There’s no denying that over the past couple of years, the narrative that Bitcoin (BTC) consumes too much power has continued to garner an increasing amount of mainstream traction. However, what sometimes gets ignored is that in recent months, an increasing number of Bitcoin miners have moved toward the use of power sources driven primarily by renewable energy.
To expound further on the subject, it should be noted that a number of studies, including one that was released recently by Cambridge University, revealed that more than 75% of all miners operating today make use of renewable sources to power their day-to-day operations.
In this regard, MintGreen, a Canada-based cleantech cryptocurrency miner, recently announced that it had entered into an agreement with Lonsdale Energy Corporation to supply heat generated from BTC mining to the residents of North Vancouver in British Columbia by the start of 2022.
To elaborate on the deal, a spokesperson for MintGreen recently said that the company’s digital boilers are capable of recovering more than 96% of the electricity that it uses for Bitcoin mining purposes. As a result of such a setup, the firm will reportedly be able to prevent 20,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases per megawatt from entering the atmosphere per annum.
Not only that, but MintGreen also claims that the harvested energy can and will be used to provide heat to a total of 100 residential and commercial buildings in a Canadian city, which per recent census data currently houses a population of around 155,000 individuals.
But could this be just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how the crypto industry can impact the environment in a positive way?
Renewables as a game-changer
Providing his thoughts on the matter, Colin Sullivan, CEO of MintGreen, said that his company’s partnership with Lonsdale seeks to help mitigate and tackle a number of issues related to climate change that people have tended to associate with various crypto mining activities.
Zach Bradford, CEO of CleanSpark — a sustainable Bitcoin mining and energy technology company — told Cointelegraph that the relationship between energy generation and Bitcoin mining will continue to deepen and expand over the coming decade, adding that there are a lot of stranded energy assets in North America that Bitcoin mining is particularly suited to make use of. He then went on to add:
“There are power plants that are currently too far from large metro areas to be efficient during regular demand. A Bitcoin miner can partner with the community to conserve that energy by using it to mine Bitcoin and send excess energy to other parts of the grid.”
When questioned about the long-term viability of a setup such as the one proposed by MintGreen, he opined that it depends entirely from company to company, stating that there are two scenarios that can be used to expand upon the subject: “In one scenario, Bitcoin miners set up shop where there is excess energy — i.e., where energy is already being lost. Mining takes those stranded electrons and converts them into something useful — ala Bitcoin.” In the second scenario for Bradford, “Bitcoin miners increase the total energy generation in a particular area,” he added.
And while the latter may result in a “loss” of energy for mining, according to Bradford, there is usually much more total energy available when such a setup is involved. Therefore, in case one’s local power infrastructure needs that extra energy — for heating or cooling homes during peak periods — it is possible for grids to harness this excess electricity in order to satisfy the demand of their users.
Bitcoin’s future is becoming increasingly green
In Bradford’s view, Bitcoin mining is the first meaningful investment in decades that is designed to help bolster North America’s existing energy infrastructure because he believes that Bitcoin not only increases energy consumption across areas where it is being mined but also improves upon that region’s energy generation capabilities, adding:
“This is a key aspect that is sometimes lost in the ideological struggle. North America’s energy consumption is going to grow a lot over the next decade as electric vehicles become more mainstream. In California, EVs are already straining the state’s power grid. California’s present is North America’s future.”
In this regard, one can see that Bitcoin mining incentivizes energy development and generation, with almost everyone involved — not just miners — standing to gain from this evolution. “We’re in for a wild ride as global climate goals, greater energy demand from electric vehicles and monetary policy all collide with Bitcoin at the center of it,” Bradford closed out by saying.
Similarly, providing his thoughts on the subject, Samir Tabar, chief strategy officer of Bit Digital — a Bitcoin miner listed on the Nasdaq — told Cointelegraph that Bitcoin miners are and were criticized over the environmental toll from mining. However, the reality today is that Bitcoin miners have become the vanguard in showing innovation and creativity in leveraging sustainable practices. “This experiment with North Vancouver is an illustrative example of that ingenuity,” he noted.
Crypto’s walk toward a more sustainable future
Per a report released in December 2020, it is estimated that real estate building operations and their associated construction-related activities currently account for a whopping 38% of all carbon dioxide emissions taking place in urban areas. Therefore, the narrative that crypto mining alone is quickly becoming one of the largest contributors to today’s global warming could be skewed.
To elaborate further, one study suggests that hydroelectric power is the most common source of energy for miners presently, with a staggering 62% of all mining farm operators reportedly making use of hydroelectricity to facilitate their day-to-day operations — with exhaustible sources such as coal and natural gas taking the second and third spots at 38% and 36%, respectively, followed by wind and solar energy.
Also, with companies like MintGreen now modernizing their mining rigs at an increasingly rapid pace, it stands to reason that more firms and people will look to turn toward various crypto mining operations to meet their power and heating needs in the near future. In fact, MintGreen has already teamed up with the Vancouver Island Sea Salt facility and the Canadian whiskey company Shelter Point Distillery to start selling its excess heat energy by 2022.
As the industry attempts to move closer to a greener future, it appears as though many standards surrounding carbon neutrality are becoming a norm for the crypto mining industry. To put things into perspective, data suggests that gold mining is more resource-exhaustive than BTC. Similarly, it is estimated that flare gas waste can power the entire BTC network 6.2 times over, which just goes to show that crypto miners could turn out to be part of a solution when it comes to wasted energy.
Lastly, as pointed out previously, a growing list of mining firms have adopted strategies that have enabled them to become “climate positive” for Scope 1, 2 and 3 greenhouse gas emissions.