Old gas power plant as a Bitcoin mining farm: residents fear environmental damage

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A gas-fired power plant that has been put back into operation as a Bitcoin mining farm is causing an ongoing dispute in the US town of Dresden in the state of New York. Local residents are protesting and are currently accusing the operators, among other things, of the fact that the facility, known as the Greenidge Power Plant, heats up the nearby Lake Seneca by using water that is taken in for cooling and then discharged again.

“The lake is so warm, you feel like you are in a whirlpool”, quoted the US broadcaster NBC a resident. The Environmental protection organization Earth Justice criticized, the heated water would kill the local trout and promote harmful algae growth. The operators reject this, according to NBC. The current operating license stipulates that Greenidge may lead water into the lake at the equivalent of up to 42 degrees Celsius in summer and up to 30 degrees in winter. According to Greenidge, it is well below that. “The environmental impact of the power plant has never been as good as it is now,” said Jeff Kirt, head of the operating company.

The decommissioned power plant was bought by the private equity company Atlas Holdings in 2014, converted to run on natural gas in 2017 and then put back into operation. In 2019, the idea came up not only to feed the generated energy into the power grid, but also to use it for mining computers directly in the plant. The apparently very profitable Bitcoin mining data center has been in operation since the beginning of 2020, and a major expansion is planned.

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According to NBC, around 8,000 mining computers are in operation around the clock and spewing out hash values. According to the operator, the hashing performance as of March was around 1.1 exahash / s, with 19 megawatts of power plant capacity available for the electricity requirement. The aim is to achieve 2.6 exahash / s by 2022 and expand the power plant to 106 megawatts, and even to 500 megawatts by 2025. Since electricity and bitcoin mining come from a single source, mining is particularly cheap: As of February 2021, 1186 bitcoins were generated within a year at an average cost of 2869 US dollars per coin. The Bitcoin rate is currently around $ 34,000.

Die CO2Emissions were 243,103 tons last year, according to the NBC report. The Greenidge operators refer to itthat they have been responsible for 100 percent of their CO since June2-Bought emissions certificates. They see themselves as climate-neutral and also want to support projects for renewable energies.

Criticism of the business model has already come from various quarters. Among other things, environmental activists had already in April in a letter to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo about the CO2-Emission from the power plant complained. They also warned that this business model could set an example: There are around 30 old, fossil fuel power plants in the state that could be brought back into operation in a similar way.

So far, it is estimated that up to two thirds of Bitcoin mining has taken place in China. Since the Chinese authorities cracked down on it, a prospecting exodus to other countries has been looming. Among other things, the mining industry in the USA now seems to be booming. Politicians from various states such as Texas and Wyoming have already distinguished themselves with Bitcoin-friendliness and advertised the settlement of mining farms, including Senator Cynthia Lummis (Republican).

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In the state of New York and thus also on Lake Seneca, on the other hand, the new mining boom could come to an end very quickly: A legislative proposal introduced in May provides for a three-year cessation of operations for crypto-money mining farms. During the period of this moratorium, an investigation by the local environmental authority should clarify the effects of coin mining. Only then could mining plants receive an operating permit. The proposal has currently already been approved by the state Senate and is now before the House of Commons for a vote.


(axk)

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