Mining bitcoin is often pretty bad for the environment due to coal being the primary power source, and another key source is natural gas.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists shared that in Pennsylvania, Big Dog Energy LLC installed 30 gas-fired generators at one of its gas well pads in Beccaria Township. All of the electricity generated will be used for mining bitcoin. Rob Altenburg, the director of the Energy Center at Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future, said that miners who own gas wells can make more than twice as much money using their gas to mine bitcoin than selling it to the wholesale market. However, he is concerned about what this means for air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in the state.
Also in Pennsylvania, waste from coal is being used for mining bitcoin. Stronghold Digital Mining is using the waste left over by old coal power plants to generate electricity to mine bitcoin. Although using coal ash for mining bitcoin is partly a good thing since it leaches into the groundwater and pollutes waterways, it still causes air pollution and global warming, and there is another good alternative that could be tapped: solar energy.
Miner 4 Heat shared a thread on Twitter focused on mining bitcoin while using local utility time of service billing combined with Tesla Solar and Powerwalls, which optimized the energy costs while stabilizing the grid.
He noted that peak energy usage on the grid occurs during the hot summer afternoons when temperatures rise above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. He added that the heat forces heavy usage of air conditioners in homes and businesses, and that many utility companies have some type of peak demand period that bitcoin miners worked to their advantage.
His local utility offers an opt-in power plan to incentivize off-peak usage when rates drop to 6 cents per kWh instead of 11 cents per kWh, which is the typical rate except for 1:00–7:00 pm on summer weekdays. During that time, the rate jumps from 11 cents per kWh to 36 cents per kWh.
Miner 4 Heat continued his thread by adding that without solar, bitcoin miners automatically shut down during peak time with the use of home automation.
“Pre-cooling house prior to peak, then raising A/C setpoint during peak to minimize A/C usage during peak. Essentially the house acts as an energy battery of cooled air.”
Miner 4 Heat uses Tesla’s solar system with Powerwall battery for energy storage and this, he pointed out, allows for further optimization with net metering billing. Combined with the local utility’s time-of-service billing, he gets paid by the utility 22 cents per kWh for power he’s able to return back to the grid during the peak time. He’s able to configure the settings in the Tesla Solar app to automatically push and pull from sources to optimize power savings.
“Essentially, I consume as much power as needed during off peak times, then during peak times, batteries supply the house with all power needs (up to 10 kW continuous with 2 x Powerwall), while all solar produced goes back into the grid.”
Miner 4 Heat has successfully turned his home into a small power plant during peak times. This, I think, is a stellar example of how a virtual power plant (VPP) can not only help residents but also their local grid. Add in mining bitcoin and it’s almost like an UNO Reverse card being pulled on the utility, where instead of mining using up energy, excess solar energy is being generated and sold back to the utility to help stabilize the grid during peak times.
“Conclusion: Dynamic power scaling to meet energy grid demand is a MUST for keeping the #Bitcoin blockchain protected with highly decentralized, small-scale mining. The future is competitive. Power curtailment based on grid demand is possible on a small scale.
“Coupling this with Mining 4 Heat, the needle of competitiveness can be moved back towards small scale mining operations. I am working to modularize and simplify these control systems for more miners. Stay tuned.”
You can read the full Twitter thread here.