Bitcoin energy is 234 kWh per transaction

Photo by Anish Nair

How many kWh were used on Bitcoin energy yesterday, and were any of them hiding in your building's load curve?

Back in June 2014, when the price of a single Bitcoin was around $650, we asked if your tenants had dug any mining operations with your building’s unmetered plug load. Now that the price has jumped over 2,500%, the issue of Bitcoin energy is worth a second look.

bitcoin energy country

It is estimated that Bitcoin burns 32 terawatt hours of energy every year. If it were a county, it’d be ranked #62!

Imagine a typical 70k square foot building in downtown San Francisco, with an average daily kWh use of 2784. At 234 kWH per transaction, 12 transactions is all it takes to equal that building’s daily energy use! Put another way, the total amount of energy used by Bitcoin a year equals that of Denmark. Given that a vast majority of Bitcoin mining occurs in China, where coal-fired power is cheap, the carbon footprint for each Bitcoin transaction is astounding. Now imagine an eight building complex staffed with 50 people, dedicated solely to cryptocurrency mining.

bitmain bitcoin energy

The Bitmain mine in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, has eight buildings containing mining machines. One of them is dedicated to litecoin and the other seven to mine bitcoins. (Aurelien Foucault for Quartz)

Quartz visited Bitmain in Ordos, in Inner Mongolia, and the photos are stunning. This mine has 25,000 machines cranking 24 hours a day, although cheap energy means its daily electricity bill runs just $39,000.

For building operators with loose controls on tenant plug load, the question remains the same as it was in June 2014. Essentially, what’s the difference between a hidden Bitcoin mine under the desk and a tech-heavy tenant with a large server load, with energy costs subsidized by the inverse proportion of their rent?

About Millen Paschich

Millen began his career at Cambridge Associates, trained in finance at SMU, and has an MBA from UCLA. Talk to him about bicycling, business, and green chile burritos.

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