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Energy-guzzling Texas Bitcoin miners voluntarily power down to conserve power during winter freeze

The five Bitcoin miners use enough energy to power multiple cities.

AUSTIN, Texas — Industrial-scaled Bitcoin mining facilities in Texas told Gov. Greg Abbott they are powering down during this winter storm as a precaution. 

On Wednesday, ERCOT said they are not asking businesses to shed loads during the potential freeze. Still, energy-guzzling Bitcoin miners have volunteered to power down, according to Lee Bratcher, the Texas Blockchain Council president. 

Bratcher said Rhodium, Riot Whinstone, Bitdeer, Computer North and Layer 1 have all powered down to save energy. 

One of the largest facilities in North America is Riot Whinstone. It's located in Rockdale, just an hour north of Austin. The facility uses enough power to power a large city. 

Cryptocurrency mining is unregulated, so there's no obligation for them to power down in severe weather, but there is an incentive for the miners who are part of ERCOT'S Demand Response program.

"They're incentivized to power down because if they power down, they can sell the excess power back to the grid at the spot price," said Bratcher. "Not only does that increase or decreases the demand, but it allows that power to be utilized by other consumers."

The program is one way ERCOT can try to avoid blackouts during severe weather. Crypto-miners can turn off power in seconds, but Riot Whinstone CEO Chad Harris said they did it in phases this time.

As of Wednesday, Harris said Riot Whinstone is only using 1% to 2% of its power. 

Both Bratcher and Harris said miners being proactive is their way of showing they are great neighbors and will do the right thing. 

Bitcoin miners have been flocking to Texas since 2020 because of the state's business-friendly environment, but they come with concerns about power use.

Many are unsure if the Texas power grid can handle the influx of energy-hungry miners, especially after blackouts during the February freeze of 2021. 

Harris said he plans to stay powered down until the storm passes.

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