Stanley Estrada / AFP via Getty Images
The President of El Salvador announced on Wednesday that the country’s geothermal energy utility will begin using energy derived from volcanoes for Bitcoin mining.
The social media announcement came just hours after the Central American nation’s congress voted to make cryptocurrency acceptable legal tender.
“I just asked the president of @LaGeoSV (our state-owned geothermal power company) to put in place a plan to offer facilities for mining #Bitcoin with very cheap, 100% clean energy, 100% renewable, 0 energy emissions from our volcanoes “, tweeted President Nayib Bukele. “It will evolve quickly!”
Bitcoin mining has taken a lot of heat to be harmful to the environment, as it requires massive amounts of electricity to power the computers that generate the invisible currency.
But cryptocurrency boosters, as Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, say Bitcoin mining could lead to more renewable energy projects, like the one announced in El Salvador.
What energy are we talking about?
There is a decentralized ledger of Bitcoin transactions, known as the blockchain.
New entries in this ledger are created when someone or rather their computer solves a complex math puzzle to verify previous transactions.
There is a potentially large payout. If you solve any of these puzzles, you must go through the next block in this ledger and earn yourself, or “mine”, 6.25 Bitcoin, which is worth almost $ 230,000 today, plus transaction fees.
It turns out that it takes immense amounts of computing power to both run the super-fast machines that solve these math problems and cool them down when they overheat.
With Bitcoin miners located all over the world, the overall energy bill is immense.
According to Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index, worldwide, Bitcoin mining uses around 105 terawatt hours of electricity per year. That’s more than all the electricity used each year in the Philippines, the university estimates.
Such revelations have sparked outrage over the high environmental cost of mining Bitcoin.
They have also led companies to find cleaner, cheaper ways to mine the valuable cryptocurrency. Forbes reported that a company called Northern Bitcoin has set up a data center in a former Norwegian metal mine and is using hydro and wind power to run its computers as well as cold water from a nearby fjord to cool the machines.
With geothermal energy, like the one to be used in El Salvador, the burning volcano heats groundwater, creating a powerful surge of steam that can spin turbines and generate electricity.
The Bitcoin experience in El Salvador
that of El Salvador new law makes Bitcoin legal tender, joining the US dollar as the country’s only other official currency.
By law, around 70% of the country’s population does not have access to “traditional financial services”. President Bukele has said he hopes that making Bitcoin legal tender will boost investment in the country and increase the wealth of its citizens.
The law also requires the government to provide “the necessary training and mechanisms” for Salvadorans to access Bitcoin transactions.
It is not yet known whether other countries will follow suit.
Critics have warned that the value of the cryptocurrency is volatile. And one said the spokesperson for the International Monetary Fund the designation of Bitcoin as legal tender “raises a number of macroeconomic, financial and legal issues which require very careful analysis.”
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