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 Author Topic: Bitcoin Mining Consumption of World’s Resources  (Read 4798 times)
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 January 28, 2014, 11:34:55 AM

2013 was a year where the network hash rate grew over 40,000%.   As I write this the network hash rate is 16,371 TH/s.     If you assume 600W per 1 THs which is probably conservative, it works out to about 10 MWh (Mega watts hours) being spent on bitcoin mining.    This is still a tiny fraction of the world’s total electrical power production which is currently around 22,500 TWh.  (Terra watts hours)   Source: http://yearbook.enerdata.net/#world-electricity-production-map-graph-and-data.html

So far no concerns but look what happens if the growth continues at the same torrid rate:

World's Electrical Power Production in 2012 ~ 22500 TWH
Current power consumption of bitcoin hashing ~ 600J/TH/s * 16371 TH/s = 9,822,600W

(Going with BurtW correction here)
To get units of ENERGY so you can compare it to an annual ENERGY production of 22,500 TWh you need the number of hours in a year:

24 hours/day * 365.25 days/year = 8765.76 hours per year.

Annual ENERGY consumption of the Bitcoin hashing would be:

9,762,600 Watts * 8765.76 hours per year = 85,576,608,576 Wh = 85.6 GWh

Assuming same torrid growth rate of network growth and constant power production
NOW     : 85.6 GWh        -  0.00038 % of World's electical power production
Year +1 : 34.2 TWh        - 0.00152 %
Year +2 : 13696 TWh     - .6 %
Year +3 : 5478400 TWh  -  243.48 % of the World's electircal power production

So it seems likely that soon the network growth is going to start hitting serious limits.   Keep in mind I’m only looking at electrical power here.   There are many more potential limits like just running out places to house the mining and producing smaller faster ASICs will become very hard.

Thoughts?

Edit note - Many corrections made ... thanks!
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Beyond Imagination

 January 28, 2014, 02:01:40 PM

The electricity cost in mining will not be the major cointributing factor in foreseeable future

In GPU era, you can buy GPU with instant delivery anywhere in the world, but with ASICs, you have to buy from another country or wait for the pre-order to arrive, most of the cost has been shifted to mining equipments

That cost will not go down due to competition, since there is a consensus for mining equipment makers to follow the others in their pricing. Most of those companies on the market sell at a price at bitcoin's tradition of 3 month ROI.

Currently the difficulty is rising fast, so they have to cut the price aggresively, but if it slows down, it will be much easier for miners to reach ROI in 3 months, so they will also stop cutting the price

And another issue is that chip makers do not have enough capacity for producing enough bitcoin hashing chips

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 January 28, 2014, 05:47:21 PM

there is a problem. And it is worse than you think. Right now the electrical power used by the network is barely enough to sustain a price of \$15 per bitcoin (\$15 is the cost of electricity spent to mine a bitcoin, or the marginal cost of mining a bitcoin).

In order to sustain a bitcoin at \$800 we "need" to have 50 times more hashing power. That's a full nuclear reactor we are talking about. Today.

No, the burned electricity does not contribute to bitcoin's value in any meaningful way. Bitcoin is an asset with some rules about supply and a market, that is why there is a price. Enforcing those rules which make it valuable happens to require power.

By your understanding, what happens if bitcoin suddenly switched to pure proof-of-stake where the computational cost required to obtain distributed consensus was close to \$0?

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 January 28, 2014, 05:48:57 PM

I do feel like a villain from the series captain planet...

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 January 28, 2014, 06:15:05 PM

Do you remember Alpha Centauri?

Resources exist to be consumed. And consumed they will be, if not by this generation then by some future. By what right does this forgotten future seek to deny us our birthright? None I say! Let us take what is ours, chew and eat our fill.
--- CEO Nwabudike Morgan "The Ethics of Greed"

Our first challenge is to create an entire economic infrastructure, from top to bottom, out of whole cloth. No gradual evolution from previous economic systems is possible, because there is no previous economic system. Each interdependent piece must be materialized simultaneously and in perfect working order; otherwise the system will crash out before it ever gets off the ground.
--- CEO Nwabudike Morgan, "The Centauri Monopoly"

And when at last it is time for the transition from megacorporation to planetary government, from entrepreneur to emperor, it is then that the true genius of our strategy shall become apparent, for energy is the lifeblood of this society and when the chips are down he who controls the energy supply controls Planet. In former times the energy monopoly was called "The Power Company"; we intend to give this name an entirely new meaning.
--- CEO Nwabudike Morgan "The Centauri Monopoly"
BitchicksHusband
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 January 28, 2014, 06:19:01 PM

I do feel like a villain from the series captain planet...

Wait.  Is that a good or bad thing?

1BitcHiCK1iRa6YVY6qDqC6M594RBYLNPo
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 January 28, 2014, 06:19:23 PM

Please fix the OP so I can read it.  I cannot read any post with W/h in it as it caused my little EE brain to freeze up.  See the second post for an explaination of units, fix the OP, then I will read it and comment.

10 MWh is 10 megawatt-hours.

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 January 28, 2014, 07:02:38 PM

The amount of energy that it takes to transfer 1 BTC from one address to another is a small fraction of the energy (and none of the paper) required to transfer the equivalent amount (\$800) from one bank account to another. Bitcoin mining is saving the world's resources, if anything.

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 January 28, 2014, 07:45:44 PM

Everyone seems to think the market cap of the coins in a network matter... I mean, I guess it does to a degree, but the value of bitcoins as a concept is the payment network - not the coins themselves.

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 January 28, 2014, 10:09:39 PM

Thoughts?

First, please don't use units that don't exist or that don't mean what you think they mean.

Energy is measured in Joule (J) or in watt-hour (1 W.h = 1 Joule per second * 1 hour = 1 J/s * 3600 s = 3600 J)

Power is measured in Watt (W). 1 W = 1 J/s (joule per second)

Sorry for the confusion, I'm just trying to keep it simple.

Wh commonly refers to 1 Watt per hour which what most people understand because they pay for electrical power by the kWh.   If I translated to Joules most people wouldn't understand.   TWh is what is often being used  in many sources of information, for example: http://yearbook.enerdata.net/#world-electricity-production-map-graph-and-data.html

Back to your concerns.

Yes there is a problem. And it is worse than you think. Right now the electrical power used by the network is barely enough to sustain a price of \$15 per bitcoin (\$15 is the cost of electricity spent to mine a bitcoin, or the marginal cost of mining a bitcoin).

In order to sustain a bitcoin at \$800 we "need" to have 50 times more hashing power. That's a full nuclear reactor we are talking about. Today.

I don't follow your logic.   The amount of power consumption used to produce a bitcoin isn't the same as the value of the bitcoin.
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 January 28, 2014, 10:13:57 PM

Thoughts?

First, please don't use units that don't exist or that don't mean what you think they mean.

Energy is measured in Joule (J) or in watt-hour (1 W.h = 1 Joule per second * 1 hour = 1 J/s * 3600 s = 3600 J)

Power is measured in Watt (W). 1 W = 1 J/s (joule per second)

Sorry for the confusion, I'm just trying to keep it simple.

Wh commonly refers to 1 Watt per hour which what most people understand because they pay for electrical power by the kWh.   If I translated to Joules most people wouldn't understand.   TWh is what is often being used  in many sources of information, for example: http://yearbook.enerdata.net/#world-electricity-production-map-graph-and-data.html

kWh = kilowatt-hour != kilowatt/per

Just write out your units for everything all the way down to kg, meters, and seconds and you'll see

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 January 28, 2014, 10:21:06 PM

The electricity cost in mining will not be the major cointributing factor in foreseeable future

In GPU era, you can buy GPU with instant delivery anywhere in the world, but with ASICs, you have to buy from another country or wait for the pre-order to arrive, most of the cost has been shifted to mining equipments

That cost will not go down due to competition, since there is a consensus for mining equipment makers to follow the others in their pricing. Most of those companies on the market sell at a price at bitcoin's tradition of 3 month ROI.

Currently the difficulty is rising fast, so they have to cut the price aggresively, but if it slows down, it will be much easier for miners to reach ROI in 3 months, so they will also stop cutting the price

And another issue is that chip makers do not have enough capacity for producing enough bitcoin hashing chips

Actually I used 600W for 1 THs which is basically the power used by ASICs.    You are correct that at this moment power isn't a limiting factor this year.   Next year that will no longer be true as the total network hashing starts consuming 1% of the world's total power production.

Personally I think this is a good thing.   The rate of the hashing growth will slow anyway unless there is a new breakthrough.   After 20 nm ASICs, it will get much harder to reduce power while increasing speed.
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 January 28, 2014, 10:23:12 PM

there is a problem. And it is worse than you think. Right now the electrical power used by the network is barely enough to sustain a price of \$15 per bitcoin (\$15 is the cost of electricity spent to mine a bitcoin, or the marginal cost of mining a bitcoin).

In order to sustain a bitcoin at \$800 we "need" to have 50 times more hashing power. That's a full nuclear reactor we are talking about. Today.

No, the burned electricity does not contribute to bitcoin's value in any meaningful way. Bitcoin is an asset with some rules about supply and a market, that is why there is a price. Enforcing those rules which make it valuable happens to require power.

By your understanding, what happens if bitcoin suddenly switched to pure proof-of-stake where the computational cost required to obtain distributed consensus was close to \$0?

I agree, you did a better job of expressing it!
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 January 28, 2014, 10:31:40 PM

I don't follow your logic.   The amount of power consumption used to produce a bitcoin isn't the same as the value of the bitcoin.

The cost of producing a bitcoin tends to approach the value of a bitcoin because if it costs less than a bitcoin then more people will mine, raising the difficulty and thus the cost. If it costs more than a bitcoin then less people will mine, wihich will lower the difficulty and thus the cost.

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 January 28, 2014, 10:34:13 PM

Thoughts?

First, please don't use units that don't exist or that don't mean what you think they mean.

Energy is measured in Joule (J) or in watt-hour (1 W.h = 1 Joule per second * 1 hour = 1 J/s * 3600 s = 3600 J)

Power is measured in Watt (W). 1 W = 1 J/s (joule per second)

Sorry for the confusion, I'm just trying to keep it simple.

Wh commonly refers to 1 Watt per hour which what most people understand because they pay for electrical power by the kWh.

Noooooo. It is one Watt during one hour.
Sorry if you don't see the difference, but for anybody with basic scientific comprehension, it is exactly as if you said that the distance between Paris and New York is 600 mph.

I realize that, I'm only using "units" that people commonly see when they try to look up the information.   "TWh" is being used all over the web to talk about energy production and consumption.   The notation is just to make comparisons simple for people and when you are talking in terms of the total amount of the world's electrical production consumed, the units all cancel out.
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 January 28, 2014, 10:42:01 PM

I realize that, I'm only using "units" that people commonly see when they try to look up the information.   "TWh" is being used all over the web to talk about energy production and consumption.   The notation is just to make comparisons simple for people and when you are talking in terms of the total amount of the world's electrical production consumed, the units all cancel out.

As we keep telling you "TWh" is terawatt hours it is NOT terawatts per hour!  Terawatts per hour is WRONG.

Got it now?

Now, go fix your darn OP.

Our family was terrorized by Homeland Security.  Read all about it here:  http://www.jmwagner.com/ and http://www.burtw.com/  Any donations to help us recover from the \$300,000 in legal fees and forced donations to the Federal Asset Forfeiture slush fund are greatly appreciated!
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 January 28, 2014, 10:44:44 PM

Do you remember Alpha Centauri?

Resources exist to be consumed. And consumed they will be, if not by this generation then by some future. By what right does this forgotten future seek to deny us our birthright? None I say! Let us take what is ours, chew and eat our fill.
--- CEO Nwabudike Morgan "The Ethics of Greed"

Our first challenge is to create an entire economic infrastructure, from top to bottom, out of whole cloth. No gradual evolution from previous economic systems is possible, because there is no previous economic system. Each interdependent piece must be materialized simultaneously and in perfect working order; otherwise the system will crash out before it ever gets off the ground.
--- CEO Nwabudike Morgan, "The Centauri Monopoly"

And when at last it is time for the transition from megacorporation to planetary government, from entrepreneur to emperor, it is then that the true genius of our strategy shall become apparent, for energy is the lifeblood of this society and when the chips are down he who controls the energy supply controls Planet. In former times the energy monopoly was called "The Power Company"; we intend to give this name an entirely new meaning.
--- CEO Nwabudike Morgan "The Centauri Monopoly"

So you are saying it is the goal of bitcoin to consume most of the world's power?
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 January 28, 2014, 11:08:04 PM

OK now that you got that fixed we can work on the rest of the mistakes in your post:

Hash rate is measured in "hashes per second" = H/s or "terahashes per second" TH/s not THs.

Fixing your units the network hash rate is 16,271 TH/s (terahashes per second)

You are using 600 W per TH/s so: 16,271 TH/s times 600 W per TH/s

This equals 16,371 * 600 = 9,762,600 Watts

Ok you rounded up to 10 MW, fair enough.

That is POWER.

To get units of ENERGY so you can compare it to an annual ENERGY production of 22,500 TWh you need the number of hours in a year:

24 hours/day * 365.24 days/year = 8765.76 hours per year.

Annual ENERGY consumption of the Bitcoin hashing would be:

9,762,600 Watts * 8765.76 hours per year = 85,576,608,576 Wh = 85.6 GWh

so 85.6 GWh / 22,500,000 GWh = 0.00038 %

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BurtW
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 January 28, 2014, 11:21:54 PM

Now the simple answer to your post:

You said "2013 was a year where the network hash rate grew over 40,000%." and then assumed this rate of growth would continue.

It will not.

Our family was terrorized by Homeland Security.  Read all about it here:  http://www.jmwagner.com/ and http://www.burtw.com/  Any donations to help us recover from the \$300,000 in legal fees and forced donations to the Federal Asset Forfeiture slush fund are greatly appreciated!
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 January 28, 2014, 11:32:57 PM

Now the simple answer to your post:

You said "2013 was a year where the network hash rate grew over 40,000%." and then assumed this rate of growth would continue.

It will not.

That is actually my point, but everyone seems to assume that it will.   Your correction ... makes the case even more clear.
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