U.S. company devises method to use coal waste to power crypto

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KENNERDELL, Pa., March 21 (Reuters) — The vast amounts of elec­tric­i­ty need­ed to mine bit­coin has ignit­ed a debate about whether the ener­gy behind the oper­a­tion is worth the poten­tial envi­ron­men­tal costs.

But one com­pa­ny in west­ern Penn­syl­va­nia believes that they have found a way to put cryp­to min­ing to work to clean up their community.

Strong­hold Dig­i­tal Min­ing (SDIG.O) uses waste left behind by decades-old coal pow­er plants to gen­er­ate elec­tric­i­ty that pow­ers hun­dreds of super­com­put­ers work­ing to mine bitcoin.

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Bit­coin, the world’s largest peer-to-peer dig­i­tal cur­ren­cy, is issued through a process called min­ing, which requires com­put­ers to solve com­plex puz­zles in exchange for the vir­tu­al cur­ren­cy. Pow­er­ing those com­put­ers involves large amounts of elec­tric­i­ty – in fact, more elec­tric­i­ty is used annu­al­ly to cre­ate bit­coin than is used in the entire coun­try of Finland.

“The bit­coin min­ing net­work itself is the largest decen­tral­ized com­put­er net­work in the world, and it’s pow­er hun­gry, so co-locat­ing bit­coin min­ing and a pow­er plant makes a lot of sense,” said Greg Beard, chief exec­u­tive offi­cer of Stronghold.

Coal ash, the byprod­uct left over from burn­ing coal to pro­duce elec­tric­i­ty, can leach into ground­wa­ter and pol­lute water­ways, and con­tains heavy met­als con­sid­ered to be carcinogens.

Strong­hold col­lects coal ash from a near­by mine and process­es it at a waste coal pro­cess­ing facil­i­ty. After the coal ash is sort­ed and crushed, it goes to a boil­er build­ing where it is burned to gen­er­ate the elec­tric­i­ty to pow­er the company’s bit­coin min­ing operation.

“I think this is a per­fect niche for cryp­to,” said Bill Spence, co-chair­man of Strong­hold Dig­i­tal Mining.

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Report­ing by Dan Fas­ten­berg and Eric Cox in Ken­nerdell, Penn­syl­va­nia; writ­ing by Han­nah Lang in Wash­ing­ton; Edit­ing by Mark Porter

Our Stan­dards: The Thom­son Reuters Trust Principles.

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