Chip giant Intel (INTC) has launched its second-generation bitcoin mining chip, called “Intel Blockscale ASIC,” which will offer miners more efficient mining rigs than most models available in the market. The move could help mining firms get on the winning side of the environmental, social and governance (ESG) debate that has long roiled the Bitcoin community.
“The Intel Blockscale ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) is going to play a major role in helping bitcoin mining companies achieve both sustainability and hashrate scaling objectives in the years ahead,” said Jose Rios, general manager of Intel’s blockchain group.
Each of the chips will have a hashrate of up to 580 gigahash per second (GH/s) and power efficiency of 26 joules/terahash (J/TH), according to Intel's statement.
“Intel’s decades of R&D in cryptography, hashing techniques and ultra-low voltage circuits make it possible for blockchain applications to scale their computing power without compromising on sustainability,” said Balaji Kanigicherla, vice president and general manager of the blockchain unit at Intel.
In February, Intel revealed the details of the first generation of its mining chip at a semiconductor conference. Specifications of the chip, called “Bonanza Mine,” were below top-of-the-line machines of Intel's rivals. At the time, analysts at GlobalBlock said such initiatives by a $200-plus billion technology company would lead to increased mining efficiency and help more institutional investors to enter the sector and more people to adopt bitcoin because their ESG concerns would be allayed.
ESG, particularly the “E” or environmental part of crypto mining has become one of the main topics of debate in recent times, as miners are rapidly increasing their mining power to stay competitive, which has put their need for energy under the scrutiny of policymakers around the world. In March, the Environmental Conservation Committee of the New York State Assembly voted to move along a proposed law that would ban proof-of-work (PoW) cryptocurrency mining in the state for two years. Meanwhile, some federal lawmakers led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), have scrutinized crypto mining companies for their impact on the climate.
Two weeks ago, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission proposed a regulation that would require publicly traded companies to report information on greenhouse-gas emissions and risks related to climate change, which would affect miners because of their energy consumption. For the most, the mining community welcomed the proposed rule.
The shipments of the new chips will start in the third quarter of this year and Intel hasn't disclosing the pricing yet. Bitcoin miners Argo Blockchain, Hive Blockchain and Griid Infrastructure as well as giant Block (formerly Square) will be among the first customers to receive the new Intel Blockscale ASIC.
In 2023 and beyond, Intel will be working with and supplying prospective customers that share the company’s sustainability goals, Intel said in its statement.
The chips are designed to be highly customizable and could be used with air-cooled heat management, as well as liquid immersion cooling systems, further helping miners increase hashrate and potentially reduce costs.
“Intel’s ASIC can be used in a variety of system designs and environments depending how the designer configures their system. There’s nothing limiting them from being deployed in air-cooled or immersion-cooled environments,” an Intel spokesperson wrote to CoinDesk in an emailed statement.
On March 7, Hive said that Intel’s new mining chips have potential to increase the company’s hashrate by as much as 95% and an original design manufacturer (ODM) will incorporate the Intel chips into an air-cooled mining system.
At first blush, the hashrate of the new chips could be seen as lower than the initial report of up to 135 terahash/second (TH/s). The company, however, said that the hashrate is just for one chip and that several of them could be used to build a mining system with a much higher hashrate.
“The Intel Blockscale ASIC’s specs only apply to one unit of the silicon itself, rather than potential output of a fully built system,” the company’s spokesperson said. “Typically, mining systems include hundreds of ASICs enabling a much higher hashrate at the system level."
The 26 J/TH power consumption of the new chip, however, makes it more efficient than one of Bitmain’s latest models, the Antminer S19 Pro+ Hyd., which delivers a hashrate of 198 TH/s with an efficiency of 27.5 J/TH. The miner is also more efficient than MicrtoBT’s Whatsminer M30S++, which brings 112 TH/s at an efficiency of 31 J/TH.
A large chipmaker entering the market, rivaling most of the mining rigs in terms of power efficiency, is likely to be seen as positive news by the mining industry, given the chip manufacturing market is still controlled by a small group of companies.
Some of the other key features of the chips include a dedicated Secure Hash Algorithm-256 (SHA-256) ASIC processor, on-chip temperature- and voltage-sensing capabilities, support for up to 256 integrated circuits per chain and reference hardware design and software stack to jump-start customers’ system development, Intel said in the statement.
UPDATE (June 15 17:15 UTC): Clarifies that Bitmain's AntMiner S19 Pro+ Hyd is one of the company's latest models. Its latest model is the S19 XP Hyd.
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