How Large-Scale Bitcoin Mining Is Driving Clean Energy Innovation


As a project in northern Sweden shows, Bitcoin’s dependence on energy consumption could bring a more sustainable future.

Bitcoin mining energy consumption is massive and people are taking note. Increases have accelerated, with mining energy consumption rapidly surpassing the totals of small countries. And many see this ever-growing carbon footprint as a threat to climate change.

But it is not a threat. In fact, increasing energy consumption could save the planet.

Bitcoin Mining Energy Consumption and Its By-Product

When Bitcoin mining began, you could mine with a laptop at home. Just set up a rig and let it run, and while it might get a bit warm in the room and the energy bill might go up a bit, a first miner could pay off. At the time, miners were only competing with other hobbyists or very small facilities.

But long gone are the days when a single person could install a platform in their home and mine competitively for bitcoin. Today, to operate competitively, you need to be fast, big, and powerful. This means having the most technologically advanced hardware at scale to run the algorithms as quickly as possible. Massive data centers with thousands of platforms have now populated the competitive mining landscape. Those with the best performing hardware, the most efficient software, the best managed operations, and the cheapest electricity will outperform the competition.

And this level of computation will generate a lot of energy. Bitcoin mining is believed to be producing nearly 195 TWh of energy per year, which is comparable to Thailand’s energy consumption.

Such high energy production, which is necessary to remain competitive, means that mining operations must keep low energy costs a priority in their operations. Because crypto mining is not tied to a location, many mining operations are looking for regions to build data centers that offer cheap and ideally renewable sources of energy. Today, sustainable energy sources like hydropower and wind are not only the cleanest, but the most profitable that mining operations can take advantage of. Mining operations are also looking for locations that have excess energy to spare.

But when a huge amount of energy goes in, a huge amount of energy has to come out. It’s a simple law of thermodynamics: all this consumed energy cannot be destroyed, so it has to go somewhere. This excess comes in the form of heat, a by-product of mining operations. The heat produced by IT is so important that data centers have to worry about not only the hardware, but also the cooling systems.

Until now, heat was just a by-product that had to be cooled and dispersed. But now Bitcoin miners are wondering: what if something good could be done with this excess heat? How can the heat generated by mining operations be recycled or reused, providing a sustainable and clean source of energy? Can data centers heat homes, for example, or greenhouses, or replace heat sources for certain industries? What about in colder climates where heat is scarce?

Greenhouses heated by data center

There is a new partnership in northern Sweden looking for answers to these same questions.

Keen to make their region more sustainable, the Boden Business Agency seeks to partner with energy-intensive industries to create synergies between the two, and Genesis mining intervened to provide computing power. The partnership also includes the Swedish Research Institutes (RISE) and Luleå University of Technology.

The Nordic countries have already attracted mining operations due to the cheap and sustainable sources of energy available. But now there is an opportunity for mining operations to give back in the form of providing excess heat to greenhouses to grow food, making the local economy more productive and sustainable. According to Mattias Vesterlund, senior researcher at RISE, “A 1 MW data center would have the capacity to boost local self-sufficiency by up to 8% with competitive products in the market.

Genesis Mining is supplying a 600 kW air-cooled data center container, which will supply heat to a 300 square meter greenhouse through a specially designed air duct system. The heat would keep the greenhouse at a comfortable temperature of 25 ° C (77 ° F) year round, in an area where temperatures can drop to -30 ° C (-22 ° F). The project aims to focus on growing fruits and vegetables, but the heat from the data center can be used for rearing fish, insects and algae, as well as drying fruits and vegetables.

This would give the local agricultural economy the opportunity to increase food production. This would not only make local producers more sustainable, but it would reduce dependence on imports, while meeting regional energy efficiency targets.

The project is also a social project that brings together local farmers, municipalities, scientists and the IT industry. Mining operations solve local issues of scaling up sustainable food production, and local farms empower mining operations to recycle their waste and offset their carbon footprint.

Strengthen local economies while promoting decentralization

These partnerships will also reinforce the vision of decentralization that cryptocurrency mining values ​​so much. By delivering sustainable green energy in the form of data center heat, it offers a use case for decentralized power generation. And seeing more of these projects emerge, it forces mining operations to reassess their role in giving back, as they already have the means ready to deliver sustainable energy to the communities around them.

A connected greenhouse may seem like a small-scale initiative at the moment, but it lays the groundwork for large-scale implications. Could Bitcoin’s mining operations one day help heat villages, support food industries, or even power entire cities? The opportunities appear viable.

In the meantime, don’t blame Bitcoin for its energy consumption. Encourage it, because it can be the way to a more sustainable future.

This is a guest article by Marco Streng. The opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.


About Author

Comments are closed.