Bitcoin consumes a lot of energy, but despite how mainstream media may portray it, bitcoin mining is actually one of the most green industries in the world today. In fact, green energy sources to mine bitcoin make up a majority of the mining power. Estimates vary, but in general, you can expect that 50% or more of the bitcoin mining industry is sourced from sustainable, renewable energy.
From the bitcoin mining council survey, they found that 63% of energy used by its members was from sustainable sources.
Of course, that is based on North American self-reported energy mixes, so take that statistic with a grain of salt. Even so, the approximate numbers are clear: Bitcoin loves green energy. It’s cheap. It’s abundant. It’s popular.
Of course, “green” depends on a lot of things, as it requires fossil fuels to build out a dam out of concrete. It takes fossil fuels to mine for rare earth mineral and manufacture solar panes. It takes fossil fuels to build, transport, maintain, and dispose of wind turbines.
Without getting into the debate of “how green is green energy”, let’s just focus on traditional definitions of green and accept the prevailing narrative that green energy is better for the world in the long term. So here are the top 5 green energy sources to mine bitcoin.
Which Green Energy Sources Can Mine Bitcoin?
Using hydropower to mine bitcoin is probably the easiest to understand and the easiest to justify. A massive, roaring dam generating unlimited amounts of energy, 24/7/365 means “wasting energy” isn’t really a valid criticism. If bitcoin miners want to set up shop and pay for maintenance of the facility when no one else will, why not?
Bitcoin miners make powerful allies for power generation facilities located far away from central population hubs because they portable and modular. You can literally move miners by hand one-by-one and plug them into an electrical outlet, or you can construct giant shipping containers and helicopter them in past mountain ranges and jungle.
It’s nothing like trying to set up an aluminum smelting plant in the middle of nowhere.
There are many hydro rich places in the world, such as Canada, The USA, Scandinavia, and South America. In fact, Quebec alone could power the entire bitcoin network two times over with its unused hydropower alone, so just imagine the untapped potential of all the hydro resources across the globe.
2. Nuclear Power
A much less talked about, but much more speculated about source of energy for bitcoin mining is nuclear power.
There have been a few nuclear power bitcoin mining deals that made headlines within the past couple years, namely Oklo and Compass to mine with small fission reactors, and Susquehanna nuclear power station in partnership with TeraWulf.
Specifically with nuclear power, bitcoin mining comes in handy as an energy consumer of both first resort and last resort. Bitcoin miners not only can help finance the construction of energy infrastructure, but they will happy pay for energy that would normally be wasted during periods of low consumption from retail consumers and traditional business energy consumers.
Nuclear power is not widespread as a mining energy source just yet, but public perception of nuclear hasn’t come around yet either. There are still a lot of myths and legacy concerns about the technology, with some groups actively trying to shut down the most efficient and dense source of energy available to humans.
Because nuclear power is so cheap and so abundant, I would imagine that its portion of the bitcoin mining energy mix will only continue to rise in the coming decades.
3. Anaerobic Biogas
“Anaerobic digestion” happens when organic material is digested by bacteria, producing methane, and then the methane is sent to engines which then burn the fuel to convert it into electricity and less-harmful CO2 + H2O. The resulting biogas can also be turned into biomethane, which can be fed into natural gas lines.
Though some people may consider it not as green as something like solar or wind, which do not directly emit emissions, this is seen as a sustainable energy source (at least in the UK) because the material used to generate the electricity can literally be grown and regrown every year.
In fact, the UK actually incentivized Irish farmers to invest in anaerobic biogas structures. Spotty profitability from energy production, and pressure from the government to become more green put farmers in a tough financial spot, and bitcoin mining is emerging as a potential solution to this catch-22 of trying to become green and stay profitable at the same time.
You can see the 12-minute documentary here explaining how the whole process works, and meet the farmer who is pioneering this sustainable bitcoin mining strategy.
4. Solar Power
Let’s be honest. Solar power isn’t great. Everybody thinks it great until they actually depend on it. If you like it, then you probably just use it to supplement your actual power supply. It’s expensive to install. it’s unreliable. The technology just isn’t ready for mass adoption.
That being said, it’s got some benefits, and the potential is there. With the right type of battery technology, solar could power the world.
But we aren’t there yet.
Even so, there are some emerging solar power bitcoin mining operations, and solar is expected to grow as a source of bitcoin mining in the future, especially for small operators and individuals. It’s a perfect match.
Bitcoin miners are great partners with solar operations for the same reason they are great partners with nuclear. They can fund the build out, and pay for maintenance, all the while being portable, expandable/contractable, and able to turn on/off at a moments notice. Some companies are starting to explore solar in a modular way, creating off-grid solar powered bitcoin mining containers that can be shipped anywhere in the world.
There are two main types of solar power, one that converts heat to electricity and one that converts light to electricity. Most bitcoin mining I’ve seen is the solar photovoltaics (light) kind.
5. Waste Methane
In the case of landfills, the existence of these facilities is just a byproduct of modern society, and there are landfills across the world, with no clean solution for getting rid of the waste. Where does it go? We can’t just shoot it out into space (anymore). So it just sits there and rots, generating tons and tons of methane, one of the most harmful greenhouse gases for the planet.
Bitcoiner miners can capture methane from the facilities, burn it to turn it into less harmful carbon dioxide, and even harness that CO2 for other things. Though generating CO2 from bitcoin mining may seem counterproductive to environmental cleanup efforts, it’s the preferable option to methane emissions.
Bitcoin Miners Are Dung Beetles
This is similar the case of miners in Pennsylvania burning waste coal. It sounds bad that you’re burning coal, but because that waste coal is actually poisoning the local water supply, turning it into clean coal is the better of the two options.
On the surface, it seems like “burning for bitcoin = bad”, but the nuance of the situation shows that bitcoin mining actually solves a problem here.
Then, there’s methane emissions from natural gas. Like it or not, natural gas is one of the cleanest forms of fossil fuels available to us right now, and it’s not going anywhere soon. As much as someone might like to run the planet on solar and wind, it’s not going to happen. So to keep everyone cool in the summer and warm in the winter, natural gas production is a must, and we’ve got to figure out what to do with the methane byproduct.
Again, bitcoin miners are like the dung beetles of our global energy production, eating up the waste nobody wants. Methane, which can leak from old wells or be a byproduct of active fracking normally leaks directly into the atmosphere or is burned in flare stacks. Now, this waste product can be cleaned up in a profitable way by allowing miners to burn the methane.
The environment is healthier, bitcoin miners are profitable, and the world can enjoy a global, permissionless ledger provided by the bitcoin network.
6. Geothermal Power
Geothermal energy is often overlooked, but our entire planet is actually a giant ball of hot molten lava. From that heat you can basically generated unlimited energy, as long as you can build the access point and transport it to consumer centers.
Unfortunately, many geothermal electricity generation sites are isolated, as is the case with Iceland, where they have huge amounts of geothermal power, but quite a small population. Iceland’s distance from other countries makes it impractical to export energy, so instead, industries such as aluminum smelting plants, and now bitcoin miners, have set up shop in the region.
This has a result of bringing jobs and investments into regions that may not have other opportunities.
Of course, geothermal energy resources are always subject to government control because of the location of the power generation and massive undertaking required to actually harness the energy. In the case of Iceland, the government has put heavy restrictions on bitcoin miners as the industry emerges and people proceed with caution.
I believe that when bitcoin mining proves itself to be a long-term, sustainable customer of energy, governments will do a 180º and embrace miners as their most reliable partner in energy generation.
Some countries, like El Salvador, are already on the forefront of this trend with their famous “bitcoin volcanos”.
Wind is finicky as a source for electricity because it’s only abundant in areas which tend to be sparsely populated, and it’s very unreliable. It requires a huge infrastructure build out, and it requires transporting electricity over long distances. Then, after all that, you’ve got to maintain it.
That being said, onshore wind is one of the cheapest renewable energy sources, and bitcoin miners are happy to scoop up cheap energy wherever it turns up.
Like all the other energy sources on this list, bitcoin miners can pay for building the infrastructure (consumer of first resort) and soak up excess (consumer of last resort). They can turn on when the wind is blowing, paying for the cost of maintaining the wind farm, and turn off when the wind is gone, and consumers get all the energy they can need.
What’s The Best Type of Energy To Mine Bitcoin?
Hashing with volcanic energy makes a great headline, but in reality, energy generated by volcanos isn’t any better or worse than any other type of energy generation method. Each region in the world can tap into whatever local energy is cheapest and most abundant.
El Salvador has volcanos. The Middle East has expansive sun-soaked deserts. Scandinavia has vast hydro capabilities. Every country in the world specializes in its own, unique power generation capabilities.
The great thing about bitcoin mining is that it’s “energy agnostic” meaning that it doesn’t care what type of energy you use to generate power, as long as you can feed it electricity. Miners can consume a lot, or a little. They can power on 24/7, or intermittently. You can mine as an individual, a business, or a government.
Plus, you don’t need any permission to be a bitcoin miner, making it a truly open, global network.