Data: Cryptomining capacity to rival Houston’s energy use
Seven of the largest bitcoin mining companies in the United States are set up to use nearly as much electricity as all the homes in Houston, according to data disclosed as part of an investigation by congressional Democrats who say miners should be required to report their energy use.
The United States has seen an influx of cryptocurrency miners, who use energy-hungry computers to create and track the virtual currencies, after China cracked down on the practice last year.
Democrats led by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren are also calling for the companies to report their emissions of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas that is the main driver of climate change.
“This limited data alone reveals that cryptominers are large energy users that account for a significant — and rapidly growing — amount of carbon emissions,” Warren and five other members of Congress wrote in a letter to the heads of the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy.
Research has shown that a surge in cryptomining is also significantly raising energy costs for local residents and small businesses, and has added to the strain on the power grid in states like Texas, the letter noted.
Cryptocurrencies have grown exponentially since they were introduced more than a decade ago, and in recent years, so have concerns over cryptomining, the process of creating a virtual coin.
Earlier this year, a group of congressional Democrats launched an investigation into energy use at the country’s largest cryptomining companies. They asked seven such firms for data on their operations, and
the group’s findings, issued Friday, are based on the companies’ responses.
That data showed that the seven companies had set up to tap as much as 1,045 megawatts of power, or enough electricity to power all the residences in a city the size of Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city with 2.3 million residents. The companies also said that they plan to expand their capacity at an eye-popping rate.
One of the largest U.S. cryptomining companies, Marathon Digital Holdings, said it operated almost 33,000 highly specialized “mining rigs,” as of February, up from just over 2,000 at the start of 2021. By early next year, it intends to get that number up to 199,000 rigs, it said.
The company operates a cryptomining center powered by the Hardin Generating Station in Montana, which generates electricity by burning coal.
But in April, Marathon announced that it would be moving those operations to “new locations with more sustainable
sources of power” and that the company was moving toward achieving carbon neutrality. It did not provide further details.
Greenidge Generation Holdings, which operates a bitcoin mining center powered by a natural gas plant in upstate New York, said it expected to ramp up its mining capacity tenfold in multiple locations, including in South Carolina and Texas, by 2025. But New York last month refused to renew an air pollution permit for the facility, calling Greenidge’s cryptomining operations a threat to the state’s goals to limit emissions of greenhouse gases to fight climate change. Greenidge has said it could continue to operate under its current permit while it challenged the state’s decision.
Overall, the biggest seven cryptomining companies expected to increase their total mining capacity by at least 2,399 megawatts in the coming years, an increase of nearly 230% from current levels, and enough energy to power 1.9 million residences.