It's a moveable feast of cheaper, cooler, greener electricity for building blockchains.
Shipping containers are wonderful things that have changed the world; they are secure boxes that can be shipped anywhere through a vast shipping and handling infrastructure of trucks, trains and ships.
Blockchains and cryptocurrencies may turn out to be wonderful things; Don and Alex Tapscott suggest that "this new digital ledger of economic transactions can be programmed to record virtually everything of value and importance to humankind."
But right now they seem to be not much more than a giant energy suck. As we noted in our earlier post, it takes a huge amount of electricity to run the "proof of work algorithms"; the Digiconomist estimates that this year it will assume 71.12 Terawatt-hours, which is more than Switzerland uses but slightly less than Austria. We previously noted that Bitcoin mining is using as much power as 5,699,560 American households. And it isn't all lovely green hydro and wind power either.
That is why Nordcoin has such an interesting idea; they take 240 of the little power hungry mining computers and put them in a steel shipping container that can go where the cheap green power is. This often changes, and the companies that supply it are often monopolies. So being able to move your crypto-farm is a real asset. Nordcoin writes:
NordCoin’s Mobile Mining Containers wrap up the difficulties of individual crypto-mining processes and transforms it into a simple, straightforward service. We believe that future crypto-mining operations should be decentralized, mobile and independent from any single government, as well as placed in a region with a surplus of electricity production.
They are based in chilly Estonia and note that the Nordic countries are a very good place to be for crypto-mining; much of the electricity is green and it costs a lot less to keep things cool up there. The modular "mobile mining clusters" are each connected up to 300 kw of power and move 13,000 litres per second of air. Four of them are running now at a power plant in eastern Estonia.
The containers were refurbished and modified with mining unit modularity in mind. Each container has been fitted with active airflow controllers and a custom electrical system designed for the distribution of up to 300kW among individual mining units.” said Hermes Brambat of NordCoin.
One doesn't buy a Mobile Mining Centre; you buy a token that is used to rent a fraction of the output, itself an Ethereum Smart Contract. The token coin is called an NRDC, and I wonder if the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) will be investing.
Assuming that Blockchain is as wonderful as the Tapscotts say in their book, "Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin Is Changing Money, Business, and the World", it might well make a difference in our lives. But while they suggest that it will help make buildings and cities more sustainable, the process of building a blockchain is anything but.
Perhaps putting all those crypto-mining computers in a container that can chase the cleanest, cheapest electricity across the north might make a difference. Hermes Brambat says, "Mining simply isn’t profitable without the right environment and energy prices." The right environment should be one with carbon-free renewable electricity or the Blockchain will be a disaster for everyone. More at Nordcoin.