As previously covered by Bitcoin.com, bitcoin mining company Riot Blockchain announced the development of a 1-gigawatt bitcoin mining facility on a 265-acre site in Navarro County.
The same company already has a running operation in Rockdale, Texas and the new facility would be the largest bitcoin mining facility in the world. As NBCDFW reports, at a time when electricity and water supplies are tight, local residents are not thrilled about the new energy-consuming mining facility.
Riot Blockchain isn’t the only cryptocurrency mining company that has moved to Texas. Other firms like Blockcap, Cleanspark and Compute North already expanded their operations to Texas. One of the reasons for this migration is the prolific development of renewable energy plants to the east of the state.
Why renewable energy? Well, because these operations consume so much energy. According to Texas Monthly, last year, China worried that the amount of fossil fuel burned to keep the bitcoin mines going was impacting their climate and pollution-reduction goals. In 2018, Quebec regulators had to instruct the local utility to temporarily stop powering new mines. At the time, MIT Technology Review reported that a facility in Saint-Hyacinthe consistently drew more energy than the Montreal Canadiens’ hockey arena at sold-out games.
In the face of these setbacks, companies move to areas where renewable energy is available. According to CNN, zero-carbon electricity sources represented nearly 38% of the state’s power in 2021. Peter Wall, the chief executive of Argo Blockchain, explained to Texas Monthly that their facility’s location in Dickens County offers inexpensive acreage and some of the cheapest electricity in the state thanks to the wind farms nearby.
But in Navarro County, the facility site is located next to a traditional power grid switch, offering easy access to power supply, while city officials have said (via NBCDFW) that they can provide the large amounts of water the company would need to cool the enormous computing installations.
Residents formed a group called the Concerned Citizens of Navarro County to make their doubts about these plans heard. “We can’t keep the lights on as it is. To put something like this to burden our grid is going to be catastrophic,” said Jackie Sawicky, one of the residents with the group, to NBCDFW.
Stoic Energy consultant Doug Lewin explained that Texas needs additional regulations that don’t yet exist for cryptocurrency mines. “If we go along the way we have with no effective regulation, the potential for problems on our grid are quite high,” he told NBCDFW “But the inverse is true. With some sensible regulation, I think it is entirely possible that Bitcoin could increase reliability and lower costs.”
If, as crypto-mining companies claim, the development of these kinds of facilities encourages the building of solar and wind power plants, those sources could have a relief effect on Texas’ power grid. For now, residents are not so sure.