Clark County-based Superior Electric Inc. has withdrawn its proposal to establish a mining center at the Mint Farm Industrial Park in Longview, Washington, due to opposition from the Mint Farm Industrial Park Property Owners Association.
The land for the mining center was purchased by DNR Lease Inc. last year, which shares several business officers with Superior Electric. According to Superior Electric vice president Neal Stewart, the company will sell the land instead.
The move comes in the wake of growing concerns about the environmental impact and energy consumption of large-scale mining operations. Local officials are now evaluating potential regulations to address these issues, which may impact other mining companies in the area.
Weighing crypto mining
Cryptocurrency mining facilities are computer networks that continuously perform complex calculations to create digital currencies, consuming a lot of energy in the process.
The operators of successful mining operations are rewarded with transaction fees or a portion of the newly created cryptocurrency.
Per the chairman of the planning commission Craig Collins, cryptocurrency mining operations utilize a significant amount of land and energy without providing substantial employment opportunities.
City planner McAllister Kosar said the proposed project would involve using a series of storage containers within the industrial park as the facility for cryptocurrency mining operations. The venture would require only one employee to visit the site once per day after the computer systems are operational.
Kosar explained that the proposed mining center would have limited opportunities for the town to collect taxes from local employees or any cryptocurrency transactions passing through the facility.
“[Crypto mining] certainly adds to the requirements that are already very large for us to build out our electric supply to meet our energy goals.”
Glenn Blackmon, energy policy manager for the Washington Office of Energy
He told the Planning Commission that it is challenging to identify any positive aspects of cryptocurrency mining operations apart from the profits generated. However, these profits do not typically benefit local communities.
Despite this, as part of their application process, Superior Electric has completed a feasibility and impact study in collaboration with the Cowlitz PUD and the Bonneville Energy Association.
According to a spokesperson for PUD, Alice Dietz, such studies are mandatory for companies that may impact the power grid with at least one megawatt.
Based on the feasibility study, the proposed Superior Electric mining farm would have initially required a one-megawatt load connection. The facility’s power requirement was projected to double every subsequent year.
The Cowlitz PUD study also revealed that the proposed mining project would require constructing a new direct transmission line to the power substation in the Mint Farm. The current substation has a capacity of only 6 megawatts, which won’t be enough for Superior Electric’s proposed 54 megawatts requirement.
Regulating energy consumption for crypto businesses
The rise of cryptocurrency businesses in the Pacific Northwest due to the region’s low energy costs has sparked a need for government regulation to address their high energy demands.
One notable example is East Wenatchee, where the growing number of mining operations over the past decade consumed more energy than the county’s 70,000 residents.
Director of community development Ann Rivers claimed the Planning Commission had been discussing cryptocurrency business regulations since 2021.
In 2018, cryptocurrency company MiningSky operated temporarily from the Fishers Lane Water Treatment Plant. However, after a few months, the company abandoned the location due to disagreements over the power connection.
This year, the Washington state government approved House Bill 1416, which seeks to tackle the energy-intensive requirements of businesses such as cryptocurrency mining facilities. The bill enforces clean energy standards on organizations that acquire power from public and municipal utilities.
Energy policy manager Glenn Blackmon at the Washington Office of Energy said that the bill is just one part of a more extensive conversation that needs to happen in the state regarding allocating resources to meet its climate goals.