In brief

  • Locals have warned that the temperature of New York's Seneca Lake has increased since Bitcoin mining started in the area.
  • Bitcoin mining firm Greenidge Generation claims permitted use and is expanding its operations in the U.S.

Locals living near a Bitcoin mining facility on the shores of Seneca Lake, in upstate New York, have reported alarming rises in the temperature of the water, NBC News reported today.  

"The lake is so warm you feel like you're in a hot tub," according to Dresden resident Abi Buddington.  

Last month, locals staged a protest against the Greenidge Generation Bitcoin mining plant, which they claim is polluting the air and heating the lake, thanks to its use of fossil fuels. 

However, Greenidge, which is owned by private equity firm Atlas Holdings, told NBC that the lakeshore facility is operating within its federal and state environmental permits. "The environmental impact of the plant has never been better than it is right now,” said Greenidge CEO Jeff Kirt.

The company said that it offsets its carbon emissions and has pledged to move away from natural gas.  

Lakeside mining 

Lake water cools the 8,000 computers used to mine Bitcoin within the gas-fired plant in the bucolic Finger Lakes region of New York. 

According to documents obtained by NBC, the current permit held by Greenidge allows it to take in 139 million gallons of water and discharge 135 million gallons daily, at temperatures as high as 108 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and 86 degrees in winter. The permit is due for renewal in September.

The company claims that water temperatures average half these levels, but local residents disagree. Despite their efforts, a full thermal study has not been produced and won't be until 2023, according to NBC.

But the broadcaster reported that not all the local residents are against Greenidge. The company has made generous donations to local schools and a fire department, as well as providing employment. 

Bitcoin mining expands in the U.S.

In the U.S., Bitcoin mining has increased in response to a crackdown in China; it’s grown to almost 8% of the global share, compared to the 4% in September 2019.

Greenidge's owner, Atlas, recently raised $3 billion from investors and said it plans to more than quadruple its current Bitcoin mining capacity by the end of the year. 

On Friday, the company announced that it would be expanding its operations to South Carolina as early as this year. Greenidge plans a carbon-neutral crypto mining facility in the city of Spartanburg, having signed a Letter of Intent with LSC Communications, another Atlas Holdings' portfolio company.

Campaigners in New York worry about the company's expansion and warn that if New York regulators don't rein in Bitcoin mining operations, at least 30 more power plants could be put to this use, which would jeopardize the state’s green-energy goals. A three-year moratorium on Bitcoin mining has been proposed.