Although a small country, El Salvador is home to 30 volcanoesof which 20 are considered potentially active.
The geothermal energy generated by these volcanoes is a rich source, which is now being tapped to mine Bitcoin in a new pilot project in the Central American country.
Bitcoin has been an official currency of El Salvador since September with mixed reactions from its citizens.
How can you mine Bitcoin using volcanoes?
The city of Berlin, 112 km south of the capital San Salvador, has a geothermal power plant which was built in 1999. The plant is made up of 16 wells of 2,000 to 3,000 depths from which steam circulates and makes operate three turbines.
The power generated by these turbines can reach up to 107 megawatts, but only five are used for Bitcoin mining and mining. The rest of the energy is used for the country’s grid.
Thanks to this source of energy, about 300 computers can operate day and night. Bitcoins are created using computers that solve complex mathematical problems and require a large amount of electricity to operate.
“We have a container where there are a series of processors that are currently working,” said Gustavo Cuellar, technical director of the Executive Hydroelectric Commission of Rio Lempa (CEL), the public company on which the plant depends.
“Structurally, renewables produce more than they sell,” said Sébastien Gouspillou, head of BigBlock Datacenter.
BigBlock Datacenter is a French bitcoin mining company that advised Salvador on the project.
“Mining is a crutch for renewable energies… a real godsend” to use the surplus electricity, explained the entrepreneur to AFP. He also pointed out that mining plants using geothermal energy have already been installed in Iceland.
An eco-geo-political innovation
“The mining industry is in a state of flux after the Chinese crackdown in June,” say researchers from Britain’s Cambridge University in a recent study.
But for the moment “we lack data to establish how the redistribution of mining activity affects the energy mix of the global network”, note the researchers, estimating the energy consumption of miners at 0.4% of the world’s production. ‘electricity.
“We are not reducing El Salvador’s energy supply, on the contrary, we are increasing it, and from the amount that we have increased, we have taken these 1.5 megawatts to start this first stage with mining”, Daniel Alvarez, president of for the Rio Lempa Hydroelectric Executive Commission (CEL)argued.
Since September 7, El Salvador has been using Bitcoin as its official currency along with the US dollar. In an industry that still relies heavily on dirty coal-fired power plants, the government is touting the use of clean energy for local mining.
Since the legalization of cryptocurrency in the country, some 3 million of the 6.7 million Salvadorans have downloaded the government-launched Chivo app for bitcoin transactions, according to official data.
But the policy of President Bukele, 40, is also opposed by some Salvadorans who denounce an “authoritarian government” and “bad ideas that harm the economy, like Bitcoin”.