Zapped Out: Washington County Places a Moratorium on Bitcoin Mining

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Chelan's PUD won't accept or process any more applications for the energy-intensive procedure of cryptocurrency mining, the agency announced.

The moratorium is in response to being «inundated» with programs, and it provides the county the chance to potentially lift electricity prices.

Bitcoin miners have been flocking to the region for the hydroelectric potential and cheap power prices, with the amount of applications for new capacity year-to-date already nearing 2017's total.

Chelan County officials are now saying bitcoin mining is placing too much of a strain on the power supply. As an example, county officials said demand from cryptocurrency mining centers was interfering with their work and put the power grid in danger of missing key targets.

They also pointed to «health» and «safety» concerns for their occupants, pointing to «rogue» bitcoin mining operations which will need to be examined. Locals who may be looking to jump on the bitcoin mining ministry may not have the appropriate machines and cooling apparatus set up for a safe operation, and this places others at risk, too.

«We do need time to take a deep breath and work through the issues and this might be the best approach,» noted Commissioner Randy Smith at a meeting.

But apparently, it is nothing higher electricity rates can't fix.

The moratorium is in place while the county reviews the impact on utility operations apparently from the bitcoin mining facilities which are already operational. The review process involves a check on prices for less than 5 MW capacity and the possibility of higher rates for jobs of greater scale.

So far, the pipeline for bitcoin mining software looks as follows -

  • Nearly 20 for mining facilities with a capacity of as much as 5mw each for «a potential total load of approximately 16.3 average» megawatts
  • almost two dozen «approved and active high-density loads ... totaling about 13.5mw»

Before bitcoin mining came to town, the county's average capacity expansion was 4mw yearly. Chelan's PUD has made it clear to bitcoin miners previously that the county was not rolling out the welcome mat for them.

For instance, in 2016, they tacked on an electricity tariff for large-scale jobs including bitcoin mining operations. The higher rate applied to jobs with 250kw hours of electricity per square foot of yearly capacity.   Several projects with comparable capacity had been filling the pipeline, and their fate remains unclear.

The county's previous moratorium on more bitcoin miners lasted from 2014 to 2017.