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Bitcoin miners look to software to balance Texas grid

Bitcoin (BTC) mining remains a controversial topic, but it is becoming more common to hear how Bitcoin mining helps balance demand on the grid.This is Texas State proven. Bitcoin miners can participate in a demand response program, so miners are encouraged to cease operations during periods of peak demand.

A spokesperson for the Texas Electricity Reliability Council (ERCOT), the organization that operates the Texas power grid, told Cointelegraph that cryptocurrency loads impact the grid like any other large load. said it was possible. However, they point out that cryptocurrency miners can help stabilize the grid by shutting off electricity demand in real time.

“Cryptocurrency mining is very responsive, turns off in an instant and stays off for as long as you want. We work closely with the cryptomining industry to ensure grid reliability and Texas load We have established a large flexible load task force to ensure we move forward with growth in mind.”

On March 25, ERCOT established an interim process to allow new large-scale loads, such as Bitcoin miners, to connect to the ERCOT grid. Evaluating interconnecting large loads is not a new process, but ERCOT believes that the timelines most cryptocurrency miners operate on do not have existing criteria for interconnecting new large loads. explained the need for a new process to ensure that ERCOT’s Technical Advisory Board approved the creation of a “Large Flexible Load Task Force” on March 30 to assist in the development of a long-term process to replace the current interim process.

Software provider wants to help miners balance the grid

While it’s worth noting that ERCOT is helping Bitcoin miners connect faster to the Texas grid, the software provider is also working with miners to ensure they’re properly enabling grid balancing. I’m starting to make sure I have the tools I need to do the work.

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Michael McNamara, co-founder and CEO of Lancium, a Texas-based energy and infrastructure company, said in 2020 Lancium demonstrated how Bitcoin mining can act as a controllable load. told Cointelegraph at the summit.

“To qualify a load as a controllable load resource in ERCOT, the customer must be able to do two things: First, achieve the target power consumption level (more or less) within 15 seconds as directed by ERCOT. Second, they should provide a “first order frequency response”. This means that the miner must be able to respond to a loss of power generation event, such as an unexpected trip of a thermal power plant, within 15 seconds of him. ”

Given these requirements, McNamara shared that Lancium licenses software to specific Bitcoin miners to act as controllable loads within ERCOT to provide grid stability services. did. Known as Lancium Smart Response, McNamara explained that the software works by automatically responding to grid conditions and signals in seconds.

“As far as ERCOT requirements are concerned, software such as Lancium Smart Response is essential to meeting the time required by ERCOT. “Customers will be compensated at a higher level for providing these more valuable services to the grid,” he explained.

For example, McNamara pointed out that miners using Lancium’s software can be certified to participate in ERCOT’s various grid stabilization programs. This allows operators to cut power costs by 50% while earning higher profits.

Specifically, an ERCOT spokesperson told Cointelegraph that ERCOT has a program to participate in providing ancillary services. According to ERCOT, these programs must be qualified to offer these services. “Some cryptocurrency miners are eligible to offer these services, as are other loads participating in these existing programs. These programs are commonly called demand-response programs, The operation will voluntarily choose to participate and “scale back,” he said, ERCOT.

McNamara could not comment on which miners will apply the Lancium Smart Response, but Foreman Mining CEO Dan Lawrence told Cointelegraph that Bitcoin miner CleanSpark is using his company’s software to manage operations. said there is.

Taylor Moning, vice president of mining technology at CleanSpark, told Cointelegraph that Foreman could effectively reduce operations instead of allowing miners to flip breakers. “You can then direct the load where you need it, essentially acting as a battery,” he said.

In fact, automation is important for Bitcoin miners participating in load response programs. Sam Cohen, head of business development at Foreman, told Cointelegraph that the software will allow miners to achieve their goals at scale.

“As an example, if a reduction service provider asks miners to reduce their consumption by 10 MW, Foreman can reduce the load within a minute without operator intervention,” he explained.

Monnig added that Foreman allowed CleanSpark to program the machine to stop hashing when needed. “For example, the S19 mining machine, in ‘sleep mode’ he drops from 3,000 watts to 90 watts. Then the machine will turn on again when the power grid no longer needs power. All this is automated. ”

However, unlike Lancium, Foreman does not currently work directly with ERCOT. “We would like to work more closely with ERCOT and believe we are ready to do so. However, working with ERCOT involves a lot of paperwork,” he said. .

Given this, Foreman is concerned that the growing Texas mining industry could become dominated by a handful of players rather than a multitude of software providers. “Foreman is pushing to decentralize bitcoin mining. This shows a source of centralization,” he said.

Bitcoin mining as a controllable load resource

Centralization aside, Gideon Powell, CEO and chairman of Chola Petroleum, Inc., a Texas-based exploration company focused on the energy sector, told Cointelegraph that Bitcoin He said he believes mining is the top load for demand response programs such as those that are exploited and developed. by ERCOT.

“If there is a shortage of power in the grid, we have two options: start more generators or simply use less power. As an individual, this is difficult to do. But Bitcoin miners and software companies are allowing ERCOT to view and control these loads, allowing them to provide a demand response much closer to (inversely) the behavior of traditional generators,” he said. said.

Powell added that bitcoin mining will help power the Texas power grid as wind and solar energy become more popular. For example, he pointed out that historically grids have been thought of in terms of thermal power generation. This is because thermal power generation allows the mass to always rotate to match the power generation and load. However, he noted that wind and solar resources are intermittent and these renewable resources constantly fluctuate, making load balancing difficult.

“Many companies are developing technologies that allow bitcoin miners and other data centers that house latency-agnostic computing to respond to instructions from ERCOT and to real-time pricing within the grid. Developed: When power runs out, prices will rise and Bitcoin miners and many other miners will be able to cut back,” he explained.

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Powell further argued that ERCOT is the freest market grid in the world, with the necessary regulatory framework to facilitate bottom-up solutions. “This is why Texas continues to attract the energy entrepreneurs we need for our increasingly complex energy markets.”

It’s worth noting, but it’s important to point out that Bitcoin’s energy consumption continues to grow year-on-year and may become more regulated. However, McNamara remains optimistic that bitcoin mining will continue to be a friendly resource for the Texas grid, showing the potential the technology has for other regions.