Crypto’s biggest skeptics often claim Bitcoin mining has an energy problem.
April 2022 featured a collective of U.S. elected officials writing to the Environmental Protection Agency to ask for help. The goal? For the regulator to study the environmental impact of crypto mining. The 24 legislators cited concerns about greenhouse gas emissions and pollution.
Others argue that Bitcoin swallows up an inordinate and unsustainable amount of energy. Research from February 2022 claimed a single Bitcoin had the same carbon footprint as 330,000 credit card transactions. After announcing a temporary ban on crypto mining in 2022, many crypto enthusiasts in Kosovo rushed to sell off equipment.
Officials claimed mining was contributing to an electricity crisis in one of Europe’s poorest nations. However, the debate about Bitcoin’s energy consumption (or lack thereof) continues to rage on. Plenty argue that concerns about the coin’s environmental impact are overblown.
Can The Earth’s Ocean Make Bitcoin Mining More ‘Green?’
Some environmental innovators see a promising future for Bitcoin and a unique but often-forgotten renewable energy technology, Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC). The concept of OTEC is really interesting. Warm tropical surface water is combined with deep, colder seawater creating a heat engine. While this concept is not new, it has been largely pushed aside until the last few years.
In the summer of 2015, Hawaii opened an OTEC plant that was the largest of its kind at the time. They ran into issues however, the 100-kilowatt facility could only power 120 Hawaiian homes for a year. Hawaii has been hard at work researching various energy-generating methods to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. They aim to meet a 100% renewable energy goal by 2045.
OTEC research began in the United States in 1974, but the concept has largely been seen as experimentation more than a viable and concrete renewable technology.
So why is OTEC gaining more prominence thanks to Bitcoin? The answer lies in the simplicity of OTEC and the potential for Bitcoin to scale the technology.
OTEC relies on the significant temperature difference between deep-sea cold water and warm surface seawater to generate electricity. As both types of water pump, a heat exchange evaporator vaporizes an ammonia fluid with the warm water to generate steam. Then, as the steam drives a turbine, a heat exchanger condenser cools the vapor back into a liquid, repeating the cycle.
Year-Round Sustainable Power Would Be A Lifesaver For Countless People Living Near The Ocean
The prospects for this type of technology have always been immense. This comes as no surprise since more than a billion people live within 100 kilometers of tropical coast. Moreover, to carry out OTEC power generation you need a shore or a distant platform. Countless people worldwide live close enough to warm and cold seawater to harness and generate clean sustainable energy.
OTEC’s previous experiments to scale the technology have largely failed, leaving OTEC in the shadows. This truth, in addition to a dominant interest in oil, has slowed much progress, in regards to bitcoin mining and the use of OTEC power generation
However, more speculate that an OTEC plant could be a particularly lucrative investment opportunity for Bitcoin miners looking to cut down on cooling costs. The reason? An OTEC plant’s main ‘waste’ product is a nearly endless supply of cold water at a temperature level miners do not currently have access to.
Researchers claim an OTEC plant would achieve a power usage effectiveness level of 1. This represents a nearly perfect efficiency level to mine Bitcoin. Right now, medium-sized OTEC plants would cost between $200-300 million to build – out of range for local governments that do not have large coffers.
A New World Of Possibilities
The thought is that it is possible to optimize an OTEC facility for crypto mining. Miners would benefit from cheaper energy and the immense cooling potential for their hardware. In addition, the power plant itself would have the necessary funds from selling energy to a mining operation close by to scale up the entire operation. This relationship would also empower the OTEC facility to generate clean, renewable power for communities interested in and desire a reliable energy source.
While there are still plenty of questions about OTEC energy generation, the opportunity for Bitcoin to transform the ocean into a massive renewable solar battery can’t be ignored. Both miners and those interested in cutting-edge innovation fueled by crypto, are celebrating.
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