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Case study: How the Moonlite Project will use green energy to power bitcoin-mining datacentres

As the energy consumption habits of the cryptocurrency mining community continue to attract attention, we speak to the The Moonlite Project about how it is embracing renewable energy to clean up the industry’s image

“Comparatively, in terms of bitcoin mining, we’re going to be pretty much at the top of the pile,” declares Eric Krige, founder and CEO of the Moonlite Project, the London- and Pretoria-based company that wants to make bitcoin mining more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Moonlite plans to build mining facilities powered only by 100% renewable energy, a plan that could not have come at a better time, given how bitcoin is now being heralded as an environmental disaster” by its critics.

Bitcoin mining consumes 52TWh (terawatt hours) of energy per year, according to the Digiconomist website, which is enough to power 4.8 million US homes.

Worse still, its annual carbon footprint is 25,495kT, putting it comfortably ahead of such European nations as Slovenia, Lithuania and Estonia. Given it already has a bad reputation for volatility and legal murkiness, such emissions aren’t making its bid to crack the mainstream any easier.

However, as excessive as its energy consumption may be, the global cryptocurrency industry is gradually waking up to the importance of developing renewably powered mining centres.

In Japan, the Miner Garage Co. opened the nation’s first green mining facility in December 2017, while in Canada, Hydro-Québec is in the process of enticing some 30 global mining companies to use its surplus hydroelectricity.

The Moonlite Project has ambitions to become one of the largest cryptocurrency mining companies in the world

Furthermore, HydroMiner – a company that uses hydro-powered rigs to mine cryptocurrency – ran its first initial coin offering last September in Austria, needing only 36 minutes to meet its target of selling 18.7 million of its own H2O tokens.

The Moonlite Project is another company that can be added to such names. Founded in early 2017, the startup is planning to open its first mining facility just outside of Reykjavik, Iceland, in August.

As with other centres operating in the burgeoning sustainable mining space, its operations will be run on 100% renewable energy, obtained from geothermal, wind and hydroelectric sources.

But while most other green mining centres are relatively small in scale, the Moonlite Project has ambitions to become one of the largest cryptocurrency mining companies in the world.

Lifetime commitment to green energy

According to Krige, the growth of Moonlite Project is predicated on two central pillars. “First and foremost, we’re using green, renewable, clean energy,” he says. “We literally will not use one single block of coal or drop of oil to generate our energy in this datacentre, or in a hundred years’ time if it’s still operational.”

As for the second pillar, not only is it perhaps more novel in the cryptocurrency realm, but it could also be more decisive in ensuring Moonlite’s growth. This is the “transparency and integrity” of the company’s operations.

“Everything is fully audited, from our timeline to our token distribution to our investment received from token holders, all the way to our financial statements, our board and our operations,” says Krige. Everything will be running right down the middle and above board.”

“We’re using green, renewable, clean energy. We will not use one single block of coal or drop of oil to generate our energy in this datacentre”
Eric Krige, Moonlite Project

For the most part, such transparency will be delivered by subjecting Moonlite’s accounts and activities to the very things some crypto-based businesses and exchanges tend to shy away from: regular audits and financial reporting.

Meanwhile, Krige reveals the company’s token-holder voting system – which will see holders vote on how the company directs its mining proceeds – will be made more open and creditable through the use of a blockchain-based platform.

“We are using a voting system called secure.vote, which is an Australian company based in Sydney,” he says. As such, votes will be recorded onto the blockchain, ballots conducted via secure.vote, in the hope of becoming less vulnerable to tampering, as well as more reliable and open to verification.

In other words, Moonlite token holders will receive greater assurance that their voices are being heard, and by extension – it is hoped – they will feel more invested in the company.

Once its first bitcoin-mining centre opens in August, the Moonlite Project expects to expand it in due course, as well as build additional facilities elsewhere in Iceland, as demand dictates.

It’s first centre will have a bitcoin-mining capacity of 28,000Th/s (terahashes per second) when it opens, and 120,000Th/s in Phase 3 of its launch, which is expected to occur approximately 12 months after opening.

AI for better performance

Aside from its focus on renewable energy and corporate transparency, the Moonlite Project is also banking on artificial intelligence (AI) to give its operations a competitive edge. As such, the company has built its own proprietary AI system to handle the management of its day-to-day mining operations.

The system is designed to automate both the detection of mining units that are operating inefficiently, so workloads can be automatically switched over to a higher-performing unit.

Given there will be just over 15,000 mining machines in the facility at launch, such a process might take a few hours if it were up to a person to look at a screen and make decisions. “We can automate that into a few seconds,” says Krige.

“And it’s that time difference that we refer to as efficiency,” he adds, noting that the AI system and its algorithms will enable downtime at the mining centre to be kept to a bare minimum. This, in turn, will ensure the centre mines as much bitcoin, dash, litecoin and ethereum as possible, making its use of energy more cost-effective.

At the moment, Moonlite’s AI system is capable only of automating the process of detecting and rectifying inefficient mining, and not of learning from its own experience to perform its tasks more effectively.

However, Krige confirms it “will be employing the correct developers and the correct team to continually keep our AI and our technology up-to-date, and to even further develop [the platform] for the industry”.

In the future, any introduction of machine learning into Moonlite’s AI system will only help increase the company’s overall mining capacity, something it will have to do if it aims to become one of the biggest mining operations in the world and to reduce bitcoin’s negative impact on the environment.

Seeing as how there are already a number of very large Chinese mining companies that use mostly non-renewable energy, reducing bitcoin’s carbon footprint may be a big ask for Moonlite and startups like it.

As Krige points out, Bitmain – which made at least as much operating profit as Nvidia last year – is planning a new datacentre in Switzerland with “about 180,000 machines”.

“To put that in perspective,” he continues, “we think we’re big because we have 15,000 in our first mining centre.”

Even so, the company plans to be “highly capitalised and highly liquid in how it operates, with at least 20% of its proceeds being ringfenced for expansion and reinvested into acquiring the latest mining equipment.

As such, with the emergence of other green mining startups – and with the Chinese government’s crackdown on cryptocurrency mines – Moonlite and its growth may be part of a movement that sees bitcoin-mining companies shed their notoriety for environmental degradation.

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