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Bitcoin Miners Seek Out Nuclear Power as ESG Pressure Mounts

Amidst concerns of environmental sustainability, Bitcoin miners are symbiotically partnering with nuclear power plants.

One such partnership is a joint venture between Talen Energy Corp. and bitcoin-mining company TeraWulf Inc. The miner started development on a facility the size of four football fields next to a Pennsylvania nuclear plant operated by Talen. 

“We are building demand adjacent to the existing nuclear plant,” said Talen Energy President Alex Hernandez. He heads the subsidiary jointly developing the mining project at the Susquehanna Steam Electric Station. Additionally, nuclear generator Energy Harbor Corp. said it would start providing power to an Ohio Standard Power mining center in December.

Even new nuclear projects have been instigated, with Startup Oklo Inc. signing a 20-year supply deal with Compass Mining. Oklo plans to build a small-scale fission power plant that will run on used nuclear fuel. Oklo co-founder and CEO Jacob DeWitte said he has also received inquiries from other bitcoin miners interested in the company’s project.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has also been touting the city as a hotspot for crypto mining, due to its cheap nuclear energy from a nearby power plant. The Turkey Point Nuclear Plant, which helps power the city, is located less than an hour away from Miami City Hall. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an average kilowatt per hour of electricity costs $0.10 in Miami, versus the national average of $0.13. Meanwhile, Suarez is in talks with Florida Power & Light Company to drive the price down further.

Mutual benefit

The partnerships are proving mutually beneficial, as each is able to complement the other’s needs. Nuclear power plants provide stable, sustainable power for energy-intensive miners, while they in turn are helping to sustain these plants.

Because mining bitcoin is an energy-intensive process, the spread of mining operations has fueled criticism of it exacerbating climate change. Earlier this year, Tesla CEO Elon Musk suspended payments in Bitcoin over the environmental impact of mining operations.

Meanwhile, nuclear plants provide a steady source of emissions-free power, but many struggle to sell their output in wholesale power markets. Between wind, solar power and natural-gas generation, which has bottomed-out since the fracking boom, competition has become stiff.

“Both industry’s challenges are the other industry’s positives,” said Sean Lawrie, partner at consulting firm ScottMadden Inc.

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