Residents in upstate New York are angry because they say a large bitcoin mining operation is heating up Seneca Lake. Seneca Lake is one of the largest Finger Lakes in upstate New York. Typically, the lake is used heavily for boating, fishing, swimming, and other leisure activities in the summer. However, residents say that a gas-fired power plant nearby pollutes the air and heats up the lake.
One resident says the lake is so warm it feels like you’re swimming in a hot tub. The massive power plant isn’t being used to provide power to residents in the area. Rather it’s owned by a private equity firm called Atlas Holdings and is operated by Greenidge Generation LLC to mine bitcoin. The electrical output of the power plant has been increased in the past year and a half, with much of the energy produced used for mining bitcoin.
The mining of cryptocurrency requires high-performance computers that consume significant amounts of electricity. Operations at the plant for mining bitcoin go on 24 hours a day, seven days per week. Residents claim the plant consumes an astounding amount of power and produces real pollution to collect the virtual currency. Energy experts from the University of Cambridge say that global bitcoin mining consumes more energy in a year than the entire country of Chile.
Energy for bitcoin mining operations coming from fossil fuels, such as natural gas, could increase carbon emissions, increase pollution, and contribute to global warming. Reports indicate that the Greenidge plant has at least 8000 computers inside, and the operators are planning to install more. Adding additional computers would mean more power consumption and pollution.
Those against bitcoin operations claim that private equity firms purchase these plants using debt and reopen them to power mining operations. According to detractors, without these firms purchasing the plants, they would be mothballed, and energy production would transition to greener methods.