The large amounts of electricity needed to mine bitcoin have sparked a debate over whether the energy behind the operation is worth the potential environmental cost.
But one company in western Pennsylvania believes they have found a way to put crypto-mining to work to clean up their community.
Stronghold Digital Mining uses waste left behind by decades-old coal-fired power plants to generate electricity that drives hundreds of supercomputers working to mine bitcoin.
Bitcoin, the world’s largest peer-to-peer digital currency, is issued through a process called mining, which requires computers to solve complex puzzles in exchange for the virtual currency. Powering those computers involves large amounts of electricity – in fact, more electricity is used annually to create bitcoin than is used throughout the country of Finland.
“The bitcoin mining network itself is the largest decentralized computer network in the world, and it’s power hungry, so it makes a lot of sense to find bitcoin mining and a power plant together,” said Greg Beard, CEO of Stronghold.
Coal ash, the by-product left over from burning coal to produce electricity, can leach into groundwater and contaminate waterways, and contains heavy metals that are considered carcinogens.
Stronghold collects coal ash from a nearby mine and processes it at a waste coal processing facility. After the coal ash is sorted and crushed, it goes to a boiler building where it is burned to generate the electricity to power the company’s bitcoin mining industry.
“I think it’s a perfect niche for crypto,” says Bill Spence, co-chair of Stronghold Digital Mining.