Sydney-based company Mawson Infrastructure is setting up what it says will be the country’s biggest renewable bitcoin mining operation in Northern NSW.
Mawson, which listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange late last month, currently operates two other cryptocurrency mines in the US and has spent much of this year scouting appropriate sites for its first Australian mine.
That mine will be created in partnership with Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners, a firm that manages two 30 megawatt biomass-fired power stations near Byron Bay.
Mawson CEO and Founder James Manning said the partnership “reflects our joint view that renewable energy will be key to future data centre infrastructure”.
“Mawson is seeking to identify renewable energy projects which lead the transition to a decarbonized society, with a key focus on sustainable bitcoin mining,” he said.
Quinbrook’s biomass plants typically generate power from burning the of nearby sugar cane mills and wood offcuts.
In a 2018 report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said bioenergy was the largest renewable energy source on Earth, but its use can carry the risk of “significant conflicts with respect to food supplies, water resources, and biodiversity” if poorly managed.
Mawson may benefit from tax benefits for running its crypto mine using renewables, if the government takes a on recent senate committee recommendation.
The new bitcoin mine and ‘Modular Data Centre’ will take 20 megawatts of capacity from one of Quinbrook’s plants which Mawson expects will add 0.4 exahashes of mining power to the company’s operations, which it expects will total 3.35 exahashes across its Australian and US mines by mid-2022.
Given the current bitcoin hash rate – the number of hashing algorithms being calculated every second by miners – is around 151 exahashes, Mawson’s Australian efforts would not be insignificant, but nor would they be cheap.
Less than a week before it announced the Byron bitcoin mine, Mawson informed shareholders that it had purchased 4,000 new bitcoin mining devices or ASICs (short for application-specific integrated circuits).
These computers are designed explicitly for running hashing algorithms.
The other half of that investment was in the form Canaan AvalonMiners, which doesn’t list its prices online.
Bitcoin mining has boomed alongside the ur-cryptocurrency’s soaring price that hit a new all-time high of US$66,000 last week.
Chinese miners once dominated the bitcoin network but a recent government crackdown on cryptocurrency mining has seen China’s share of the bitcoin hashrate drop to zero from 67 per cent in October last year.