Bitcoin gobbling Iceland energy supplies

Iceland is facing an “exponential” rise in Bitcoin mining that is gobbling up power resources, a spokesman for Icelandic energy firm HS Orka has said.

This year, electricity use at Bitcoin mining data centres is likely to exceed that of all Iceland’s homes, according to Johann Snorri Sigurbergsson.

He said many potential customers were keen to get in on the act.

“If all these projects are realised, we won’t have enough energy for it,” he told the BBC.

Mr Sigurbergsson’s calculations were first reported by the Associated Press.

Iceland has a small population, of around 340,000 people.

But in recent years it has seen a marked increase in the number of new data centres, often built by firms wishing to tout green credentials. Nearly 100% of energy in Iceland comes from renewable sources.

Bitcoin mining refers to the work done by computers connected to the global Bitcoin network.

These computers solve complex mathematical problems – a process that in turn validates transactions between users of the crypto-currency.

The computers that do this validation work receive small Bitcoin rewards for their trouble, making it a lucrative exercise, especially when done at a large scale.

‘Exponential growth’

“What we’re seeing now is… you can almost call it exponential growth, I think, in the [energy] consumption of data centres,” said Mr Sigurbergsson.

He added that he expects Bitcoin mining operations will use around 840 gigawatt hours of electricity to supply data centre computers and cooling systems, for example.

He estimated that the county’s homes, in contrast, use around 700 gigawatt hours every year.

“I don’t see it stopping quite yet,” added Mr Sigurbergsson, referring to data centre projects.

“I’m getting a lot of calls, visits from potential investors or companies wanting to build data centres in Iceland.”

He also said that there are so many proposed data centres that it wouldn’t be possible to supply all of them.

He added that his firm was mostly interested in dealing with companies that were willing to commit to long-term contracts of a few years or more.

If Iceland took on all of the proposed Bitcoin mining ventures, there simply wouldn’t be enough electricity to supply them all, he added…

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