Four thousand kilometers from Moscow near the shores of the Angara River, a Russian firm operating a vast data center run on cheap local hydroelectric power is reaping the rewards of bitcoin’s surging prices and plans to double its power output this year.
BitRiver hosts equipment at its flagship 100-megawatt data center in the city of Bratsk, along with other smaller sites, for foreign miners of the cryptocurrency from the United States, Europe and Japan who want to harness the region’s cheap energy.
The company could already be responsible for as much as 2% of global bitcoin mining, Chief Executive Igor Runets estimated, but added precise figures in the sector were hard to come by.
The price of bitcoin has risen almost 300% since the start of November and topped $50,000 dollars for the first time last month, as Tesla Inc bought $1.5 billion worth of bitcoin and other large companies and investment houses followed small traders into the asset.
Bitcoin is earned — or ‘mined’ — by using your computer to help process the uncrackable “blockchains” or digital transaction records that underpin the currency.
This requires huge computing capacity, and a lot of electricity, and so is mostly done with huge machines in aircraft hangar-sized warehouses in the cooler climates of Iceland, Canada, northern China and Russia, where it costs less to disperse the heat generated.
The rewards for those who can verify transactions in the process which produces bitcoins have never been greater.
“Current demand from our clients exceeds 700 megawatts and is approaching one gigawatt,” said Runets. “We will of course continue to build data processing centers. In 2021, we plan to reach 300 megawatts of power.”
Another 100-megawatt center is already under construction in the neighboring Buryatiya region, Runets said.
Big deals with foreign firms, such as one last December which saw 14 lorries full of equipment arrive in Bratsk, can boost the local economy and are a sign that BitRiver has become a global player, he said in a company video.