RABAT (Reuters) - Blockchain company Soluna plans to build a 900-megawatt wind farm to power a computing center in Dakhla in the Morocco-administered Western Sahara, its chief executive John Belizaire said in an interview.
Work on the initial off-grid phase will start in 2019 and complete a year later, with the possibility of connecting the site to the national grid, Belizaire told Reuters.
Soluna told the Moroccan government it expected to complete the site in five years at a cost of 1.4-2.5 billion dollars. It would invest 100 million dollars in an initial phase, from which it hoped to generate 36 megawatts.
Bitcoin is earned -- or ‘mined’ -- by using your computer to help process the uncrackable “blockchains” or digital transaction records that underpin the currency.
This requires huge computing capacity, and a lot of electricity, and so is mostly done with huge machines in aircraft hangar-sized warehouses in the cooler climates of Iceland, Canada, northern China and Russia, where it costs less to disperse the heat generated.
Digiconomist, a cryptocurrency analysis platform, estimated in June that bitcoin mining used approximately 71 terawatt hours (TWh) per year, equivalent to almost 10 percent of China’s annual energy usage.
Soluna is backed by private equity group Brookstone and will mostly likely seek private equity and large institutional investors, Belizaire said.
The project will cover 37,000 acres in one of the world’s windiest regions enabling the company to own sustainable energy resources along with a utility-scale blockchain computing facility.
Belizaire said the company will not make cryptocurrency transactions in Morocco where financial authorities have warned against the use of cryptocurrencies.
The computer center will provide computing to blockchain networks offering calculation capacities to foreign entities in exchange for foreign currency, he said.
Morocco annexed Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, in 1975, and since then the territory has been the subject of a dispute between it and the Polisario Front, an independence movement backed by neighboring Algeria.
Morocco has attracted investment in solar and wind power as part of a goal to generate 52 percent of its electricity from renewable energies.
Reporting by Ahmed Eljechtimi; Editing by Alexandra Hudson
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