Hong Kong company Allied Control says its technology makes mining bitcoin mining more environmentally friendly. The company supplies immersion cooling technology to make mining cryptocurrencies feasible where electricity costs more.
The technology has been around for some time, and proved effective at cooling bitcoin mines as far back as 2013. Allied Control itself was acquired by BitFury in January 2015, and has since operated as a subsidiary specializing in developing the cooling technology.
Most cryptocurrency mining machines use standard fans to cool the heat produced by machines. However, with immersion technology, components are in a dipped in a specially made liquid that dissipates heat as it transforms liquid to gas.
Allied Control: Cutting-Edge Cleantech to Mine Bitcoins
Many environmentalists are unsupportive of cryptocurrencies, due to their claimed high use of energy. The process of mining digital currencies consumes a lot of electricity — mostly to cool the mining machines that verify crypto transactions.
Countries with either natural cooling (like Iceland and Sweden) or a constant and inexpensive flow of electricity, are therefore perfect for mining cryptocurrencies.
China is the latter. According to the BBC, China once owned 70 percent of the Bitcoin mining equipment in the world. The overall carbon emissions from mining cryptocurrencies is worrying, as China mainly uses coal to produce electricity,
Hong Kong is definitely not a feasible place to mine bitcoins like this, as there is a shortage of land and electricity is expensive. Allied Control, however, made it possible with its cooling technology, mining currencies in an environmentally-friendly manner.
Lau Kar-wing, Allied Control CEO told the SCMP: “Hong Kong is not really the best place for bitcoin mining.” In operating the immersive-cooled mine there, he demonstrated it was possible to mine digital currencies even in locations where electricity is expensive.
Immersive Cooling Drawbacks
If immersive cooling has been around for years, then why isn’t everyone using it? There are a number of reasons. According to Data Center Journal, the advantages of full immersion are often offset by extra costs and considerations.
These include the hassle of only being able to access components from one angle (i.e.: the top) and the mess involved whenever they need to be moved, adjusted, or have cables changed.
New infrastructure such as leak-proof vats are also required to hold the liquid, and a spill could be disastrous. Any devices with spinning hard-disk drives would also need to be isolated or guaranteed liquid-proof. The cooling liquid itself needs to be filtered and kept clean.
All in all, it’s better to build an entire new data center to support this unusual infrastructure — while retrofitting an older one can be expensive.
Relation Between Bitcoin Price and Energy Consumption
Undaunted by those extra considerations, BitFury has since included the immersive cooling “greentech” at another of its mines in Georgia.
Jamie Smith, BitFury global chief communications officer, said: “We were interested in making our data centers some of the most sustainable and cutting-edge in the world.”
Many critics are concerned about Bitcoin’s carbon footprint. According to a recent report in Motherboard, mining machines consume even more electricity as the BTC price increases. Additionally, the report stated “one bitcoin transaction requires 215 kilowatt-hours of electricity to process. That is equivalent to what an average American household consumes in one week.”
Motherboard‘s math has been disputed, and the publication also has a history of hyperbole over Bitcoin’s energy use. But there’s definitely room for improvement, and efficiency gains would also save miners money.
Indicating the importance of more environmentally friendly data centers, Smith said: “As high-powered data centers are increasingly used for everything from internet searches to securing the Bitcoin blockchain (from hacking), it is crucial we work to make sure they are energy efficient, sustainable, and productive.”
Other Greentech Projects
BitFury is not the only firm chasing green technology to mine virtual currencies. Bittorrent creator Bram Cohen plans to launch a new cryptocurrency — called “Chia” — that will verify transactions based on time and storage. It plans to use the surplus space on hard drives to verify transactions on its blockchain.
“The idea is to make a better Bitcoin, to fix the centralization problems,” Cohen said.
Another startup company, Blockhive, is working on ways to create a cleaner cryptocurrency mining environment. The Estonian/Japanese startup created “Eesti Mining“, which powers its machines using renewable power. Its operations launched at the start of November 2017.
Mining digital currencies in an environment-friendly manner is yet another challenge facing the industry. With more widespread adoption of technologies such as BitFury/Allied Control’s immersion cooling method, cryptocurrencies might have a cleaner future.
What tech should cryptocurrency miners explore to make their operations more environmentally friendly? Let us know in the comments.
Images via HongWrong.com, Allied Control