Bitcoin-mining power plant raises ire of environmentalists

Finding enough energy to power the massive, powerful computer arrays that create and trade cryptocurrency is a major obstacle to large-scale Bitcoin mining. One central New York mining operation came up with an innovative solution that alarms environmentalists. It has its own power plant.

Bitcoin-mining power plant raises ire of environmentalists

Finding enough energy to power the massive, powerful computer arrays that create and trade cryptocurrency is a major obstacle to large-scale Bitcoin mining. One central New York mining operation came up with an innovative solution that alarms environmentalists. It has its own power plant.

Greenidge Generation operates a once-mothballed facility near Seneca Lake in Finger Lakes. It produces about 44 megawatts of electricity to power 15,300 computers. The plant also sends additional electricity into the state's grid. Bitcoin could be able to supply enough electricity to power 35,000 homes with the megawatts it has been allocated.

It is a way for people to earn more cryptocurrency by mining them competitively, and without draining the existing power grid.

The plant is seen by environmentalists as a climate risk.

They are concerned about a new wave of fossil-fuel plants that will produce greenhouse gases more for their private profit than the public good. They see Greenidge's fate as a test case and ask the state to deny the renewal of the plant’s air quality permit.

Earthjustice's Liz Moran stated that "the current state of our climate requires action on cryptocurrency mining." "We are jeopardizing our state's ability to meet our climate goals and we have set the stage for other parts of the country."

In a touristy area known for its riesling wines and glacial lakes, the former coal plant was converted to natural gas by Greenidge. It began producing electricity in 2017. The plant has a capacity of 106 megawatts and Bitcoin mining began in earnest last. According to the company, it is "bringing a part of the world's future digital" to upstate New York.

Greenidge stated in a prepared statement that "for decades, this area has been told it will see new industries opportunities." "We are making it happen and we do it within the state's high environmental standards."

By solving unique, complex puzzles, bitcoin miners can unlock bitcoins. The puzzles get more complicated as Bitcoin's value increases, so it takes more computing power to solve them. There are many estimates of how much energy Bitcoin consumes.

Greenidge claimed it had mined 729 Bitcoins in the three months ended Sept. 30. Although cryptocurrency's value fluctuates, Friday saw one bitcoin worth $59,000.

Opponents are annoyed that Greenidge applied for a power plant, but now operate a mine that takes up more power.

Greenidge claims that mining was not included in the original plan for the plant's return to operation. They also note that they still provide power to the grid. Greenidge stated that 58% of the power it generated was used for mining between January and June.

It is seen by supporters as an economic boon for a region of upstate New York which could benefit from the assistance. At a public hearing, Douglas Paddock (chairman of Yates County Legislature) testified that the plant brought 45 high-paying jobs to the region and made a "significant contribution", through capital investments and tax payments.

One of the main objections to the plant is the possible effects of water withdrawals from Seneca Lake. The state Department of Environmental Conservation has been reviewing the plant's air emission permits.

Greenidge stated that it is in compliance with permits. The plant is also 100% carbon neutral thanks to the purchase carbon offsets such as forestry programs or projects that capture methane out of landfills.

Opponents argue that the plant is a hindrance to the state's efforts in reducing greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade under its 2019 climate law.

This week, a large coalition of environmental organizations and other organizations asked Gov. Kathy Hochul was asked by a large coalition of environmental groups and other organizations to deny Greenidge an air permit. She also requested that a similar action be taken to prevent a Buffalo plant from becoming a mine site. Hochul should set a precedent and place a statewide moratorium against the "proof-of work" cryptocurrency that is used by bitcoin miners.

According to environmentalists, there are approximately 30 plants in New York that could potentially be used for mining.

"I think this plant is a significant testing for whether the state’s climate law really is worth anything," stated Judith Enck who was the EPA's regional northeastern U.S administrator under President Barack Obama.

Sens. Sens. Chuck Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand and Kirsten Glibrand each separately requested that the federal Environmental Protection Agency exercise oversight.

There are many power plants around the country that can be used to mine cryptocurrency under various arrangements.

A generation plant that turns coal waste into electricity is located in Venango County, Pennsylvania. It can be used to mine Bitcoins and provide electricity to the grid. Stronghold Digital Mining plans to replicate this type of operation at two additional locations in Pennsylvania.

A Montana coal-fired generating plant is providing 100 percent of its energy to Marathon Digital Holdings under a power purchase arrangement for bitcoin mining.

Marathon CEO Fred Thiel stated that they had done the same thing as many miners, which was to find an industrial building and set it up for mining. Then, you contract for electricity from the grid. "And we wanted that model to be turned upside down because there are many underutilized energy sources in the U.S."

Thiel stated that harmful emissions are very low due to the quality of the coal used and the pollution control measures. The plant will be carbon offset by next year. Thiel stated that his company is focusing on renewable energy and that cryptocurrency miners could provide financial incentives for more clean energy projects.

New York has not yet made a decision on Greenidge’s permits.

Greenidge stated that even at full capacity, the plant's potential emissions would equal 0.2% of the state’s greenhouse gas emission reduction target for 2030.

Basil Seggos, the state's Environmental Commissioner, tweeted last month that Greenidge had not demonstrated compliance with NY's climate laws. This tweet was based on goals set out in that law.

Seggos stated in a prepared statement that New York is leading in climate change. "We have major concerns about cryptocurrency mining's potential contribution to generating additional greenhouse gases emissions."

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