Bitcoin mining companies move to Georgia, drawn by inexpensive land, low electric rates


The centers employ relatively few workers and consume massive amounts of electricity at a time when social and government pressures are pushing companies to reduce their carbon footprints. The facilities also generate uninterrupted noise from the refrigeration equipment.

But they are welcomed with open arms by some communities, especially in the tax-free rural counties of Georgia.

“When you’re looking at fallow land that doesn’t generate tax revenue from that dirt, any incremental improvement is better than nothing,” said Tim Huffman, an executive at real estate brokerage firm CBRE.

Legend

Thousands of computers are packed into a bitcoin mining facility at Cleanspark in College Park. Georgia has become a destination for such facilities. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Thousands of computers are packed into a bitcoin mining facility at Cleanspark in College Park.  Georgia has become a destination for such facilities.  (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

subtitle arrowLegend

Thousands of computers are packed into a bitcoin mining facility at Cleanspark in College Park. Georgia has become a destination for such facilities. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The concept behind bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies is baffling to many who are considering paying with American credit cards and greenbacks.

Cryptocurrencies only exist in the form of digital tokens that can be bought, sold, or traded online, converted into hard currency, or used to buy goods or services from merchants who accept them as payment.

Cryptocurrency miners use stacks of thousands of computers to perform complex calculations that independently track and verify how each token is exchanged or spent. Doing all that work is also how mining companies make a profit. Those who solve complex calculations to verify transactions can reap the benefits of earning newly generated bitcoins.

Cryptocurrencies are far from replacing traditional money and their values ​​fluctuate widely. A bitcoin bought for $ 67,544 last November was worth $ 46,535 on April 1, according to CoinDesk, a website that tracks news and cryptocurrency values. Not so many years ago, bitcoin was worth almost nothing.

Georgia’s rural areas and small towns like Adel, Dalton, Fitzgerald and LaFayette have attracted the first wave of mining companies. In March, an Australian company announced the expansion of its facilities in Sandersville, between Macon and Augusta.

Horace Daniel, chairman of the county commission in Washington County, Sandersville House, summed up why he supported him.

“I’m all in favor of new jobs,” he said.

An average bitcoin mining facility typically does not employ more than 20 workers, such as electricians and technology specialists. That’s less than a lot of factories or warehouses, but it’s still something.

Electric cooperatives, mostly rural, and municipal utilities also like miners because they provide a new source of income. And by serving larger and larger customers, smaller businesses gain more influence with Georgia Power, which sells them energy.

“They’re able to negotiate better rates,” said Matt Schultz, president of CleanSpark, which has mining facilities in College Park and Norcross, rather than rural areas.

College Park’s municipal utility gets 90% of its energy from nuclear sources, the highest of any city in Georgia.

To try to deflect criticism of energy consumption, many miners are looking for utilities that have solar, wind and nuclear power that do not emit greenhouse gases.

Georgia has a growing alternative energy production complex, such as solar and wind, and is adding nuclear capacity to Georgia Power’s Vogtle plant, though the project is years behind schedule.

The state also has relatively cheap energy, with an average rate of 9.93 cents per kilowatt hour, according to the latest. U.S. Energy Information Administration figures. That’s below the U.S. average of 10.59 cents.

Noise can also be a problem with bitcoin mining. An East Tennessee county recently sued a bitcoin miner for visual and noise pollution.

The mining operation in Adel, Georgia, has received complaints from a couple who told WAXL News in Albany last December that they had spent $ 5,000 trying to soundproof their home, but it was still driving them crazy.

Schultz said CleanSpark chose College Park in part because it is on the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport flight route and the noise of jet engines drowns out the sounds of bitcoin mining. CleanSpark has also installed sound barriers around its facilities.

“You can hear a low buzz, but it’s just one of the big fans we use,” he said.





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