Costa Rica hydro plant gets new lease on life from crypto mining

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A Bit­coin (BTC) logo is dis­played on a cryp­to cur­ren­cy ATM machine in a shop in Wee­hawken, New Jer­sey, U.S., May 19, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Segar

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SAN PEDRO DE POAS, Cos­ta Rica, Jan 11 (Reuters) — A small riv­er in the mid­dle of cof­fee plan­ta­tions, sug­ar cane fields and a for­est pro­vides ener­gy to a hydro­elec­tric pow­er plant in Cos­ta Rica that feeds hun­dreds of com­put­ers wired up to the cryp­tocur­ren­cy min­ing business.

More than 650 machines from 150 cus­tomers oper­ate non-stop from eight con­tain­ers pow­ered by the plant next to the Poas Riv­er, 35 kilo­me­ters (22 miles) from San Jose, the cap­i­tal of a coun­try that gen­er­ates near­ly all its ener­gy from green sources.

The plant was forced to rein­vent itself after 30 years because the gov­ern­ment stopped buy­ing elec­tric­i­ty dur­ing the pan­dem­ic due to sur­plus pow­er sup­ply in the Cen­tral Amer­i­can coun­try, where the state has a monop­oly on ener­gy distribution.

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“We had to pause activ­i­ty for nine months, and exact­ly one year ago I heard about Bit­coin, blockchain and dig­i­tal min­ing,” said Eduar­do Koop­er, pres­i­dent of the fam­i­ly busi­ness that owns the 60-hectare farm Data Cen­ter CR and the plant.

“I was very skep­ti­cal at first, but we saw that this busi­ness con­sumes a lot of ener­gy and we have a surplus.”

The hydro­elec­tric com­pa­ny, with its three plants val­ued at $13.5 mil­lion and a three Megawatt capac­i­ty, invest­ed $500,000 to ven­ture into host­ing dig­i­tal min­ing computers.

Koop­er said inter­na­tion­al cryp­tocur­ren­cy min­ers are look­ing for clean, cheap ener­gy and a sta­ble inter­net con­nec­tion, which Cos­ta Rica has plen­ty of. How­ev­er, he said Cos­ta Rica’s gov­ern­ment should be more aggres­sive about try­ing to attract more cryp­to min­ing busi­ness, although he gave no specifics.

The gov­ern­ment did not respond to a request for comment.

Cos­ta Rica lacks spe­cif­ic reg­u­la­tion for cryp­tocur­ren­cies, unlike El Sal­vador, which became the first coun­try in the world to adopt Bit­coin as legal ten­der in Sep­tem­ber 2021. read more 

Cos­ta Rica’s cen­tral bank said it was pro­vid­ing space for tech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tion to allow a Fin­tech indus­try to take shape, and was con­stant­ly mon­i­tor­ing developments.

So far all Data Cen­ter CR cus­tomers are local, such as Mauri­cio Rodriguez, a 31-year-old com­put­er secu­ri­ty engi­neer who entered dig­i­tal min­ing to earn extra mon­ey from home in 2021 with equip­ment val­ued at $7,000.

“Installing it in this place is much more prof­itable than at home,” at almost half the cost, he cal­cu­lat­ed, after con­nect­ing his com­put­er to the net­work at the riv­er-pow­ered plant.

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Report­ing by Alvaro Murillo
Writ­ing by Valen­tine Hilaire; Edit­ing by David Gregorio

Our Stan­dards: The Thom­son Reuters Trust Principles.

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