DAVID ERICKSON Missoulian
A bitcoin mining company plans to build a new 50-megawatt data center in Polson, Montana, according to an announcement made on Friday by Gov. Greg Gianforte and Salish and Kootenai Confederate Secretary Martin Charlo.
The data center will be powered by hydroelectric power from the Salish-Kootenai Dam that blocks the Flathead River at the southern end of Lake Flathead.
According to Energy Keepers Inc., the CSKT-owned corporation that manages the dam, the structure has the capacity to generate 208 megawatts of electricity, meaning the new bitcoin mine will occupy about a quarter of the generation station’s output.
The announcement was made at the “On the Rise” Economic Summit in Montana hosted by Senator Steve Daines in Bozeman.
“We are excited to announce this new opportunity at Senator Daines’ economic summit today that will benefit the nation and connect clean energy and base load to next-generation computing, ”Charlo said in a statement.
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The data center will be built by Bitzero, said CEO Akbar Shamji, who was in Bozeman this week for the summit.
Bitzero announced Wednesday that it will invest up to $ 500 million in bitcoin mining operations in North Dakota. Bitcoin requires large amounts of energy for the computer processing that cryptocurrency creates.
There has been a growing scrutiny of the huge amounts of energy consumed worldwide by cryptocurrency data centers due to concerns that it is leading to an increase in greenhouse gases. As a result, many companies are choosing renewable energy sources. But some researchers have pointed out that the depletion of renewable energy sources creates an economic incentive for the creation or continuation of coal-fired power plants.
Missoula County has a strained relationship with bitcoin mining companies. After one of those companies, Hyperblock, moved into a Bonner warehouse, concerns about noise and power consumption led county commissioners to adopt zoning regulations governing where such operations may exist. The county also enacted “green” emergency regulations that required bitcoin mining companies buy or build new renewable energy sources to offset 100% of your energy demand. At one point, Hyperblock was using as much electricity as a third of all homes in the county. That power also came from the Salish-Kootenai dam.
However, Missoula County commissioners said the use of energy has displaced other potential buyers of renewable energy who will then have to buy coal-emitting energy from greenhouse gases.
“That water wouldn’t be seen just over the dam (if Hyperblock hadn’t bought it),” Commissioner Dave Strohmaier said at the time. “There are buyers for energy, so it’s not like it’s a renewable energy that is otherwise wasted. From what I can tell, cryptocurrency is using exponentially more energy; it’s a grotesque amount of energy and we have to take action. to address it. ”
Hyperblock ceased operations in Bonner in the spring of 2020.
One of the investors in Bitzero, the company that builds Polson’s data center, is Kevin O’Leary, a Canadian businessman who became famous on the “Shark Tank” television show.
“There’s healthy competition between states to attract capital,” O’Leary said. “Some states are excelling in developing business-friendly policies, regulations, and taxes, and they have a leadership that has really driven business in their careers. Montana has all that and more. For me as an investor, the state is one of the top five destinations for long-term capital investment “.
Gianforte and Daines also praised the announcement, saying the data center would create well-paying jobs.
“Montana is open to business for the world and we are thrilled with this investment in Montana,” Governor Gianforte said. “Our continued focus on reducing taxes, cutting red tape and attracting and training workers in critical industries is critical to driving future job creation, growth and prosperity.”
Daines hosted the summit with the Montana Chamber of Commerce.
“This new investment in CSKT will support well-paying jobs in Montana, boost Montana’s economy, and keep Montana at the forefront of the energy and technology sector,” Daines said. “I’m excited to announce this lucrative project. I’m looking forward to the exciting new opportunities this will bring to Montana.”