Does the Renewable Energy Argument for Bitcoin make any sense?
ASIC cycling and a long payback period make mining with solar and wind difficult.
I’ve recently being exploring the potential for mining Bitcoin for the owner of a 100 MW+ wind farm.
I looked at two strategies:
- Continuously mining Bitcoin = difficult because wind is intermittent and batteries at $100/kWh are far to expensive to justify.
- Mining Bitcoin intermittently when there is wind.
There are two key problems:
- ASICs (the mining computers) suffer from thermal cycling if you turn them on and off with the wind. This can potentially be mitigated by careful selection of ASICs and varying clock-speed, but seems not well understood.
- If you only mine Bitcoin while electricity is cheap (i.e. off-peak), it means I amn’t using the ASICs all of the time, which means my payback period is much longer.
I started a Reddit thread on the topic that you may find of interest. Broadly, it doesn’t seem there are (m)any operators mining Bitcoin with solar or wind.
- Yes, hydro or geothermal makes sense — but those resources are typically fully utilised already (although there was a case of there being excess energy available from the three gorges dam).
Ultimately, what makes sense for Bitcoin mining is to try and get a steady electricity supply for as low of a price as possible. I don’t see an easy arbitrage using cheap intermittent wind, because the intermittency increases the payback period of the investment significantly — and adds the risk of ASICs cycling.
I’m still interested in finding a way to make wind/solar work, so DM me @Pinotio_DeFi on Twitter if you see I’m missing something.