(WTAJ) — Cryptocurrencies have taken the world by storm over the past decade — from bitcoin to dogecoin — crypto might be here to stay.
As the popularity and demand for digital currency grows, more mining data centers have popped up across the country, including one in Central Pennsylvania. It’s located in Beccaria Township of Clearfield County.
Coal mining has been a historical aspect of central Pennsylvania. Similar to the 1848 gold rush, the new age of computers and technology, solving computation puzzles to generate cryptocurrency might be this generation’s gold rush, minus those panning kits.
On January 3, 2009, Satoshi Nakamoto mined the first batch of the popular cryptocurrency, bitcoins (with the “Genesis Block”) using the CPU chip of his personal computer. In the early days of Bitcoin, mining was less difficult, as most mining could use graphics cards on a PC.
In Beccaria Township, a private corporation called Big Dog Energy LLC has set up shop on a natural gas well pad, where it operates 30 natural gas-fired generators, including 29 Mesa natural gas-fired generators and one Jenbacher natural gas-fired generator.
“They set up large data centers next to generators,” said Akhil Kumar, a Penn State University professor researching blockchain technology. “These computer programs consume a lot of power. They are very complex. And they consume an enormous amount of energy.”
Documents WTAJ received show that on January 7, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) filed a notice of violations against the LLC, stating that it had installed and been operating those generators without DEP authorization.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
The practice of installing generators to mine for cryptocurrencies can be found all over the United States, as more and more people try to get into what some call the future of currency.
“Currently the value of a bitcoin on the market is about $40,000. And if you mine one block, you get 6.25 bitcoins, Kumar said.
With prices of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin reaching highs of $70,000 in 2021, while crypto likeDogecoin tanked after Elon Musk appeared on SNL the same year, being able to mine these digital coins could be quite the investment. In states like Oregon and Washington state, these types of data centers are running almost 24/7. But Kumar adds that it’s not all green in the mining business, there is also an environmental downside to this.
“It does have a collateral effect all around.”
ISSUES IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD:
For those who live near the plant located on Dillon road, the sound of the generators has been a serious disruption to their lives.
Some residents of the small town of about 1,500 spoke off-camera to state their concerns which included the noise. Many of them said they can hear the generators running throughout the night, in some instances the noise is so loud it keeps them up. One nearby resident added it has kept him up until 4 a.m. on various nights. The wildlife that resides in the wooded Clearfield County community has been impacted by this operation as well. Nearby residents tell WTAJ that when the Big Dog Energy LCC data center is operating, your chances of seeing deer or other wildlife in the area are slim.
Some in the area fear this practice could hurt the value of their land, as it’s already an area that has been devasted financially in recent decades.
The wildlife that resides in the wooded Clearfield County community, has been impacted by this operation as well, nearby residents tell WTAJ that when the Big Dog Energy LCC data center is operating, your chances of seeing deer or other wildlife in the area are slim.
“In a time where there’s so much concern about global warming and sustainability and so on. To some extent you could argue that this is a wasteful activity,” Kumar said.
Professor Kumar believes that over the next two decades, more data centers like Big Dog Energy will continue to pop up across the globe, as the lucrative business continues to become more mainstream. This possibility he said, is a scary one, as he fears the environmental impact it may have on communities like Beccaria township will replicate across the globe.
“We are consuming enormous amounts of electrical power, by some estimates the numbers run as high as 91 terawatts of electricity per year.”
For a pop culture reference, Doc Brown could power the 1.21 Gigawatt DeLorean time machine more than 70,000 times with the electric power this local mining company uses.