Can Clean Energy Solve Cryptocurrencies’ Energy Problem?

Cryptocurrency has an energy problem, so one artist created a wind-powered mining rig

  • These computers can range from massive Bitcoin mining farms in rural China to small DIY mining rigs you can run out of your own home, but all of these mining operations are incredibly energy intensive.
  • To this end, the Berlin-based artist recently created a wind-powered mining rig, which is currently mining the anonymity-focused cryptocurrency ZCash in a field somewhere in Europe.
  • Oliver’s wind-powered rig consists of a 6-foot wind turbine mounted on a tripod, which is connected to a computer mounted in a weather-proof box.
  • While a few hundred bucks isn’t likely to go far in fighting climate change, Oliver said this initial rig was a proof of concept to see if the wind-powered mining rigs are feasible at scale.
  • Other designs for solar-powered and wind-powered mining rigs have cropped up on the internet over the years, and major mining operations in China are often located near major hydro-electric projects to benefit from the cheap and abundant energy created by the dams.

Julian Oliver’s wind-powered mining rig literally pulls money from thin air.

For all their purported benefits, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum have a serious energy problem. At the heart of these cryptocurrencies is an army of computers performing cryptographic hashing algorithms around the clock to verify transactions made on the network, a process known as mining. These computers can range from massive Bitcoin mining farms in rural China to small DIY mining rigs you can run out of your own home, but all of these mining operations are incredibly energy intensive. The Ethereum network, for instance, already uses more energy than the island nation of Cyprus, home to nearly 1.2 million people. The Bitcoin network, on the other hand, is on track to consume more electricity than Denmark by 2020.

Rather than turning cryptocurrencies into another major driver of anthropogenic climate change, however, Julian Oliver wants to harness the power of climate change to mine cryptocurrencies. To this end, the Berlin-based artist recently created a wind-powered mining rig, which is currently mining the anonymity-focused cryptocurrency ZCash in a field somewhere in Europe.

“The most attractive thing about cryptocurrencies is the potent challenge they represent to traditional, state-ordained monetary authorities,” Oliver told me in an email. “Still, their environmental impact of mining on fossil-fueled grids is little better than cash. It occurred to me that I might position symptoms of climate change, in particular wind gusts and storms, as a potential energy for a funding automaton for climate research.”

Can Clean Energy Solve Cryptocurrencies’ Energy Problem?