"Following the lure of cheap electricity, Bitcoin miners and their power-hungry server farms are making out for sleepy little towns in the Pacific Northwest," reports Sarah Zhang.
Although it doesn't have the same environmental impacts as an aggregate mine or, say, fracking, the production of bitcoins still requires the use of natural resources. "Although Bitcoin is a digital currency, mining it still has a gigantic physical footprint. That's because computers 'mine' Bitcoin by solving a cryptographic equation. To mine more Bitcoin, you need more computing power. Or you can just have more computers."
That means electricity, and in Washington that means hydroelectric power. "Last year, Bitcoin miners were sucking up an estimated 1 million kilowatt-hours per day. That's a hefty electric bill right there. But Washington has some of the lowest electricity rates in the country—less than 2 cents per kilowatt-hour for industrial customers in certain area. The average U.S. household pays something more like 12 cents a kilowatt-hour."