Crypto miners flock to rural Washington — and wreak havoc on its energy infrastructure

Wenatchee, WA, has become a bitcoin miner’s paradise -- and it raises some serious questions about the sustainability of cryptocurrency mining at large.

February 13, 2018

Nestled near the foothills of the Cascade Range, the serene city of Wenatchee, WA, (population: 36k) is best known for being the “Apple Capital of the World.”

But in recent months, it’s garnered a new reputation as a bitcoin miner’s paradise — and it’s raising some serious questions about the sustainability of cryptocurrency mining at large.

The Wenatchee coin rush

Nationally, the average energy cost is around 10 cents per kilowatt-hour. In Wenatchee, the proliferation of hydroelectric dams along the Columbia River drives these costs down to as low as 2 cents.

For miners who suck up as much as 100 megawatts per outfit (enough to power 50 hospitals), that adds up to huge savings.

Per WSJ, as many as 30 such operations have popped up in Wenatchee and surrounding counties, occupying apartments, cargo containers, and old warehouses.

But this comes with a consequence

Mining operations like this consume incredible amounts of energy: it’s estimated that the amount of wattage required to generate one coin could power the average American household for 2 years.

The proposed solution is often renewable energy, but in Wenatchee, renewable energy comes with its own set of issues: the city’s power demands are expected to double, and they may have to reconsider their entire energy infrastructure to keep things up and running.

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