Bitcoin Power Plant Turns 12,000-Year-Old Glacial Lake Into Hot Tub – .

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Bitcoin Power Plant Turns 12,000-Year-Old Glacial Lake Into Hot Tub – .


Enlarge / In this aerial photo of the Greenidge Generation Power Station outside of Dresden, NY, Seneca Lake is visible in the background. The lake receives hot water from Greenidge’s operations.

The fossil-fueled power plant that a private equity firm started up to mine bitcoin is back. Not content with simply polluting the atmosphere in search of a volatile crypto asset with little use in the real world, this free market experiment also dumps tens of millions of gallons of hot water into Seneca Glacial Lake, in upstate New York.

“The lake is so hot it feels like you are in a hot tub,” Abi Buddington, who lives near the Greenidge power station, told NBC News.
In the past, locals weren’t necessarily won over by the idea of ​​a polluting power station warming their deep, cold water lake, but at least the electricity produced by the power station powered their homes. Today they are lucky if a small fraction does. Most of the time, turbines burn natural gas just to generate profits for private equity firm Atlas Holdings by mining bitcoin.
Atlas, the company that bought Greenidge, has stepped up its bitcoin mining aspirations over the past year and a half, installing thousands of mining rigs that produced more than 1,100 bitcoins in February 2021. The company plans to ” install thousands of additional platforms, ultimately using 85 MW of the station’s total 108 MW capacity.

The water in Seneca Lake isn’t the only thing the power station heats up. In December 2020, with the power plant only operating at 13% of its capacity, Atlas’s bitcoin operations there produced 243,103 tonnes of carbon dioxide and equivalent greenhouse gases, a ten-fold increase from to January 2020 when mining began. NOX pollution, which is responsible for everything from asthma to lung cancer and premature death, has also increased 10 times.

The plant currently has a permit to emit 641,000 tonnes of CO2e each year, if Atlas is to maximize its return on investment and utilize the 106 MW of plant capacity, its carbon pollution could reach 1.06 million tonnes per year. Expect NOX emissions and health impacts increase accordingly. The only tangible benefit of the project (apart from the dividends appearing in the pockets of investors) are the 31 jobs claimed by the company.

Sparkling specimen

12,000-year-old Seneca Lake is a sparkling specimen of the Finger Lakes region. It still enjoys high quality water, clean enough to drink with limited treatment. Its waters are home to a significant population of lake trout, large enough to sustain the National Lake Trout Derby for 57 consecutive years. The prized fish spawn in the rivers that feed the lake, and it is in one of these rivers – the outlet of Keuka Lake, known to locals for its rainbow trout fishing – that Greenidge dumps its water. heated.

Rainbow trout are very sensitive to fluctuations in water temperature, with the fish being happiest in the mid-1950s. Because cold water contains more oxygen, as temperatures rise. , the fish become stressed. Above 70˚ ​​F, rainbow trout stop growing and stressed individuals begin to die. Experienced anglers don’t bother to fish when the water temperature reaches this point.

Greenidge has a permit to dump 135 million gallons of water per day into the outlet of Keuka Lake as hot as 108˚ F in summer and 86˚ F in winter. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation reports that over the past four years, the plant’s daily maximum discharge temperatures have averaged 98 ° C in summer and 70 ° C in winter. This water eventually travels to Seneca Lake, where it can lead to tropical surface temperatures and harmful algal blooms. Residents say lake temperatures are already rising, although a full study isn’t complete until 2023.

Look for profits

Atlas, the private equity firm, bought the Greenidge plant in 2014 and converted it from coal to natural gas. The company originally planned that it was a peak power plant that would sell electricity to the grid when demand increased.

But in Atlas’s three years renovating the factory, the world has changed. Natural gas, which was once considered a transitional fuel, is increasingly seen as a dead end. Renewable energy sources like wind and solar continue to drop in prices, so much so that in 2019, the economics of power plants like Greenidge meant 60% of them were running no more than six. hours straight. Today, renewable sources powered by batteries are cheaper than state-of-the-art gas-fired power plants, and even batteries alone threaten fossil behemoths.
Although Atlas spent $ 60 million to upgrade the old coal-fired power plant to run on gas, this was not the case for the more advanced combined cycle technology, which would have helped it run. cost-effectively as a pic. In the search for higher returns, the company has landed on bitcoin mining, Greenidge’s CEO told NBC. After a small test suggested that mining would be profitable, the company invested large sums in the project. By the end of the year, Greenidge and Atlas plan to operate 18,000 platforms at the site with 10,500 more on the horizon. When Atlas’s plans for Greenidge are completed, the mining rigs will consume 79% of the plant’s rated capacity.
Atlas won’t stop there, of course. The company, through Greenidge Generation Holdings, will lease a building from a bankrupt book and magazine printer and convert it into a data center for cryptocurrency mining. Unlike the original Greenidge, this project has no on-site electricity, and Atlas says it will use two-thirds of “zero carbon” energy from sources like nuclear. The rest? Fossil, most likely, and Atlas says it will offset emissions from its Spartanburg and New York operations. But the company hasn’t said how, and many offset programs don’t reduce emissions as claimed.

As for the hot tub that residents of Seneca Lake say is transforming? There is no compensation for this.

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