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Bitcoin driving huge electricity demand, environmental impact

In a normal year, demand for electric power in Chelan County grows by perhaps 4 megawatts ­­— enough for around 2,250 homes — as new residents arrive and as businesses start or expand. But since January 2017, as Bitcoin enthusiasts bid up the price of the currency, eager miners have requested a staggering 210 megawatts for mines they want to build in Chelan County. That’s nearly as much as the county and its 73,000 residents were already using. And because it is a public utility, the PUD staff is obligated to consider every request.

The scale of some new requests is mind-boggling. Until recently, the largest mines in Chelan County used five megawatts or less. In the past six months, by contrast, miners have requested loads of 50 megawatts and, in several cases, 100 megawatts. By comparison, a fruit warehouse uses around 2.5 megawatts.

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Energy riches fuel bitcoin craze for speculation-shy Iceland

Iceland is expected to use more energy ‘mining’ bitcoins and other virtual currencies this year than it uses to power its homes.

With massive amounts of electricity needed to run the computers that create bitcoins, large virtual currency companies have established a base in the North Atlantic island nation blessed with an abundance of ‘renewable energy.’

The energy demand has developed because of the soaring cost of producing and collecting virtual currencies. Computers are used to make the complex calculations that verify a running ledger of all the transactions in virtual currencies around the world.

Among the main attractions of setting up bitcoin mines at the edge of the Arctic Circle is the natural cooling for computer servers and the competitive prices for Iceland’s abundance of renewable energy from geothermal and hydroelectric power plants.

Johann Snorri Sigurbergsson, a business development manager at the energy company Hitaveita Sudurnesja, said he expected Iceland’s virtual currency mining to double its energy consumption to about 100 megawatts this year. That is more than households use on the island nation of 340,000, according to Iceland’s National Energy Authority.

Pirate Party legislator McCarthy has questioned the value of bitcoin mining for Icelandic society, saying residents should consider regulating and taxing the emerging industry.

“We are spending tens or maybe hundreds of megawatts on producing something that has no tangible existence and no real use for humans outside the realm of financial speculation,” he said. “That can’t be good.”