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Powering Bitcoin: Connecting Proof of Work to Electricity Grids - Part I

May 02, 2024
byNDAX Labs

Bitcoin has been the talk of the town for quite some time now. Its meteoric rise has left many in awe, while its astounding energy consumption has drawn sharp criticism. Some notable publications, such as The New York Times, have even accused Bitcoin miners of using more energy than a certain small nation.

However, it seems this uproar may not be completely warranted. Riot Platforms' VP of Research, Pierre Rochard, offers a counter-argument. He proposes that most industry-derived emissions are not from Bitcoin miners but from power generation facilities such as coal power plants.

Tracing where electricity comes from in terms of accounting can indeed be tough. Hence, how indirect emissions are measured remains hazy at best. After all, simulations are used since it is impossible to measure indirect emissions accurately.

In reality, there exists a relationship between Bitcoin mining and electricity grids. Whether that relationship creates more problems or solutions is being debated. This article sets out to investigate this complex topic. The subtleties that bind Bitcoin mining and electricity systems together. 

NDAX aims to provide a well-rounded view of this subject matter. We will discuss various aspects, from renewable energy adoption to stranded energy used by mining companies. Read on to learn all about the symbiosis between Bitcoin and the power grid.

Understanding Electricity Generation and Transfer

Electricity is an integral part of our lives, essential to everything from heating our homes to charging our cell phones. So, where does it come from, and how does it reach us? Its journey comprises a chain of steps, overall referred to as 'the grid'. Not one equation but rather a complex system with multiple stages. Here's a quick breakdown of this fascinating process.


Generation is where the magic begins. Different sources are tapped to create power. Think buzzing wind turbines battling fierce gales, large panels soaking up sunlight to produce solar energy, or various plants burning coal or natural gas. Even nuclear fission inside a reactor at a nuclear power plant contributes to electricity generation.

Producers can range from non-profit organizations and government entities to private corporations. The common goal is the same. To generate power that will eventually light up your homes and fuel industries.


Any time you drive by tall metal towers interlinked with cables, you see transmission in action. In layman's terms, ' transmission' is the transportation of generated electricity over long distances until it meets consumers.

Electricity during its travel jumps through different voltages for efficiency and safety reasons at substations placed at various points on the electricity highway.


Interestingly enough, storing electricity directly isn't quite possible given its nature. Instead, it gets converted into another form. That could be spinning flywheels or pumped hydro storage. These methods capture energy, which then gets reconverted back into consumable power when necessary.


The last stop is, of course, usage. Electricity reaches its destination, powering houses, businesses, or massive manufacturing facilities.

Types of Electricity Grids

The process described above fits mainly within centralized electrical grids that generate large amounts of power that are then distributed to the end consumers. However, an influx of solar rooftop panels and small wind turbines has stimulated the advent of decentralized grid models, which generate electricity at or near the point where it's used.

A central difference clearly demarcates centralized and decentralized models. One treats energy as a product that gets produced and delivered, while the other sees energy as a service. This emerging model combines technologies, software, and hardware systems to form 'microgrids.' These are independent entities with a localized grouping of electricity sources capable of disconnecting from traditional grids when needed.

The Energy Landscape and Bitcoin Mining

Today's discourse about cryptocurrency, specifically Bitcoin, orbits around its high energy consumption. Why does mining Bitcoin require such a surplus of power? Before establishing connections to energy consumption, we must first understand the 'mining' process. By now, you might know that all transactions are validated and added to the public ledger called the blockchain.

As the name suggests, Bitcoin is a coin, or cryptocurrency, that is based on a cryptographic system. The blockchain is where every Bitcoin transaction is stored, and it must be continuously updated to protect users from potential risks. This is where 'miners' come in. Miners are computers or servers that perform the tasks of verifying and recording all Bitcoin transactions.

A Closer Look at Proof of Work

Proof of work (PoW) lies at the core of Bitcoin mining operations. It is a system designed to ensure that the work done in mining Bitcoin is indeed authentic and valid. This system functions based on consensus between all parties involved in a particular transaction.

In this context, 'consensus' translates into agreement between network participants about the legitimacy and finality of transactions. It ascertains that no single entity can willingly alter any part of a transaction once it's validated and added to the blockchain, protecting against fraudulent activities like double-spending.

For PoW to function adequately, substantial computational effort is required – referred to as 'hash rate.' The hash rate measures the speed with which a miner completes an operation within the Bitcoin code. High hash rates suggest high computational efficiency levels, hence more successful miners.

Miners employ powerful computers or special hardware systems like application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) to solve intricate mathematical puzzles. This process is termed hashing. When they successfully solve this puzzle, they're granted a reward for their 'work,' which includes freshly minted bitcoins along with small transaction fees from each validated transaction.

Naturally, the requirements for high computational power bring us back to our conversation about electricity grids, given that power efficiency strongly ties into overall profitability when mining bitcoins.

Embracing Renewable Energy for Mining

In light of the concerns tied to Bitcoin mining's carbon footprint, there's a growing trend towards sourcing renewable energy for operations. Defined as any energy source naturally regenerating over human timescales, renewable energy types include wind, solar, hydro, tides, and geothermal heat. Not only is renewable energy better for the environment than non-renewable coal or natural gas, but it's also becoming more economically feasible.

In fact, CoinShares estimated in a recent report that about 74.1% of Bitcoin mining is conducted using renewable energy, dispelling the common narrative that crypto activities blanket the world under a cloud of harmful emissions.

The Texas Example

An exceptionally fine example of this transition occurs in Texas – now described as "The Mecca of Bitcoin Mining." Various factors contribute to making Texas an attractive destination for miners:

  1. Business-Friendly Environment: Texas's Regulations and governmental policies favor mining operations. (Ongoing!)
  2. Stable Power Grid: The state boasts a reliable grid infrastructure - an important factor considering the 24/7 nature of mining operations.
  3. Availability of Labor: Texas has an advantage with its readily available workforce.

Renewable energies such as wind power play pivotal roles in powering Texan grids due to the state's flat landscape accentuated with consistent winds throughout large parts of the year. Nonetheless, due to a surge in demand from Bitcoin miners flocking towards these favourable conditions (alongside household consumers), regulatory challenges have emerged.

To counter this surge during high power-demand periods, The Texas Senate passed a bill limiting how much Bitcoin miners can participate in demand response programs. These programs pay mining companies to curtail their operations during peak hours so as to reduce strain on the grid.

Moving beyond criticism towards finding solutions, policy developments like tax exemption for miners utilizing fugitive emissions (emissions not caught by regular operating conditions and released into the atmosphere) underline that environmentally responsible mining isn't a far-fetched idea.

Hive Blockchain

Firms like Hive Blockchain Technologies are proving it is possible to strike a balance between technology and the environment. This rapidly growing, sustainable Bitcoin mining company recently announced a partnership with Intel Corp to purchase ASIC chips, which will be incorporated into custom-built mining equipment for HIVE.

Moreover, they aim to host 100 MW of mining capacity in a Texas-based renewable energy data center facility, creating a synergy between the two industries.

Marathon Digital Holdings

The transition to renewable energy is evident in Marathon Digital Holdings, too. In 2021, the company announced plans to make its mining operations 100% carbon neutral by the end of 2022. This entails transitioning Bitcoin miners from facilities in Montana, currently relying on a coal-fired power plant, to locations with more sustainable power sources.

Genesis Digital Assets Limited

Genesis Digital Assets Limited offers another perspective by harnessing hydro energy. Operating over 400 MW of power generation globally, it has recently inaugurated a new data center located in northern Sweden where hydroelectric power enriches the grid.

With an approximate capacity of 8 MW, this center's presence underscores Sweden's growing renewables surplus and favours a steady hash rate of around 155 peta-hashes per second. Companies like Bitfarms, which run similar operations across multiple facilities in the US, Canada, and Paraguay, further underline potential scopes within this niche.


Kenya's geothermal-rich landscapes are soon going to witness a surge in Bitcoin mining activities. Considered one of the world's most significant geothermal energy reserves, estimated at an astounding potential of 10k MWs, Kenya's energy company KenGen is offering this resource to Bitcoin miners as it explores fresh revenue streams.

However, Kenya's relationship with cryptocurrency itself has been a complicated one. The East African nation had earlier outlawed cryptocurrency dealings, citing issues of security and regulation, which means that the local crypto mining landscape in Kenya remains underdeveloped.

Instead, KenGen now explores avenues to collaborate with international players, stepping beyond its borders to furnish the energy needs of European or American Bitcoin miners.

More on Bitcoin next week in our Part 2: The Economics of Mining.

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Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide investment, legal, accounting, tax or any other advice and should not be relied on in that or any other regard. The information contained herein is for information purposes only and is not to be construed as an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of cryptocurrencies or otherwise.