There was a [very good coindesk article in July 2014]1
that broke down the carbon footprint of the bitcoin mining network. At the date of the article, our hashrate was 146,505 TH/s. Now that we are at above 13 exahashes/s this represents a 94 fold increase hashing power.
[Here is the cost breakdown chart from the coindesk article]2
As you can see from this image, the carbon footprint of bitcoin in 2014 is a tiny fraction compared to the carbon footprint of the traditional banking system. Yet at a 0.78 Billion per year cost in 2014, at a 94 fold increase of power that would now be 73.32 billion, which would make bitcoin 9.52 billion more in electricity costs.
But this is trying to extrapolate data in a non-accurate way. In order to understand why this is inaccurate, we must look at how all of this technology works and how technology has scaled upwards while decreasing electricty consumption.
The bitcoin network at 13 exahashes is roughly 130 times greater than the largest super computer (Sunway, 93 petahashes per sec in china, see [top500.org]3
So when you make that statement, you think "wow, bitcoin must use a lot of energy to be 130 times more powerful than the largest super computer network!"
But, its not apples to oranges. These super computer networks are non-specialized hardware (comparably to bitcoin) in that they have generalized computing capabilities. This means that these systems require more standardized hardware so that they can preform a large amount of different computing functions.
So, for example, the largest Sunway supercomputer @ 93 petaflops (roughly 1/130th the power of the bitcoin network) preforms its calculations at 93,014.6 petahashes @ 15,371 kW = 93014000 Gh @ 15370000 watts. Doing the maths, this comes out to a 0.16524 W/Gh.
The AntMiner S9 currently operates at 0.098 Gh ....so nearly double the energy efficiency of what the most powerful super computer network in the world operates at.
You have the Dragonmint miner coming out Q1-Q2 in 2018 which uses 0.075J/GHs ....a 30% efficiency increase over the Antminer S9.
And next year japanese giant GMO is launching into the bitcoin mining business, stating they will be releasing a 7nm ASIC design, which is more than double the efficiency of the current 16nm design the Antminer S9 uses. This will mean a more than doubling of energy efficiency. They said they have plans after the release of the first product to research "5nm, and 3.5nm mining chips"
So, what is the point of understanding all of this? Well, you have to understand how technology scales (think Moore's law) to understand how we can achieve faster computational speeds (more exahashes per second) without increasing the carbon footprint.
So if you look at a proof of work chart, you'll see it has scaled linearly upwards since the birth of bitcoin. And it would be logical to assume that the more hashes per sec thrown into the network, that it would equate to more power being spent. Yet this is not true due to advancements in ASIC chip design, power efficiency, and basic economic fundamentals.
You see, as new miners come out, because they are more efficient, people can run much faster mining rigs at much lower cost. This immediately adds much more hashing power to the network, which decreases the profitability of old miners. And to give you an idea of how much more cost efficient these are, lets look at Antminers products.
S9 - 0.098 W/Gh
S7 - 0.25 W/Gh
Avalon6 - 0.29 w/Gh
You can see the S9 is 3 times more power efficient than the Avalon6. That translates to "It costs 3 times more to operate this equipment". That aint no small difference.
These differences, combined with energy costs are what forces miners to stop running old hardware and to upgrade to newer models or exit mining completely. So as new mining equipment hits the market, old less efficient mining rigs go offline. The amount of hashes per sec continues to climb, yet the actual power usage of the entire network does not scale at the same rate that the hashes per sec scale at, due to increased energy efficiency.
The question that I would like to see answered by the community is this -
What has changed between now and 2014 in terms of total watts consumed? How can we calculate the real carbon footprint of todays bitcoin mining network compared to this data from 2014?
What equipment was running in 2013-2014, what were their W/Gh and how many of these machines do we speculate are still running vs more efficient mining rigs powering the network today? What is the Th/S differences between these mining rigs, and how much more power do we contribute towards the network today because of these optimized rigs?
Mining is not my specialty and there are going to be many people here who are better suited to tackling these problems.
I think these questions need to be answered and articulated because these are questions that im starting to see a lot
from the mainstream as criticism towards bitcoin. I know the generic answer, aka "Bitcoin mining still uses a fraction of the cost that the entire global banking system does", but we really need to do better than that. We need to examine the different power types used in bitcoin mining -
How much of bitcoin mining is from hydroelectric? Nuclear? Wind? Solar? Coal? Natural Gas? What regions contribute the largest hashing power and can we evaluate whether these regions are Hydroelectric, Coal, Nuclear etc dependent?
If we are to articulate effective arguments against those who naysay bitcoin over its carbon footprint, then we must do so with good data
to backup our positions.
Hopefully the numbers above are accurate/correct. Honestly only spent a few minutes doing napkin math, so I expect there to be mistakes, please let me know and thank you very much all.
''' Lets have a discussion about energy consumption in bitcoin mining and what that means towards the carbon footprint today. Go1dfish undelete link unreddit undelete link
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