Eco-Friendly Bitcoin Mining Can Reduce Carbon Footprints (Yes, Really)

With each passing day, it seems as though the conversation on Bitcoin’s energy consumption rages on, though new ground is rarely broken on the topic. Like bears to honey, media outlets flock to FUD stories on mining’s electrical costs and doomsday predictions of a world driven to the ecological brink, thanks to bitcoin mining.

There is a strong argument to be made, however, that far from plunging the globe into ecological disaster, cryptocurrency mining can be sustainable or, better yet, can be used to neutralize the carbon footprint of other energy intensive processes. Indeed, under the right circumstances, mining can produce a minimal carbon output. Moreover, its energy emissions can be recycled for other eco-friendly endeavors.

Bitcoin’s Mining Energy Costs

Bitcoin uses a consensus algorithm known as proof of work to order and timestamp transactions on its blockchain. Basically, miners — those who process transactions — run energy intensive computations on their computers to solve the cryptographic equations that are needed to find new blocks and keep the network secure. As the network attracts more value and miners try to outcompete each other to find the next block, they will invest more energy in solving these equations.

Depending on who you’re asking, this process has Bitcoin consuming more energy than a small country (e.g., Bulgaria, North Korea), which could be anywhere from 1 to 35 terawatt-hours per year. Some have argued that innovations like the Lightning Network will scale this problem out of existence, while other critics claim that a proof-of-stake, distributed consensus mechanism could prove to be more ecologically sound.

Within this debate, there are those who say this process is unsustainable and needs be fixed. Then there are others who argue that the concern is overblown and nothing needs to change.

Andreas Antonopoulos, for example, points out that bitcoin mining can be used to consume the excess energy produced by power plants “that would be otherwise wasted.” The mining proceeds, then, can serve as “an alternative store of value,” making it “an environmental subsidy to alternative energy all around the world because it’s causing [renewable energy projects] to be amortized over a year instead of five.”

Renewable Energy Solutions

Hydroelectric power has earned its own place at the crypto conservationist’s table. Chinese mining farms have long drawn cheap surplus energy from hydroelectric dams, especially in the Sichuan province. One of the oldest of these, BW, for instance, helped to pioneer the practice. Founded in 2014, the mining operation has drawn renewable energy to power its rigs since 2015.

Though its roots are in China, hydroelectric mining has found its way into other regions that offer cheap river-run energy. In Austria, the Damblon sisters at HydroMiner have looked to harness the output of hydroelectric dams in the alps for their own operation. Nadine and Nicole Damblon founded the HydroMiner Limited Company in 2016 alongside a posse of Viennese miners. By 2017, the team established its first facility in Schönberg, Austria, which draws a base energy output of 290 kWh for its 120 mining units. Their second mining farm in Waidhofen an der Ybbs, Austria, receives a consistent supply of 600 kWh for its 250 Antmine 29s and 1152 GPUs.

The team built this second farm thanks to funds from its H2o token ICO. Each H2o token guarantees 5 kWh worth of mining time, which holders can redeem for any cryptocurrency the facilities mine using the project’s mining portal. As the operation expands, the team plans to launch the H3o token, which will pay holders dividends much like a security and is, according to its creators, “the first fully compliant security token according to European financial law.” […]

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