Bitcoin, Energy, and the Environment
By Troy Cross
These are conversations I was having, and in some ways getting credit I didn't deserve. Meet the real experts on bitcoin, energy, and the environment.
Bitcoin, Energy, and the EnvironmentApr 03, 2022
Nathaniel Harmon discovered bitcoin in 2013 and yammered uncontrollably about it just like we all do. But he failed to orange pill his classmates and faculty members at the University of Hawaii. Instead, he inspired an undergraduate class led to choose as a topic the horrors resulting from bitcoin-mining-related emissions. With their "rock star" prof, Camilo Mora, they managed to place a 2-page comment in Nature: Climate Change forecasting 2 degrees C of warming from bitcoin mining alone.
Nathaniel is 100% to blame.
Seriously though, he tell the story of how that infamous paper came to be written, "by children," and published by a prestigious journal, despite being "the academic equivalent of a shitpost."
But that's only the beginning. Nathaniel himself predicted the increase in renewable penetration in bitcoin mining, but was shut down by every relevant department and had to choose a different thesis topic. Undeterred, he built a bitcoin business and kept exploring ways of making good on bitcoin's promise to transport value from energy across space.
His idea now? Using bitcoin mining to scale up testing of ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC), which uses a difference in deep and shallow water temperatures to generate electricity. He spells out a financial obstacle here that bitcoin fixes.
He paints an incredible picture. A barge with bitcoin miners and a 1km "straw" plunging down into the depths, returning super-cool water as byproduct to cool the miners, spinning turbines for power, and able to avoid hurricanes by outrunning them. Talk about stranded energy! That power will be competitively priced and miners overclocked 30-40%.
There's theoretically 2TW capacity in the ocean before too much cold water is at the surface... there is energy EVERYWHERE, people!
If it works at scale, OTEC can park off the shore of any tropical city near deep water to provide a firm load at around $.05/KWh with miners out not the barge too, to balance the intermittency created by on-shore renewables.
Fully 1 billion people could be served by this form of power. Abundance, abundance, abundance.
We just talked. I am not a podcaster and don't want to be. If you are, please consider having Nathaniel on your pod!