Restriction of Bitcoin helped Crypto Miners Texas during Heatwave

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When a blazing heat wave ravaged Texas this week, taxing the power grid with record demand, state bitcoin miners shut down their power-hungry machines.

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In response to requests from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas – the grid operator that asked businesses and residents to voluntarily save power during the heatwave – nearly all industrial-scale mining in the state has been shut down, according to the Texas Blockchain Council, an industry association. .

Cryptocurrency mining requires huge amounts of electricity, raising concerns not only about Texas’ besieged network’s ability to meet the growing demand as more miners are expected to flock to the state, but also about the broader potential environmental impact of the industry.

“Over 95% of bitcoin mines on an industrial scale reduced power consumption during peak periods in the past week,” Lee Bratcher, president of the Texas Blockchain Council, wrote in an email to Washington. Mail. “Bitcoin miners were able to push over 1,000 [megawatts] in the net for more than ten hours several times a week.

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Although it usually does not work by much, it can matter during periods of high demand, said Joshua D. Rhodes, a research fellow at the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin. When an electricity grid is “a few thousand megawatts away from supply and demand, a 1% change can make a big difference,” said Rhodes, who has consulted with mining companies in cryptocurrency.

“When we run out of supply, reducing demand is very useful in that context,” he said.

But, Rhodes noted, the action was not a “quick fix” to the electricity problems. “I do not think he on his own saved” the net, he said. “This was part of a series of energy-consuming actions that helped maintain grid stability.”

In recent years, Texas has become one of the favorite places for crypto-entrepreneurs. To date, about 10 facilities have joined, and there are over “27 gigawatts of crypto load working on the interconnection over the next four years,” ERCOT said in a statement to The Washington Post.

Bitcoin miners innovate in Texas, a state hailed as the new cryptocurrency capital

Around the world, the huge footprint of the cryptocurrency industry is gaining increasing attention. The commonly used method of extracting coins involves huge amounts of computing power. Networks of miners need processors to solve complex puzzles to earn coins as well as track and verify transactions, consuming energy.

A 2019 study estimated that bitcoin, one of the most popular cryptocurrencies, emitted between 22 million and 29 million tons of carbon dioxide in the previous year, according to results published in the journal. Joule peer-reviewed.

“This means that the emissions produced by bitcoin fall between the levels produced by the nations of Jordan and Sri Lanka,” the study authors wrote.

Crypto Executive and green groups are launching efforts to reduce Bitcoin’s power consumption

Meanwhile, extreme weather events, mainly due to climate change, continued to strain Texas’ electrical system, which operates independently of the national grid. The latest heat wave was preceded by other extreme heat events as well as a record-breaking heat wave in February 2021, which left millions of Texans without power at a time when temperatures were dropping to minus 2 degrees Fahrenheit in Dallas and 13 degrees in Houston.

The autonomous state of Texas is shaken by the inability to keep lights on

In the midst of scorching temperatures this week, which have caused demand for electricity to skyrocket to record highs, ERCOT has issued public calls to save energy. Wednesday’s appeal said the efforts of residents and businesses earlier in the week “helped ERCOT successfully meet a record demand for electricity by reducing their power consumption by 500 MW,” or megawatts.

Although mining companies are among the companies that have been asked to volunteer to save energy, “it is not an obligation for them to save,” ERCOT said in a statement to The Post.

Bitcoin miners “are going out, both because it’s the right thing to do and because they’re encouraged by market mechanisms within ERCOT,” Bratcher wrote in an email.

Some companies have signed up to programs offered by ERCOT, which pay large electricity consumers for not using electricity during periods of high demand, Rhodes said. The price of electricity also increases when the power supply is limited.

“It’s good to know they can, and there are times when they’re willing to do that,” Rhodes said of miners voluntarily ceasing their operations. “But it was not entirely altruistic.”

As extreme weather events become more common, it may be seen by some as a possible solution to avoid overloading the power grids to ask cryptocurrency operations to stop during certain periods.

“It can become an expectation in some people’s minds,” Rhodes said. “But I think that until it is formalized in a program and someone signs a contract, I am hesitant to trust it.”

It is important, he said, to find ways to make the shutdown worthwhile for companies. “It’s not a good idea to trust that someone is just a good citizen.”

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