PUD 3 Approves Moratorium on Bitcoin Mining Operations

Bitcoin miners are intent on staking their claim to Mason PUD 3’s affordable electricity rates and high-speed fiber optic network.

To provide time to evaluate the effect of these energy intensive operations on the local power system and rates, PUD commissioners Tuesday (April 10) approved a moratorium on accepting applications for service to “cryptocurrency” operations. The moratorium covers computer or data processing loads related to virtual or cryptocurrency mining, bitcoin, Blockchain, or similar purposes. It does not apply to existing approved applications.

The website, bitcoinmining.com notes: “with bitcoin (as with other types of virtual currency), miners use special software to process complex data calculations. They are issued a certain number of bitcoins in exchange.” The goal is to process data faster than other miners, maximizing the stockpile of bitcoins one can receive.

“The Pacific Northwest has seen a rush of cryptocurrency operations recently,” said Michele Patterson, PUD 3 power supply manager. “We need breathing room to study the local impact on power demands, the ability of the system to handle these energy-intensive operations, rate structure considerations, and protecting the power supply of existing customers.”

“A large grocery store or hospital uses between 30 and 40 kilowatt-hours per square foot,” said Patterson. “Computer data processing can use over 2,100 kilowatt-hours per square foot.”

The safety of the community and other customers is another consideration. Other electric utilities have discovered “rogue” cryptocurrency operations set up in homes or commercial buildings, with no consideration for safety. In these cases, transformers and electrical systems aren’t designed for heavy power loads, which could result in fires, damaging equipment failure, or local voltage fluctuations.

Other utilities and cities have approved similar moratoriums to allow time to study the effects of cryptocurrency operations on their communities.

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