Green Mining in a Growing Decentralized World
7 November 2018
Jordan Cumming

There is a lot going on with mining including disruptions to the mining payoffs and potential issues with centralized mining pools.  Not dissimilar to other blockchain markets such as ICOs or scaling solutions for major blockchains, mining is also in an innovative stage.  Issues such as the environmental impact of large mining facilities are being complemented by the “green energy” movement.

Crypto-mining is getting out of control when considering the extensive use of energy required to solve these increasingly more difficult optimization problems.  As the hash difficulty increase, the amount of energy required also increases.  Proof of Work algorithms have proven to be expensive to verify—but that doesn’t mean companies are finding ways to cut the energy costs and cut the negative environmental impacts.  The blockchain mining community is taking climate change dead seriously, and here are some energy sources they are interested in.

Solar/Wind/Geothermal Energy

Solar power has become a fascinating way to generate electricity without burning fossil fuels.  The biggest problem in the past with solar technology were the costs associated with it.  It used to be very expensive to install solar panels.  An even more delicate issue was the storing of excess power for later use.  Storage is still an issue and also presents environmentally unfriendly components.  Solar is still on the rise in the crypto-mining operations, however, unfortunately, the sun doesn’t always shine.  In places that it does, a different energy-extensive problem is exposed and that is the cooling of mining rigs.   Still, mining companies are using Solar energy to power their mining operations.

Wind Power is also a familiar process of green energy generation.  Similar to solar and the sun, wind power needs wind!  Additionally, the wind turbines aren’t as efficient as one would hope to expect, and the longevity of the turbines is, to say the least quite sad.  Technology changes will be expected in the future, but as of now, the wind is not the best form of renewable energy to utilize in mining operations.

Geothermal energy seems to not get a lot of attention in terms of energy generation, however, it is one of the better solutions that exist today!  Geothermal is a great renewable source that can provide a steady and constant flow of energy.  Exogenous factors such as sunlight or wind aren’t a prerequisite for energy production.  The main issue with geothermal (besides the expensive initial costs) is that it is only prevalent in specific locations.  The decentralized aspect that solar and wind provide is much greater than geothermal.

Hydro/Tidal

It goes without saying that Hydro-electric power has been a game changer for high output energy production.  The energy production is constant and cheap to produce all else given.  The main issue with hydro is that the start-up costs are high, and it is location specific.  On top of that, there are environmental issues with ecosystem destruction, but those issues are minimizing more and more as technology increases.

An obvious issue with tidal energy is the location-specific aspect, and also high costs associated with the entry.  However, this is becoming a very attractive solution due to the large energy productive coasts and its inherent vastness.  It is no secret that most of the world’s population live within reach of the oceans or large bodies of water, so why not use those tidal forces for the forces of good?  Tidal energy is still somewhat of a new concept, but the grasp is enormous. This might be a major player as an energy provider to crypto-mining facilities.

Just a side note—one of the big problems with location-specific energy sources is the energy loss from long grid commutes.  The energy that has to travel long distances to its destination will lose a lot of the efficiency, making it costlier to produce.  Due to this, it seems that the utilization of multiple forms of green-energy sources is a primary option.

The future of crypto-mining is bright.  It is also green.  The culture in the blockchain community has made that very clear.  Don’t get me wrong, there is an aspect of the cryptocurrency mining field that is scary (mining concentration, the emergence of PoS, etc.) but overall it is an optimistic sector in technology to get into.

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