– Even though energy-hungry Bitcoin mining companies have volunteered to power down in Texas this week to alleviate the stress placed on the grid by a searing heatwave, the industry could still trigger more problems down the line if it continues its explosive expansion in the state.
– Higher electricity bills and even more carbon dioxide emissions could be on the way for Texans, despite crypto mining industry claims that it can spur the growth of affordable renewable energy. The problem is the Bitcoin networks enormous demand for electricity, which is spiking faster than the grid can reasonably keep up with.
– Crypto mining is set to increase demand on the grid by a whopping 27 gigawatts by 2026, a spokesperson for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) told The Verge in an email.
– On July 12th, during the heatwave, the state hit a record. More than 78 gigawatts of electricity were needed to meet peak demand, according to ERCOT. The power grid in Texas can currently supply a maximum of about 92 gigawatts of electricity.
– There are over 27 gigawatts of crypto load that is working on interconnecting over the next four years, the unnamed ERCOT spokesperson said.
– Thats an astronomically impossible load to add to the grid in that short timeframe, according to Joshua Rhodes, a research associate at the University of Texas at Austin.
– In very little time, Texas has become a major player in the global Bitcoin mining industry. Many miners set up shop in Texas, initially enticed by low energy prices and lax regulation. The state is now home to about a quarter of Bitcoin mining that takes place in the US, by some estimates.
– Large-scale crypto mines essentially look like giant data centers filled with specialized computers that mine Bitcoin. The machines typically run around the clock, solving computational math problems in return for new tokens. Those problems become more complex over time, requiring more computing power and making it a deliberately energy-inefficient process.
– Realistically, many of the proposed crypto mining projects that want to connect to the grid between now and 2026 will likely not materialize, experts tell The Verge. Thats the case for new projects in other industries, they say, so they expects the same for crypto mining.
– Rhodes thinks 5 gigawatts is probably a more viable number in terms of how much energy demand crypto mining might bring to the state over the next four years. And even 5 GW is a lot to accommodate. We would have to speed up significantly the process of building transmission lines, Rhodes says. It would also necessitate building out more power plants or wind and solar farms to provide the additional energy.
– Unfortunately, the costs for building out all this infrastructure are often passed on to consumers particularly