Bitcoin miners are increasingly setting up data centres in Iceland. Mining the cryptocurrency is an energy-intensive process and benefits to the local economy remain unclear. If data centres in the country used for Bitcoin mining continue increasing at their current rate, their energy use could quickly outstrip that of the entire country’s residents.
Bitcoin mining involves verifying transactions of the digital currency using computer processing power. Miners are rewarded for their efforts in Bitcoin, making mining a lucrative business, especially if done on a large scale. Iceland’s low-cost renewable energy and sub-Arctic climate make it relatively cheap to power servers and keep them cool, while allowing mining companies to label themselves as eco-friendly.
Johann Snorri Sigurbergsson a spokesman for Icelandic energy producer HS Orka, spoke to Associated Press about the industry. “Four months ago, I could not have predicted this trend — but then bitcoin skyrocketed and we got a lot more emails,” he stated. He says the company has received about one call per day over the last three months from cryptocurrency mining companies looking to set up operations in the country.
Prominent Icelanders have been outspoken about the industry’s development. Pirate Party MP Smári McCarthy called for careful planning and more regulation of the industry, while expressing his desire to support new and promising technologies. “Cryptocurrency mining requires almost no staff, very little in capital investments, and mostly leaves no taxes either. The value to Iceland / value generated ratio is virtually zero. Closer to zero the higher the value of cryptocurrencies,” Smári tweeted.
Icelandic author Andri Snær Magnason was much less positive on the issue, tweeting “Crypto mining is as good for the planet as Cryptonite is for Superman. Evil villains have found the most stupid way to waste energy.”