Bitcoin mining consumes more electricity a year than Ireland

Network’s estimated power use also exceeds that of 19 other European countries, consuming more than five times output of continent’s largest windfarm

Bitcoin’s “mining” network uses more electricity in a year than the whole of Ireland, according to statistics released as the currency broke $9,000 for the first time.

According to Digiconomist the estimated power use of the bitcoin network, which is responsible for verifying transactions made with the cryptocurrency, is 30.14TWh a year, which exceeds that of 19 other European countries. At a continual power drain of 3.4GW, it means the network consumes five times more electricity than is produced by the largest wind farm in Europe, the London Array in the outer Thames Estuary, at 630MW.

At those levels of electricity consumption, each individual bitcoin transaction uses almost 300KWh of electricity – enough to boil around 36,000 kettles full of water. Although power consumption of other payment networks is harder to isolate, one of Visa’s two US data centres reportedly runs on about 2% of the power required by bitcoin. Between them, those two data centres conduct around 200m transactions a day; the bitcoin network handles fewer than 350,000.

The astronomical power draw is a facet of how the bitcoin network protects itself against fraud. With no centralised authority confirming transactions, bitcoin is instead backed by “miners”, who put specialised computers to work churning through extremely power-intensive computing problems. Solving those problems both rewards the miner, handing them almost a quarter of a million dollars in bitcoin, and verifies all transactions made in the last 10 minutes.

As the price of bitcoin goes up, so does the value of the reward, meaning that more miners put more computers to the task of running the network. But since the price of bitcoin doesn’t necessarily rise in step with the number of transactions, that disconnect can mean the currency uses a significant amount of power per transaction in periods of high prices.

The value of one bitcoin neared $10,000 on 27 November, as the currency continued to grow in its third significant boom in its history. Previous periods of sustained growth, in 2013 and 2014, each ended with substantial busts, leading commentators to label them, in hindsight, as speculative bubbles.

Contributor

Alex Hern

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Electricity needed to mine bitcoin is more than used by 'entire countries'
Bitcoin mining – the process in which a bitcoin is awarded to a computer that solves a complex series of algorithm – is a deeply energy intensive process

Lauren Aratani

27, Feb, 2021 @8:00 AM

Article image
Energy cost of 'mining' bitcoin more than twice that of copper or gold
New research reveals that cryptocurrencies require far more electricity per-dollar than it takes to mine most real metals

Alex Hern

05, Nov, 2018 @4:00 PM

Article image
Blockchain: so much bigger than bitcoin…
From voting to healthcare, music to energy production, blockchain may just change the way we run our lives

Ian Tucker

28, Jan, 2018 @7:00 AM

Article image
How Iceland became the bitcoin miners’ paradise
The island nation is the first to use more electricity on mining cryptocurriencies than on its households – thanks in part to its magma-fuelled power plants

Alex Hern

13, Feb, 2018 @3:26 PM

Article image
Self-proclaimed bitcoin 'creator' sued for $10bn
Suit brought by former coding partner’s family alleges Craig Wright stole bitcoins and intellectual property

Alex Hern

27, Feb, 2018 @11:11 AM

Article image
How can I invest in bitcoin?
Andy wants to know how to invest a few hundred pounds in bitcoin. It’s not hard to buy bitcoins, but whether they are an investment or a gamble is another matter ...

Jack Schofield

29, Jun, 2017 @9:03 AM

Article image
Can bitcoin be sustainable? Inside the Norwegian mine that also dries wood
Kryptovault’s operation is part of a fightback against criticism of the famously energy-intensive industry

Daniel Boffey in Hønefoss, Norway

09, Feb, 2022 @11:16 AM

Article image
Another thing you may not know about Bitcoin: it's killing the planet | Ethan Lou
As a Bitcoin maker who covered the oil industry as a journalist, I see parallels between the two that may haunt cryptocurrency

Ethan Lou

17, Jan, 2019 @11:00 AM

Article image
WannaCry: hackers withdraw £108,000 of bitcoin ransom
Digital wallets linked to ransomware attack that crippled NHS hospitals are cleaned out, as law enforcement tries to track owners

Samuel Gibbs

03, Aug, 2017 @1:27 PM

Article image
Google bans bitcoin adverts in cryptocurrency crackdown
Ads for cryptocurrencies, ICOs, wallets and exchanges will be blocked from June to prevent scams, following Facebook’s move in January

Samuel Gibbs

14, Mar, 2018 @11:29 AM