As more and more people jump into the world of Bitcoin, the associated environmental impacts are increasingly taking center stage. Every year, the network of computers powering the cryptocurrency uses about 145 terawatt-hours of electricity, the same amount of power consumed by the entire state of Washington. With environmental experts advocating for reductions in the use of natural resources and investment in clean technology, the question remains: is there a way to make the mining of cryptocurrency more sustainable?
“Greening” Bitcoin Mining: Renewable Energy Credits and Beyond
Over the past few years, innovators from around the world have been hard at work developing and launching creative solutions to make Bitcoin mining “greener”. These include renewable energy credits, tokenizing clean Bitcoin, more efficient cooling systems and software providing better management of grid participation and heat reuse activities. But, there’s still a long way to go before Power Hungry Bitcoin mining can become a carbon-neutral industry.
Renewable energy credits (RECs) are one area of impact that offers a degree of sustainability to the industry. Basically, a REC gives the holder the right to claim ownership of the environmental benefits of electricity generated from renewable sources. The idea is that the owner of a REC can then sell or trade it to other businesses looking to meet their renewable requirements. While a well-designed system could be a great way for miners to offset their carbon footprint, RECs can also be expensive for miners.
Rewarding Clean Power Miners with TCB
Another creative solution is to Tokenize Clean Bitcoin (TCB). This approach grows from the premise of “proof of stake” mining, which is more energy efficient than “proof of work” mining. In the process, miners committed to using clean power are rewarded with their own “cleaner” version of the cryptocurrency. By incentivising miners to switch to renewable energy sources, the effect of “dirty” BTC could be mitigated. That said, there could be a few hurdles to getting TCB off the ground. After all, there’s no guarantee that miners will take the incentive—especially while Bitcoin prices are still high.
TCB Alternatives: Cooling Systems & Waste Heat Recovery
In addition to TCB, there are other infrastructure-level solutions available too. For instance, cooling systems can be designed to be more energy efficient, reducing the amount of power needed to run the computers powering Bitcoin. This could help to reduce or at least offset the energy used in processing Bitcoin transactions.
At the same time, software can be used to provide better management of grid participation and heat reuse activities. By balancing grid supply and demand, and then chill air output from computer to be used in space cooling systems. This is known as “waste heat recovery” and can be used to offset a part of the total energy consumed by Bitcoin mining operations.
Sustainable Crypto Mining: Challenges & Solutions
These innovative solutions offer potential for cryptocurrency mining to become more sustainable, but each individual method comes with its own unique set of challenges. For one, the cost of renewable energy credits can be prohibitively expensive for miners. Additionally, the costs associated with creating and maintaining the necessary infrastructure for waste heat recovery systems could be get very expensive—making it a nonviable solution for some miners.
Exploring Renewable Solutions for Bitcoin Mining Sustainability
The conversation is far from over when it comes to Bitcoin mining and sustainability, but data shows that the global mining industry is gradually transitioning to renewable energy sources. While such data suggests that overall mining of the cryptocurrency is becoming more sustainable, miners and other industry players must continue to push for innovative solutions in order to reduce their environmental impact. Renewable energy credits, tokenizing clean bitcoin, efficient cooling systems and software for better management of grid participation and heat reuse activities are just a few creative solutions that may lead the way forward. With the continuing controversy of cryptocurrency mining’s effects on the environment, and the impetus to achieve greater sustainability, the exploration of these solutions is more important than ever.
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