How Are Bit-Miners Addressing Power and Cooling Needs?
by Josh Anderson
PORTLAND, OR – Bitcoin mining and its underlying technology, blockchain, are more than just in vogue at the moment. Some may say we are entering the era of blockchain. However, that doesn’t mean that everyone in the industry understands what it takes to turn a profit from blockchain, or that every market is suitable for it.
Portland, and the surrounding Pacific Northwest, for example, have their own set of unique market fundamentals, so CapRE’s Second Annual Greater Portland Data Center Summit included a panel discussion titled Blockchain, Cryptocurrency and Bitcoin: What Are They and How Do They Impact Data Center Design & Construction? To kick off the series of questions, Terrence Thurber, CEO, OregonMines, was asked to provide some insider analysis based on his perspective as the sole bit-miner on the panel. Asked the moderator, how are you addressing your cooling and power needs?
“From a power perspective, we work pretty closely with our current primary power and utility districts to put a calendar toward what we want to do from a growth perspective,” replied Thurber. “We came in with a plan, we had a size disconnect. We were originally rated with three megawatts, and we go for it. We built out after the fact for future power. We look everywhere. I would say that…that’s all in an effort to find readily available cheap power.”
Thurber then ventured that every data center operator on his panel is looking for the same thing in that regard. “I don’t think that we’re different in needing to find power,” he explained. “But it’s available. Luckily the U.S. makes a lot of power. And we can just prioritize where it’s going, and the proper resources toward the back of it….maybe work with people who have some future-vision and are maybe able to put their money where their mouth is, towards the infrastructure. I think we can do a lot toward getting everybody power — every data center.”
“I think that the internet is growing. The activity on the internet is growing,” he continued. “That space is growing. So its hard for us, it’s hard for every miner. I think everybody calls the same people. You call the consultants, you call the people that own private services. Currently we’re looking at acquiring a former mill site. We’re looking at acquiring other sites. We look for existing power. And that’s the first part of that.”
Next, Thurber transitioned to the second part of the question – cooling, saying that his firm in many ways blends what Facebook and Amazon do, with free air. “For heat, we generate a lot of it. Miners are probably the least efficient piece of server equipment out there,” he asserted “We rely on evaporative and passive cooling, so we have a lot of swamp walls. We benefit from being in a pretty dry climate. We try to not to use too much A/C, although we still have 60 or 70 tons for three megawatts…. In terms of what we’re using for A/C, we’re probably a little more efficient.”
For more coverage of this panel, check out a pair of previous CapRE Insider Reports covering opening remarks by Moderator Robert McCullough, Principal at McCullough Research: