Madison River Equity LCC is looking to build a massive solar project in Butte, Montana claims it would provide 300MW of renewable power and cost $250 million
Madison would build the solar array, then sell it to Atlas, which hopes to use it to power its cryptocurrency mining operations. If the solar farm, dubbed the Basin Creek Solar Project, is actually built, it could be one of the largest in the US, but it raises questions about the impact of such projects, and about crypto’s impact on energy.
Madison River Equity is a sub-entity of a company called FX Solutions that developed and manages the Atlas Power data center, located close to the proposed solar project. Atlas Power mines cryptocurrency and is set on expanding its Graphics Processing Units (GPUs).
If all the special use permits are obtained, Atlas Power would buy the Basin Creek Solar Project and use the solar array to power its mining operations, for which it has a 75-megawatt permit from the state.
In the fourth quarter of 2020, Montana had only 116 megawatts of solar capacity installed, ranking it 43rd in the US, according to The Solar Energy Industries Association report.
While the project would theoretically allow Atlas’ mining and other data center operations to run on renewable power, there are arguments that green energy doesn’t actually make crypto itself green. There’s still the problem of e-waste that’s generated when hardware is no longer profitable, and the question of what will happen if there isn’t enough solar power available to fuel the mining operation. And while the massive solar project does seem to be in line with the goals of some including Elon Musk in the crypto community who are trying to move away from fossil-fuel powered mining operations, it also shows the problems that can crop up when trying to create a green energy project, especially one that will be run by a company focusing on crypto.
Sources: Cryptoslate, The Verge