The Central Washington region of the U.S. is reporting surging demand from bitcoin miners for its cheap hydroelectric power.
With the cryptocurrency’s recent price gains, bitcoin mining has become more attractive, according to John Stoll, managing director of customer utilities at Chelan Public Utility District (PUD).
As reported by OPB News, higher numbers of cryptocurrency entrepreneurs are now requesting the lowest possible electricity rates in parts of the state, including Grant County, Chelan County and Washington public utility districts. Cheap electricity is required by bitcoin miners to power their power-hungry specialized computer processors in order to make an enterprise profitable.
Stoll told the PUD board of commissioners earlier this week that his department had received more than 20 “serious” calls in the last two weeks. “Our challenge is capacity,” he said at the time.
“We’re using up our freeboard in our system as we see load growth, whether it be cryptocurrency or even what we’re seeing with tourism, housing, apartments and things of that nature.”
OPB News said power utility firms in Washington state and neighboring mid-Columbia are now concerned that the growth in electricity demand could ultimately pose a risk to their systems or bring added costs to general consumers.
Ryan Holterhoff, public affairs officer for Grant County PUD, said that the utility has outstanding requests for approximately 500 megawatts, saying it was “about an 85 percent increase over our current average load.”
While the PUD is accepting inquiries, delays are likely, he added.
Just one month ago, bitcoin was trading for around $7,500. The cryptocurrency hit a new all-time high last night, passing $17,000, according to CoinDesk’s Bitcoin Price Index.
In early 2016, bitcoin miners in the Washington region were involved in a months-long dispute over power costs with the Chelan PUD. Later, in July the same year, the utility announced that electrical rates would rise for so-called “high-density load customers.”
Power lines image via Shutterstock