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Bitcoin’s massive power consumption is cryptocurrency’s dirty secret. To mine bitcoin, computers across the globe chew through enough electricity to power a medium-size country, somewhere on the order of the Netherlands or Poland depending on the estimate.
In fact, electricity has become such a significant factor that one private equity firm owns a power plant to mine bitcoin. The company, Greenidge Generation, said at one point that it could mine one bitcoin for less than $3,000. Even today—at $40,000 per bitcoin, some 30 percent off its peak—the potential for profit is real.
Which is why an investor-owned utility has dropped a containerized data center outside a coal-fired power plant 10 miles north of St. Louis. Ameren, the utility, was struggling to keep the 1,099 MW power plant running profitably when wholesale electricity prices dropped. But it
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