A recent study revealed that the total energy utilized for bitcoin mining is comparable to the total energy consumption of a country like Ireland. Closer to home, this year Hydro-Québec was allowed to charge a higher price to miners after noticing abnormal trends in power usage.
But why does crypto mining consume so much energy? The blockchain technology that cryptocurrency is built on is decentralized. This means that unlike a traditional currency that’s backed by a central bank, cryptos run on a network of users to form a ‘chain’. The complex computations required to process a transaction between these users is what consumes such a substantial amount of energy.
Think of a video game where you have to solve a really hard puzzle to get to the next level. Miners go through a similar process with their devices for which the end prize would be a bitcoin. As the popularity of the digital currency grows, so the does the complexity of the computation, and subsequently the energy required to perform the computations.
And the byproduct of all those hyper-speed calculations is the intense heat given off by the servers.
Some creative miners have found ways of redirecting this excess heat to save a few bucks, which can actually result in not having to pay for heat at all.
With growing concerns of sustainable living, environmentally conscious miners are coming up with innovative ways to harness the excess heat produced by mining rigs. While some are growing tomatoes, others are building home radiators, breeding fish, dehydrating berries, heating bath-tubs and the list goes on.
Meet the guy redefining the term “crypto-farming”
Rahdi Fakhoury, who started off as a home miner, has used the excess heat produced from his mining rigs to heat his house for the last four years. He soon realized that this system could be put to use in other ways.
He is now the founder and CEO of Foleum, an innovative blockchain mining project that uses hybrid renewable energy sources such as wind and solar to power a cryptocurrency mining farm, which in turn produces excess heat that is reclaimed and redirected to a greenhouse.
Rahdi’s plan was to combine his passions: energy efficiency and cryptocurrency mining.
“I am very confident in the future of cryptocurrency. I don’t see it going anywhere,” he says. “We need to make ways of making it sustainable.”
“A 50,000 square foot data centre with constantly working mining rigs means that it gets pretty hot,” says Rahdi. Reclaiming this heat in combination with a hybrid cooling system provides the optimum temperature for fish farming as well as growing plants in a greenhouse.
This cyclical system is also able to maintain constant temperatures throughout the facility with the use of immersion cooling technology, as well as geothermal dissipated energy. The nitrate rich water in which he breeds Tilapia is fed into the plants in his greenhouse, making it 100 per cent organic.
Looking ahead, Foleum aims to work with food co-ops to be able to supply produce to local food banks and soup kitchens for free.
“The amount of energy required to run the facility could range from 1 to 35 mega watts a day,” says Rahdi. An average Canadian household consumes around 20 mega watts a year, according to a survey.
“If blockchain evolves and stabilizes over the next 20 years, we would be able to keep up and evolve with it,” Rahdi adds. “This project is a meant to be a sustainable concept that can be copied and mirrored around the world in different locations.”