Cryptocurrencies, activists say, are the future of finance. Instead of going through a central organization like a bank, the technology lets individuals transfer money to each other directly in a secure, anonymous, and irreversible way. Created after the 2008 financial crash, crypto tokens have been gathering influence across the world, with the value of high-profile currencies ballooning from $0.03 to over $17,000 USD.
Cryptocurrencies are able to change hands using a technology referred to as "blockchain". Typically, transactions are verified by one acting entity. The blockchain, however, is a huge digital ledger that exists on a network of different computers. Each time an exchange happens, it is recorded and confirmed by every connected device. As a result, the blockchain is unhackable. In order for a fraudster to tamper with a transaction, he or she would be forced to edit the information on a vast number of machines—a near-impossible undertaking.
There are, however, a few drawbacks to conducting transactions over the blockchain. In order to create the ledger, the technology relies on “miners” to securely validate and record the exchanges. These miners add another “block” to the “chain”, which stores the previously-archived information.
In order to do that, they must use a computer to solve a complex math problem. Cracking those puzzles uses intense computer power.
There’s big money involved in mining new blocks. Each time in individual verifies a transaction, they receive cryptocurrency like Bitcoin or Ether in reward, and, as a result, a large number of people are competing to solve each math problem first. In order to win the race, miners must draw as much power as possible, which can cause enthusiasts to rack up huge energy bills.
Miners must run their operations on low-cost energy—and Vancouver-registered company Solar Alliance has seen the gap in the market.
The company last week announced that it has acquired a 165,000 square foot warehouse in Murphysboro, Illinois, to install panels on the roof. The facility will be used exclusively to host cryptocurrency mining operations, and will open its doors to tenants who will rent space in the building. Solar Alliance hopes that the access to the city’s low-cost grid-supplied power will complement that made by its own energy-generating panels, offering cheap electricity to budding miners.
“I am proud to be a part of the group that is powering the digital currency revolution,” says William Shatner, Solar Alliance’s spokesperson. “Blockchain technologies—and cryptocurrencies specifically—are at the cutting edge of a new distributed technology infrastructure. As an advocate for solar energy I was intrigued by the potential for it to power cryptocurrency mining operations. They are energy-intensive, and utilizing solar arrays to power them makes social and economic sense. Cryptocurrencies can help prevent fraud, speed payment settlement, reduce identity theft, and provide global access to capital. The combination of solar and cryptocurrency mining facilities represents meaningful change.”
Solar Alliance is completing the project in partnership with the City of Murphysboro. According to the latest census, more than 20 percent of the location's 7,000-person population was living in poverty. Solar Alliance’s initiative will operate as part of a scheme named “renewing the Murphysboro community through green energy jobs”, which aims to revitalize the area by re-training its citizens.
“The acquisition of this building by Solar Alliance is a wonderful opportunity to move Murphysboro forward toward a brighter future,” says the city’s mayor, Will Stephens. “The combination of solar and cryptocurrency will provide opportunities for the local workforce and position our community for the future. The agreement signed with the major solar panel manufacturer provides a solid partnership that will help deliver a much-needed project to our community.”
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