Over the past few years, some bitcoin enthusiasts have found ways to use renewable energy sources such as solar power to mitigate electrical costs associated with mining the decentralised cryptocurrency.
It’s a well-known fact that bitcoin mining consumes energy. Many people don’t realize the global cost to run the Bitcoin network, with electricity costs at millions of dollars every year. Some believe this has led to a concentration of miners in countries where electricity is significantly cheaper, like in China. It is said that mining has also resulted in larger facilities leading the race to mine bitcoins, while smaller home-based miners are typically pushed out of the competition. However, some individuals and pools have found ways to compete by offsetting the cost of electricity by utilizing renewable energy sources.
Solar Energy and Bitcoin Mining
There have been a bunch of miners over the years who have harnessed energy from the sun to fuel their mining operations. Solar energy is a technique that uses radiant light to create electrical power, and has been used by humans powering devices since around 1880. Many people have mined bitcoin using the sun’s energy, as discussions of miners using solar power to mine can be found online dating back to 2012, and every year after.
On July 1, 2012, a forum conversation on Bitcointalk.org revealed how some miners were mining bitcoins with solar power.
“I have a 1.7kw off the grid solar power setup where I am, it’s a remote mining town in Lightning Ridge Australia,” explains a bitcoin miner in 2012. “You couldn’t run a GPU farm economically, but FPGAs work fine. I get 1.5GH/sec at 100w from the FPGAs and 350MH/sec at 100w from the GPU. I also have wireless internet, so I’m not connected to any form of power or land line internet.
The Solar Mining Farm Guide
In 2013 a bitcoin enthusiast started an interesting conversation when he published a guide to building a solar powered mining-plant. Throughout the post, a few other individual bitcoiners revealed they were also utilizing solar power to mine. However, many of them affirmed some of the initial costs of buying or building solar panels for bitcoin mining can be costly and a person must wait to achieve a return on their investment.
‘Solar Electricity Artificially Increases Efficiency’
During the summer of 2015, a bitcoin miner from Europe revealed his solar powered bitcoin mining farm on Youtube. The miner said it cost him roughly £1000, but the panels were paid for with bitcoins he mined the year before.
“As the majority of the equipment was paid for with mined bitcoin and by selling off obsolete mining equipment, the initial outlay wasn’t too painful,” details the solar mining farm owner. “The Antminer cost me about £100 used, not $500. The S3 is effectively obsolete but off-setting its power consumption by using the free solar electricity artificially increases its efficiency. Meaning, the system does make a profit, yes. As it generates more bitcoin than it uses in power. Just not a very big margin, only a few pounds a month. But I was never in this project to make money by mining.”
The Green Energy Mining Project
Another small solar mining operation was built this year by the bitcoin club Nastymining. The organization is well-known within the crypto-community with its mining pool and physical coin mint. Nastymining partnered with the solar energy company Sunpower to power some of their Bitmain Antminers located in the facility. Also, the cryptocurrency exchange Yobit also donated a wind turbine to the mining project.
“Yobit has generously agreed to sponsor Nastymining by donating enough BTC to purchase a wind turbine and bring our total green energy system to over 10kw. Since we will be generating electricity through wind and solar power,” explains the Operator of Nastymining.
Renewable Energy Mining Is Good for the Planet
Solar energy could give individual miners and smaller mining organizations the ability to get back into the competitive mining industry. Solar power is just one type of the renewable energy resources bitcoin miners are utilizing today. Miners have learned to harness geothermal power in Iceland, and some miners are using hydropower for large mining warehouses in China. Not only do advocates believe renewable energy is cheaper but they also believe utilizing methods like solar and wind is better for the earth in the long run as well.