Turns out that plugging a bunch of computers into our electrical grid that do nothing but draw current and hash through algorithms has had some negative environmental impacts. Recent studies suggest that Bitcoin-related power consumption has reached record highs this year — with more than seven gigawatts of power being pulled in the pursuit of the suspect digital currency.
A study from the Cambridge Center for Alternative Finance released on Monday estimates that the global bitcoin mining industry uses 7.46 GW, equivalent to around 63.32 terawatt-hours of energy consumption. The study also notes that miners are paying around $0.03 to $0.05 per kWh this year. Given that a March estimate put the cost to mine a full bitcoin is around $7,500, the average miner still stands to make over $4,000 in profit from the operation.
Today’s bitcoin mining operations can be as small as a single user running a dedicated desktop machine to 50,000 state-of-the-art rigs installed in a Kazakhstan warehouse with the goal of hashing through the Bitcoin consensus algorithm faster than your competition in order to maximize the number of block rewards you receive. The current total amount of processing power dedicated to mining, known as the hashrate, is currently hovering around 120 exahash per second (EH/s). However industry analysts argue that that figure is soon to increase.
“By our assessment, the Bitcoin network can exceed 260EH/s in Hashrate in the next 12–14 months,” according to a July study from Bitooda. “Led by a modest increase in available power capacity from 9.6 to 10.6GW and an upgrade cycle that will replace older generation S9 class rigs with newer S17 and next-generation S19 class rigs.”