Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Construction to begin on 36 megawatt Moroccan wind farm for Bitcoin mining

Sort of like Desertec but with wind instead of solar. And no transmission to Europe. And bitcoin.
On second thought, nothing like Desertec except North Africa.

From Ars Technica:

While Soluna.io waits for transmission lines, it's hoping to cash in on stranded energy.
Morocco has a lot of prime real estate for wind energy along its southern coast. But without robust transmission lines to move electricity from there to more populated centers, a traditional wind energy company might wait years for a grid connection before it could start making money.

But if you're connected to the Internet, one option might be to build a grid-isolated wind farm and use it locally while you wait for a connection to the rest of the grid. In Soluna's case, the money-making byproduct that makes local use worth it is mining Bitcoin.

Soluna, a bitcoin-mining company, is going to start construction on a 36 megawatt (MW) wind farm near Dakhla, Morocco, in January 2019, company spokesperson Yoav Reisler told Ars. The company has the rights to 37,000 acres of land, which could eventually accommodate up to 900MW of wind capacity.

The company, formed by New York private equity firm Brookstone Partners, hopes to raise $100 million to complete the project, which, in addition to the 36MW of wind, will include computing facilities that draw up to 18MW, as well as an energy storage system to power the computing center when the wind slacks.

Bitcoin mining is a notoriously power-hungry endeavor, consuming gigawatts of power as application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) chug through computationally intense problems to produce keys that translate to coins. That makes energy one of the major cost drivers for Bitcoin miners after their equipment is purchased. Finding a stable source of electricity is a primary concern for those startups still in the mining business. When Bitcoin was at its peak price last winter, projections showed that energy consumption would only grow as the price of Bitcoin rose. Miners flocked to areas around the world with cheap electricity, like northern New York, although communities there have moved to stop the new companies from driving up electricity prices. Bitcoin startups have even had bad ideas, like firing up a decommissioned coal plant in Australia, to power their mining rigs.

Devil in the details
Now, as the price of Bitcoin has fallen more than half since its December peak, the frantic energy surrounding the cryptocoin has died down somewhat. In an email to Ars, John Belizaire, the CEO of Soluna, said that in the near-term Soluna still plans to mine Bitcoin. But that may not be forever. "Over time we will provide computing to broader diversified Blockchain applications that are not cryptocurrencies," Belizaire said.

Eventually, though, the company hopes to sell some of its electricity back to the grid in Morocco through Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs). "Morocco has a law in place that effectively guarantees a PPA for energy providers," Belizaire told Ars. "We will start with that and grow from there."...MORE
For readers who don't know what I was babbling about in the introduction:
January 2015
"Desertec's Plan for Saharan Sun to Power Europe Burns Out"
January 2011
"Say, About That Plan to Supply 15% of Europe's Electricity from North Africa.... (Look for Desertec to go with Natural Gas instead)