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Cryptocurrency Goes in Search of Cheap Power, Finds it in Small-Town America

Some of the least expensive electricity in the country can be found in Upstate New York, where cryptocurrency miners are starting to set up shop—with or without local approval.
April 9, 2018, 9am PDT | Katharine Jose
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Henryk Sadura

One not entirely intuitive fact about virtual currency is that it requires an enormous amount of actual electricity to produce it.

That's why, Sarah Holder writes at CityLab, cryptocurrency mining operations are showing up, sometimes without warning, in out-of-the-way American towns—at least when those towns are in proximity to large hydroelectric dams.

This has been going on for some time in Washington State, and more recently in the far reaches of New York State.

Reception of the cryptocurrency outfits in these towns has been mixed. Plattsburg recently effected a moratorium on Bitcoin mining, in part because it used enough electricity to drive up rates for other customers.

But the more economically struggling Messena, where a company called Coinmint originally set up illegally in an abandoned building, is less inclined to kick them out. Though, as Holder writes, the economic benefits of these companies are far from proven ("[t]he computers can kind of do their thing without much prodding from operators") when the local economy has suffered some major losses, officials say it’s better than nothing."

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Published on Tuesday, March 27, 2018 in CityLab
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