The last few months have seen a growing concern over the environmental costs of mining Bitcoin . As the computational requirements of mining the signature cryptocurrency become increasingly demanding, the system has begun to approach a dramatic tipping point. Citigroup recently reported that for mining to remain marginally profitable, Bitcoin’s value will have to ascend to a flabbergasting $300,000 by 2022.
Back in 2015 it was estimated that the electricity involved in conducting a single Bitcoin transaction was roughly equivalent to the amount of power consumed by 1.5 American households in a full day. In the last two years this rate has skyrocketed even further; the electricity consumed to mine one Bitcoin rose 43% since October alone.
Digiconomist reports that mining Bitcoin now requires about 28 terawatt-hours a year—more power than the entire population of Nigeria consumes in the same period. The real trouble is that much of the electricity powering Bitcoin mining operations is being generated by environmentally taxing fossil fuels. HydroMiner, a green-energy blockchain startup, is working to change that.
The Austrian startup plans to implement Bitcoin mining operations in numerous abandoned hydroelectric power plants across the country, where it says it can mine the cryptocurrency at lower costs while reducing environmental impact.
“A lot of people are worried about the high energy consumption of cryptocurrencies,” reports Nadine Damblon, HydroMiner’s CEO. After raising $2.8 million from an ICO last week, it seems that Damblon’s assertion is right on the money.
HydroMiner’s intimate six-person team has begun outfitting shipping containers with mining hardware that can be modularly installed at derelict power stations. In a clever bid at cutting costs, HydroMiner turns to chilly Alpine air instead of artificial environmental controls to cool their servers.
Damblon believes that turning to renewable energy to power the mining process may solve Bitcoin’s energy problem, generating profits while simultaneously promoting the currency’s mainstream adoption. While it remains to be seen whether or not HydroMiner’s environmentally conscious innovation can be applied beyond the Austrian Alps, there are already signs that the company’s efforts are improving Bitcoin’s reputation.
Austrian utility companies have allegedly begun investigating ways to generate revenue from the country’s extensive hydropower reserves. Damblon has suggestively hinted that, “they are open to innovation and to blockchain.” With 2,000 mostly idle power stations, its quite possible that Austria’s energy infrastructure will provide a model for Bitcoin’s sustainable future.