of-work” cryptocurrency used by bitcoin miners.
environmentalists estimate that there are 30 plants in new york that could become mining operations.
“I really think more than anything, this plant is an important test of whether the state’s climate law is really worth anything,” said judith enck, who served as regional representative for northeastern us. uu. of the ep administrator under president barack obama.
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sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand have separately asked the federal Environmental Protection Agency to exercise oversight.
Across the country, there are other power plants that are used for cryptocurrency mining under different types of arrangements.
in venango county, pennsylvania, a generation plant that converts coal waste into energy is used to mine bitcoins and can provide electricity to the grid when needed. stronghold digital mining has plans to replicate that type of operation at two other sites in pennsylvania.
And in Montana, a coal-fired power plant now provides 100% of its power to digital stock marathons for bitcoin mining under a power purchase agreement.
“Previously we had done what a lot of miners do, which is find an industrial building, set it up for mining, and then contract power from the grid,” said Marathon CEO Fred Thiel. “and we wanted to flip that model on its head because we knew there are a lot of underutilized power generation sources in the us. wow.”
Thiel said harmful emissions are low due to coal quality and pollution controls, and the plant will offset carbon emissions by the end of next year. He said his company is focused on moving toward renewable energy, saying cryptocurrency miners can provide crucial financial incentives to build more clean energy projects.
new york state has yet to make a decision on greenidge permits.
greenidge said that even if the plant were to operate at full capacity, its potential emissions are equal to 0.23% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal for 2030.
However, state environmental commissioner basil seggos tweeted last month that “greenidge has not demonstrated compliance with the new york climate law” based on that law’s goals.
“new york state is leading the way on climate change,” seggos said in a prepared statement, “and we have some significant concerns about the role cryptocurrency mining may play in generating additional greenhouse gas emissions ”.
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