Critics question utility’s bitcoin mining data center
Missouri’s largest utility has set up a data center at the site of one of its coal-fired power plants that it uses to mine the internet for bitcoin.
The managers of Ameren Corp. say the data center could also help stabilize electricity demand, which could help it avoid slowing down and restarting production, which is inefficient.
Ameren officials told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that they believe the utility was one of the first regulated U.S. utilities to mine cryptocurrencies. The company has already collected more than 20 bitcoins, valued at over $ 60,000 apiece on Friday.
But critics question the million-dollar project because they say it serves to artificially increase demand for energy from coal and the utility could better use the resources elsewhere, for example by pursuing technologies such as battery storage or electric vehicle charging stations.
“It really increases the demand on the system, and therefore the demand for coal-based energy,” said Andy Knott, local manager of the Sierra Club, of the group’s Beyond Coal campaign. “I think what they’re trying to do is avoid having to slow down their generators. “
Utility officials said they view high-power computers as a flexible and controlled way to help manage electrical load.
“The goal here is to help bridge the valleys,” said Warren Wood, vice president of regulatory and legislative affairs for Ameren Missouri. “It makes the system work more efficiently. “
The company has declared itself open to other uses of computing power. “A data center can do a lot of different things of value,” said Wood. “Bitcoin just happens to be one of them.”