Innovation That Matters

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Could bitcoin mining boost renewable grids?

Agriculture & Energy

A company boosts the financial viability of mini-grids in Africa by using them to power crypto transactions

Spotted: The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Electricity 2024 report found that electricity consumption from data centres, AI, and the cryptocurrency sector could double by 2026, compared with 2022 figures. Transitioning these extremely energy-intensive industries is difficult but urgent if we are to meet net-zero goals. 

In Africa, where many communities rely on intermittent sources of electricity, bitcoin mining company Gridless is providing a solution that both meets crypto’s increased demand for electricity and builds reliable energy networks for local neighbourhoods. Often, mini-grids can be financially unsustainable as they are expensive to set up, yet the energy demand of local communities often isn’t consistent enough to buy and use all the energy produced, meaning much of it can go to waste. 

Gridless works closely with small, independent power producers (IPP) to make use of their unused electricity, providing consistent energy demand to make sure the mini-grid is economically viable. The company powers its operations through renewable sources that include solar power, geothermal energy from a dormant volcano in Kenya, and biomass energy. The partnerships the company has with IPPs are predicated on ensuring that communities have first and full access to electricity before Gridless buys what remains.

In order to track what energy is available and when, Gridless has built a real-time optimisation system that turns off mining hardware – which completes energy-intensive calculations to verify and secure blockchain transactions – when less power is available. The system monitors energy demand from local partners to ensure that the startup’s use is not negatively impacting others, automatically turning miners on and off depending on supply. The dashboard presents real-time data and alerts, while monitoring company internet connectivity. 

In Kenya, the company generates so much power from its geothermal system that it provides electricity for up to 5,000 local homes. Supported by Jack Dorsey’s Block, Gridless is a founding member of the Green Africa Mining Alliance (GAMA) and currently works across four different countries.  

Plans for Gridless include expanding its data analytics capacity to help IPPs build more stable networks and services, and expanding its own power production to grow the business and support the continued electrification of local communities.  

Cryptocurrency innovations are increasingly focused on sustainability, with examples in Springwise’s library including a geothermal-based cryptocurrency city and a carbon-neutral NFT network.

Written By: Keely Khoury


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