A decade ago, the bankrupt owner of the Greenidge power plant in Dresden, New York, sold the uncompetitive coal-fired relic for scrap and surrendered its operating permits. For the next seven years, the plant sat idle on the western shore of Seneca Lake, a monument to the apparent dead end reached by the state’s fossil fuel infrastructure. But today, Greenidge is back up and running as a Bitcoin mining operation. The facility hums with energy-hungry computers that confirm and record Bitcoin transactions, drawing power from the plant’s 106-megawatt generator now fueled by natural gas.
The mining activity is exceptionally profitable, thanks to an 800 percent rise in Bitcoin’s price since last April. Seeking to ride the boom, the plant’s new owners plan to quadruple the power used to process Bitcoin transactions by late next year. Environmental advocates view Greenidge’s ambitions, if left unchecked, as an air emissions nightmare. And they fear that dozens of other retired or retiring fossil-fueled power plants across New York could follow Greenidge’s example, gaining new life by repurposing as Bitcoin miners or other types of energy-intense data centers.
The New York Times recently touted an alternative to bitcoin mining: the “proof of stake” method, which “instead awards miners new blocks based on how much cryptocurrency they already own.”
The world’s second-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, Ethereum, has said it is moving toward proof of stake (that switch is likely to take up to another year). Though some critics say Bitcoin will eventually need to follow, particularly if an environmental backlash grows, there are no current plans to do so and such a move is unpopular within the Bitcoin community.
“That reduces your emissions to almost nothing,” said Joseph Pallant, Blockchain for Climate’s founder and executive director. Cryptocurrency platforms like Tezos or Near Protocol already use proof of stake and have vastly lowered their energy use.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.