Bitcoin mining consumes a huge amount of electricity. That’s no secret. Many a would-be miner has been stopped in their tracks by the prospect of a utility bill superseding their profits. But simply mining in locations with cheaper power, such as parts of Canada, Eastern Europe, or China, isn’t the solution either, since cryptocurrency mining still drains the earth’s resources, whether it’s expensive or not.
Sustainable mining, then, isn’t only about finding countries giving their electricity away for next to nothing, or that are cold enough to absorb the heat generated by Bitcoin mining systems. It’s not only about using renewable energy sources, either, according to Blue Chip Vision’s Director of Research and Innovation, Christine Satchell, Ph.D.
This is logically the first area that comes to mind when you think about sustainable mining. After all, what’s to stop people from mining away if all the power sources are renewable and don’t have negative effects on the earth? Take Canada, for example. The Coinsquare exchange has several thousand miners in the Quebec area, using hydro energy.
CEO Cole Diamond says, “Quebec is incredibly attractive because of the cheap renewable energy. Canada in general, we’re an enormous country with not a lot of people and extra power.”
This is making Canada one of the leading players in the sustainable mining space. While other countries, like Georgia, are making huge moves toward blockchain tech and mining, they can’t offer the same political stability as Canada.
Taking Mining Off the Grid
While Canada may have some inexpensive renewable energy going unused, according to Satchell, “renewable energy sources are often expensive and bulky,” and this problem needs to be addressed.
Blue Chip Vision is working on technologies that extend the concept of blockchain beyond the digital realm and take mining off the grid. According to Managing Director Robert Masters, “This more holistic approach considers the hardware and infrastructure, as well as the power needed to run it as integral parts of cryptocurrency’s sustainable future.”
He says that the company “ensures mining sustainability and off-grid operations, minus the resource consumption and energy costs associated with common data center operations.”
In fact, off-the-grid mining can reduce resource consumption and associated power costs by up to 90 percent.
The Power Balance of Bitcoin Miners
“The huge cost of powering Bitcoin mining systems also means that individuals are pushed out of the Bitcoin mining process, which is against Bitcoin’s decentralized nature,” Satchell points out. This effectively centralizes a decentralized ecosystem.
“When an abundance of miners from global locations contribute time and hash power to a protocol, or a lack of consensus occurs on the future direction or use of the network. A Bitcoin fork is an example. This not only has the ability to reduce or enhance the network’s value, it can erode the perceived integrity of the network and calls into question its long-term viability and brand value. It also places an immense amount of power in the hands of few.”
Ensuring that mining doesn’t end up in the hands of a select few who can access or afford the necessary power, Blue Chip Vision argues, is equally as important as ensuring that Bitcoin mining doesn’t have negative effects on the environment.
So, beyond solar panels, wind farms, and hydro, in order to mine sustainably moving forward, we must be sure to stay within Bitcoin’s founding ethos of being open to all.