New technology always comes with some kinks and downsides to iron out. And cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are no exception to that rule. So it’s nice to see some of the positives being highlighted. Like when this stream-powered system mines Bitcoins for ocean research.
The “Ocean Miner” project was set up by FF Los Angeles to raise funds and awareness for the Tara Expéditions Foundation. The foundation has spent the last 15 years studying oceans to help preserve it from climate change. But apparently it’s always difficult to raise funds for environmental charities, which apparently get less than 3% of all charitable donations. So why not see if some cash can be made from the sea itself?
So the system itself is pretty simple. A new hydraulic turbine was installed in the Gulf of Morbihan, which is in Brittany, France. The marine tides and streams are at their strongest there, so the action of the oceans drives the turbine. That’s converted into electrical energy.
The energy generated is used to power a computer, which is set-up to mine Bitcoin. Mining a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin means following a computer process which generates a registered operation in a public register of transactions, in what’s known as the Blockchain. And each operation results in an amount of Bitcoin being assigned to the owner of the computer, which can then be used to fund ocean research. In this case, the Bitcoin was then exchanged into Euros, presumably because they’re still a little easier to spend widely compared to cryptocurrency.
So the turbine creates electricity. Which powers the computer. And the computer generates money all by itself over time.
The system was in place for one month. So how much did ‘Ocean Miner’ make? Well, the information from FF Los Angeles doesn’t say whether the computer was donated or the cost was subtracted from the amount generated. Or whether the mirrored weather protection, which also meant the Brittany coast didn’t just have a computer plonked on it, was factored into the amount raised. But it did allow the Tara Foundation to collected nearly 0.0015414 BTC per day. Which meant around 200 Euros raised over the month.
OK, so not enough to fun the charity for a long time. But that wasn’t really the point.
“This system certainly won’t cover the needs of the scientific research, it is only a drop in the ocean: a minimal symbolic contribution made to the expeditions led by Tara. It is, however, a powerful way of recalling that only the mobilization of everyone together will make it possible to fund the research to study, understand and to better protect the Ocean in the future,” explained Romain Troublé, Managing Director of the Tara Expeditions Foundation.
So don’t expect charities to all switch to stream-powered Bitcoin mining for funding. But given that the electrical power required to mine cryptocurrencies on a large scale is a real and big concern. And that the costs of the project would obviously decline over time, maybe there’s something in generating cryptocurrency from renewables in a way that could actually started to produce real money. After all, we’re becoming more and more accustomed to wind farms and solar panels. And 5-10 stream-powered Bitcoin mining set-ups would be approaching a living wage of potentially 1000-2000 Euros per month. Which would be significant for any individual or small charity.
Also published on Medium.