“What I love about Bitcoin is that we can operate in a manner that not only avoids damage, but rather, is additive,” CleanSpark CEO Zach Bradford told me in our interview when discussing the impact bitcoin mining is having on grids and communities.
CleanSpark is a publicly traded bitcoin mining company that uses a mix of nuclear, hydroelectric, solar, and wind power to mine bitcoin. “Something often lost in the discussion on sustainability is its purpose. It’s not just to use low carbon energy for the sake of it, rather we do it to make an impact,” Bradford explained about their intentions.
According to Bradford, America’s grid is more fragile than most people understand, requiring a lot of investment to build back resiliency. Bitcoin mining’s unique power consumption characteristics make it the perfect complement to underutilized or stranded sources of power.
In addition to creating jobs, CleanSpark has invested hundreds of millions of dollars into rural communities, funding projects from substation improvements to powerline and pole replacement.
There are a number of bitcoin miners who are utilizing sustainable energy sources or waste energy. These operators are positively impacting the environment, the grid, and communities around the world. Here are just a few examples of how they are making a difference.
Cully Cavness is the Co-Founder, President and Chief Operating Officer of Crusoe Energy. Prior to co-founding Crusoe, Cavness served in leadership and management positions in the upstream oil & gas industry and geothermal energy industry as well as in energy investment banking.
Crusoe got their start by tapping into the methane that oil and gas operators previously had to flare. In doing so, the methane is combusted in a more thorough way, reducing emissions. Crusoe also builds data centers in a cooperative way with wind and solar in order to smooth their production curves to reduce strain on the grid.
“Bitcoin can be a tremendous tool to reduce methane emissions,” Cavness said in our interview. In 2022, the Crusoe team said that they reduced natural gas flaring by over 4 billion cubic feet, mitigated 6,400 metric tons of methane emissions, and reduced more emissions than they generated, leading to net-negative emissions.
Crusoe is now expanding their data centers services into cloud and AI computing. They also recently opened an operation in Argentina, a potentially vital lifeline amid the country’s ongoing currency crisis.
Kerri Langlais is the Chief Strategy Officer for TeraWulf Inc., a publicly traded bitcoin mining company that also uses zero carbon energy sources.
Langlais told me in our interview that TeraWulf will only locate facilities in places where there is a supply-demand imbalance. In doing so, she says that they can have a symbiotic relationship with the grid and grid operators.
As an example, TeraWulf recently became the first bitcoin mining facility in the US that is directly connected to a nuclear power plant. Langlais referred to TeraWulf as an energy sink, utilizing power that is generated regardless, but would otherwise go unused and unpaid for.
In doing so, TeraWulf increases the utilization of the power plant during periods of lower demand, spreading the fixed costs over a larger consumption pool, reducing costs for consumers.
“Having built my career on harmonizing humanity’s relationship with the planet, I couldn’t see a better place to put my work focus,” Kent Halliburton said in our interview, referencing his prior experience in the renewable energy sector and newfound passion for bitcoin.
Halliburton is the president and COO overseeing the development of bitcoin mining operations at Sazmining, a company that provides retail investors with an easy way to invest in bitcoin mining.
Halliburton said he left his prior career to focus on renewable energy powered bitcoin mining after learning about bitcoin and realizing the powerful synergies between the two worlds.
Similar to TeraWulf, Sazmining consumes the excess power from hydroelectric facilities. Halliburton says they focus on hydroelectric because of its low cost and reliability.
As bitcoin mining permeates the energy industry, it has the potential to revitalize rural America and drive development in the global south, all while mitigating emissions and bolstering existing grids.
The incentives are complex, but the results are beginning to make themselves clear. Bitcoin mining is here to stay, and it might be just what we need to modernize our energy infrastructure.