Bitcoin mining powered by clean volcano technology erupts in El Salvador

A state-owned mining operation has generated a plum total of US$269 in Bitcoin, by harnessing geothermal power from volcanoes.
4 October 2021 | 4 Shares

In El Salvador, Bitcoin is being mined using clean technology. (Photo by Oscar RIVERA / AFP)

  • President Bukele tweeted that the Bitcoin mining project was still a work in progress, as El Salvador is in the process of “testing and installing” new mining equipment
  • The country has  thus far mined 0.00599179 Bitcoin (about US$269) with power harnessed from a volcano — a first for the country

It hasn’t been a month since El Salvador embraced Bitcoin as the country’s legal tender and as promised by President Nayib Bukele, they have begun mining bitcoin using clean technology. With power harnessed from a volcano, El Salvador has mined 0.00599179 bitcoin, the equivalent of about US$269.

It also showed that young president Bukele has kept to the promises he made earlier this year, when the bill to pass Bitcoin as legal tender in the country passed El Salvador’s congress in June. He instructed state-owned geothermal electric company, LaGeo SA de CV, to “put up a plan to offer facilities for Bitcoin mining with very cheap, 100% clean, 100% renewable, zero-emissions energy from our volcanos.”

Then just last week, the president posted a flashy 25-second teaser video, which includes shots of a government-branded shipping container full of Bitcoin mining rigs, technicians installing and plugging in ASIC miners, as well as sweeping landscape aerial footage of an energy factory in the thick of a forest, overlooked by a neighboring volcano.

And besides the country’s innovative attempt at resuscitating the local economy with cryptocurrency, the volcano plays an important role in helping develop a sustainable, clean source of energy to power the mining operations that have seemingly sprung up virtually overnight.

Within days, Bukele tweeted that the country’s maiden voyage into volcano-powered bitcoin mining. Currently, around a quarter of El Salvador’s total energy is already generated by geothermal plants as El Salvador is literally dubbed the “land of the volcanoes” and is one of the most geologically active places, according to official data.

To top it off, with 20 “potentially active” volcanoes within its borders according to VolcanoDiscovery.com, which account for nearly 22% of the country’s energy supply, El Salvador’s harnessing of geothermal energy could provide an answer to the hunt for a reliable clean energy source to power bitcoin mining.

As CNBC noted, using geothermal energy to fuel cryptocurrency creation is hardly new, but the announcement comes as international attention has turned to the massive amounts of electricity that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies suck up to power their blockchains. 

In fact, the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index shows that worldwide Bitcoin mining uses about 105 terawatt-hours of electricity per year. That’s more than all of the electricity used annually in the country of the Philippines, the university estimates.

Clean technology to mine Bitcoin? El Salvador isn’t the first.

Astoundingly to some, this isn’t the first application of volcanic geothermal energy as a clean, sustainable source of power — it’s not even the first use case for cryptocurrency generation. The raw power of volcanos have been harnessed for Bitcoin mining for a while now, particularly in the Nordics.

Iceland, for instance, has used geothermal energy to mine the cryptoasset for years. Even in Norway, which is nearly 100% reliant on renewable and clean energy, cryptocurrency miners are taking advantage of cheap hydroelectric and geothermal energy to power their machines.