A bankrupt power plant in the Finger Lakes region of New York was brought back online by new owners. The output—the facility has an allowance of 641,000 tons of CO2-equivalent gases a year—is now used exclusively to mine crypto. Nathaniel Mott:
Now imagine how things could worsen if Greenidge quadruples power usage as planned. There wouldn't necessarily be a one-to-one increase, of course, but it's not hard to figure out why local residents might oppose Greenidge's expansion plans. The other fear is that more power plants — which, by their very nature, have access to the massive amounts of electricity required to mine Bitcoin—might follow Greenidge in expanding into the cryptocurrency market.
Jessica McKenzie takes a deep dive into the Greenidge situation at Grist: "This power plant stopped burning fossil fuels. Then Bitcoin came along."
If it weren't for Bitcoin, there would almost certainly be no reason to run the power plant in Dresden at all. Without the revenue from mining, Greenidge would have no reason to spew hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon dioxide from the plant's stacks, discharge hundreds of billions of gallons of hot water into a nearby trout stream, or pipe in and burn billions of cubic feet of fracked natural gas.
In fact, the plant was shut down in 2011 because there wasn't enough regional energy demand to justify the operating costs. Its owners filed for bankruptcy and told the state that the plant's closure was permanent. After belching noxious fumes and dumping toxic coal ash into a nearby landfill for seven decades, the plant was poised to be remediated and reused.
In March 2020, McKenzie reports, the plant's 14MW output was good for about $50k a day of Bitcoin.