The inevitable drive towards renewable energy finally reached a crescendo this past year. In June, The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) reported that it would be contesting the title of being the cheapest source of energy generation even when unsubsidized. Pushing the narrative that the latest blockchain trend is to go green, we’re uncovering the progress made in the industry thus far.
Blockchain technologies have always had an angel-devil relationship with going green. Proponents of blockchain believe its tokenization properties and smart contracts can help to fairly distribute energy through microgrids or even provide incentives to improve energy efficiency.
However, others have pointed out that blockchain itself has contributed significantly to increased global warming. Bitcoin mining creates an estimated 22 to 29 megatonnes of CO2 each year, depending on the type of energy used to power the mining. That’s equivalent to the amount emitted by massive cities like Las Vegas, concerning environmentalists who believe the digital currency is creating more harm than good.
Blockchain Trendsetters In The Quest To Greener Pastures
Nonetheless, blockchain evangelists are increasingly exploring green opportunities to reduce the carbon footprint of the ecosystem. Many initiatives and behaviours this past year indicate that going green is the latest trend. Let’s take a look at some of the best examples pointing towards a carbon-neutral or even green-leaning blockchain future.
1. Steve Wozniak, Co-founder Of Apple, Launches Efforce
Efforce has an interesting take on green energy. Taking into account the downward trajectory of renewable energy prices as well as the apparent inevitability of a green, renewable energy based future, Efforce believes that investments into energy efficiency today have high returns for the future. However, existing companies and infrastructure have little to no incentive to explore these options.
Steve Wozniak, best known as the co-founder of Apple, believes that externalized investments via a decentralized marketplace conducted on the blockchain is the way to go for implementing energy efficiency. Instead of having companies spend their budget on improving energy infrastructure, externalized investments can be brought in. Companies can achieve significant benefits at no extra cost, while future profits (or savings) from switching to green infrastructure and technologies become shared with the investors who funded the initiatives.
While Efforce is yet to go online, the project has already achieved significant participation. Its native token WOZX achieved 10 times the listing price after being listed on the HBTC exchange on the first day.
2. The Brooklyn Microgrid (BMG)
The Brooklyn Microgrid is a community-driven, peer-to-peer localized energy marketplace that uses blockchain technology to create a microgrid ecosystem. Here, community members who own solar energy generators called “prosumers” can generate energy assets for sale to other members of the community – “consumers”.
Microgrids are important in bringing retail-driven renewable energy implementations to proper efficiency levels as communal solar energy installations can overgenerate or under generate power. The excess energy needs to be channelled to a battery, which is expensive and requires storage, or preferably sold back to an electricity grid for other consumers to purchase.
The microgrid is managed and organized by LO3 Energy, and has evolved to become Exergy. Exergy is a tokenized blockchain platform and energy marketplace that aims to empower consumers with access to and control of their energy data, and transform the interactions with energy markets globally. The Brooklyn Microgrid is strictly opt-in, although Exergy hopes to be able to apply the knowledge taken from the Brooklyn Microgrid project to influence and shape the energy model of the future.
The Brooklyn Microgrid is unique in being the first energy project in the United States to use blockchain technology for energy transactions. They received approval to utilize blockchain technology to perform energy trading in a 12-month pilot, with over 300 participants. Prior to the Exergy platform’s solution, only electric utilities and approved retail services were allowed to sell energy.
3. Utilizing Bitcoin Mining To Convert Waste Gas, “Gas Flaring”, Into Cryptocurrencies
Natural gas flaring and waste gas is a byproduct or side effect of oil and gas operations. The gas, which would be released into the atmosphere if not processed or captured, poses a huge threat to global warming as they are typically extreme greenhouse gas contributors.
Typically, gas flaring is dealt with by using expensive infrastructure that the oil and gas companies may be hesitant to set up. These companies may even be disincentivized to do so, despite often facing hefty fines for allowing the gases to escape into the atmosphere. A cheaper, yet wasteful alternative is usually in the form of burning the excess gas.
Multiple projects involving mining cryptocurrencies are exploring this waste gas as an opportunity to generate energy cheaply. Due to the somewhat-portable usage of mining rigs, which are essentially just boxes that consume electricity, companies are working with the oil and gas industries to capture and turn these waste energy sources into profitable cryptocurrencies.
Crusoe Energy, backed by Bain Capital Ventures and KCK Ventures, has successfully built “Digital Flare Mitigation” units that are installed in natural gas or oil fields around the US. These provide free emissions reduction where the gas would otherwise be released into the atmosphere, while they themselves are able to profit by mining Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies with the waste energy. Its mitigation system can handle millions of cubic feet of natural gas from a well per day, eliminating at least 90% of the methane.
They announced a collaboration and strategic partnership with energy giant Equinor in August 2020, which is the 11th largest oil and gas firm globally.
Further proving that the latest blockchain trend is to go green is EZ Blockchain. Another company that originally focused on developing mobile data centres known as “Bitcoin Mining containers”, has also begun exploring energy projects. The company is focused on reducing gas flaring and turning the excess natural gas into usable energy through its Bitcoin mining technology.
The mobile data centres they build are now oil-field ready and are able to remotely operate at a high-efficiency level. The company plans to utilize the wasted natural gas in the Permian Basin to power massive mining facilities – which had over 238.1 billion cubic feet of natural gas wasted in 2018 alone.
The Latest Blockchain Trend Is To Go Green
More recently, oil and gas companies themselves are moving into using cryptocurrency mining, albeit without being directly involved. A Russian oil drilling giant, Gazpromneft, an oil subsidiary of Russia’s natural gas giant Gazprom, has opened up one of its oil drilling sites in Siberia for third parties to explore implementing cryptocurrency mining to consume the excess energy and wasted resources.
Their pilot project resulted in the mining of 1.8 BTC using 49,500 cubic meters of gas in a single month. As more and more companies harness the power of blockchain to leverage their carbon footprints, there’s no denying that the latest blockchain trend is to go green.
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