Old coal plant is now mining bitcoin for a utility company

Old coal plant is now mining bitcoin for a utility company

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty)

Bitcoin’s massive power consumption is the cryptocurrency’s dirty secret. To mine bitcoin, computers across the globe chew through enough electricity to power a medium size country, somewhere on the order of the Netherlands or Poland depending on the estimate.

In fact, electricity has become such a significant factor that one private equity firm bought an entire power plant to mine bitcoin. The company, Greenidge Generation, said at one point that they could mine one bitcoin for less than $3,000. Even today—at $40,000 per bitcoin, some 30 percent off its peak—the potential for profit is real.

Which is why an investor-owned utility has dropped a containerized data center outside a coal-fired power plant 10 miles north of St. Louis. Ameren, the utility, was struggling to keep the 1,099 MW power plant running profitably when wholesale electricity prices dropped. But it wasn’t well suited to running only when demand was high, so-called peaker duty. Instead, they’re experimenting with running it full-time and using the excess electricity to mine bitcoin.

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