Large-scale miners are the dominant players in Bitcoin (BTC) mining — we should know because we are one. Having scaled up from a set of mining rigs in my dorm room, our team at Genesis Digital Assets has grown to over twenty industrial-scale mining farms across the globe in just eight years. Every quarter, we continue to scale and build more.
You may think that because mining happens digitally, you can plant a farm anywhere in the world. And while you can mine Bitcoin from anywhere, having on-the-ground operations takes more thought than just setting up shop wherever you like. Whether you’re looking to start your own farm or scouting out farms to invest in, location is going to be the make-or-break factor of your mining operations.
Because it’s such a new industry and there’s no handbook for scaling Bitcoin mining operations, we’ve learned as we’ve gone, experienced every issue that could arise and worked hard to solve it. We’ve essentially been writing the handbook of how to build successful large-scale mining operations — I’ll share some of that insight with you. Here are four major factors to think about when you consider your new mining farm’s location.
Factor 1: Electricity rates
Because mining operations need fast and powerful mining rigs to solve algorithms quickly, powering the hardware is the most expensive part of a mining operation. Operations that think they’re going strong can get undercut on high electricity prices very easily. So, when it comes to choosing a location, operations need to not only know what electricity options are the cheapest but which modes of electricity are available in that locale.
Bitcoin mining consumes a lot of electricity energy — around 110 terawatt hours per year which is about the electrical energy consumption of a small country. A single ASIC miner runs just over 3000 watts, which is the equivalent of running an AC unit, a dryer or a space heater. Considering that Bitcoin mining farms are running hundreds or thousands of miners all day and night, it’s easy to see how electricity costs can get out of control. The last thing you want to do is set up shop only to find out that you’ll never be profitable because of an outrageous electricity bill.
Factor 2: Availability of green energy
You may find cheap electricity, but is it sustainable? The good news is that green energy sources like wind, solar and hydropower are all cheaper sources than gas and coal. A 2019 report found that “56% of all newly commissioned utility-scale renewable power generation capacity provided electricity at a lower cost than the cheapest new fossil fuel-fired option.”
But, while sustainable energy is the cheapest option when it comes to cost, miners haven’t all been using sustainable energy. As more people invest in and become aware of Bitcoin and what mining is, more questions are arising around its use of sustainable energy — especially after Elon Musk’s tweets brought it to the forefront.
The argument that all Bitcoin miners are greedily and uncaringly using fossil fuels is unfounded. ARK Invest and the Cambridge Center for Alternative Finance have found that 76% of miners are actively using sustainable energy sources as part of their mining operations. Additionally, the industry as a whole is pushing to adopt more sustainable ways to operate from committing to reducing their emissions through the new Crypto Climate Accord to using their own data center’s excess heat to power local greenhouses, farms and towns.
Factor 3: Mining-friendly regions
Another question around choosing a location: Will they let me mine here? If they do let me mine here, is the political attitude towards mining such that overnight, they could change their mind and shut down mining operations altogether?
This has recently happened in China, where the Chinese government announced they would begin to crack down on Bitcoin mining and trading behavior. By June 20, local authorities shut down Bitcoin mining operations across the Sichuan Province and now it’s expected that 90% of mining operations will be shut down completely or forced out of the country. Additionally, Iran has recently banned Bitcoin mining in the wake of recent power outages. So, it’s best not to build a mining farm where you’ll suddenly be forced to shut it down.
But, these actions reveal which countries are against Bitcoin mining, and which ones are encouraging of the future of Bitcoin mining. Many mining operations are looking to Nordic countries, which have an abundance of green energy. Canada is encouraging mining to the extent that it deemed mining operations as “essential services” during their COVID-19 pandemic shutdown. And, many Chinese miners are flocking to the United States to set up new operations because of abundant green energy and a favorable political climate.
Factor 4: Local talent
As I mentioned before, there’s no handbook on how to build a Bitcoin mining operation — which means that not many people have direct experience in how to do it. As you look to hire talent, you’ll need to pull from industries or positions that have similar functions and similar problem solving where the skills can transfer.
For example, we have farms in Northern Sweden which also happens to be where Facebook, Google and many others have data centers — it’s not uncommon to find data centers and mining farms located near one another. This provides access to talent that is easier to onboard and train than, say, somewhere where the available talent only has factory or industry experience.
This article does not contain investment advice or recommendations. Every investment and trading move involves risk, and readers should conduct their own research when making a decision.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.