The bitcoin network is estimated to use almost as much electricity as the country of Ireland this year, according to research published in the journal Joule.
The bitcoin network currently uses an estimated 2.55 gigawatts of electricity. The researcher behind the study, Alex de Vries, believes that this figure could potentially rise to as high as 7.67 gigawatts in the future.
Bitcoin network demands considerable computational power
The cryptocurrency demands significant computational power to solve complex hash calculations for processing financial transactions.
“The primary fuel for each of these calculations is electricity. The Bitcoin network can be estimated to consume at least 2.55 gigawatts of electricity currently, and potentially 7.67 gigawatts in the future, making it comparable with countries such as Ireland (3.1 gigawatts) and Austria (8.2 gigawatts).”
The research is based on speculative figures as there is no definitive way of calculating every miners’ power usage. There are 10,000 connected nodes, but each of these can represent a single machine or multiple machines.
“A hashrate of 14 terahashes per second can either come from a single Antminer S9 running on just 1,372 watts, or more than half a million PlayStation 3 devices running on 40 megawatts,” de Vries said.
Are we overestimating electricity use by computing?
However, some experts believe that this research could be another example of overestimating the electricity use by computing.
Stanford lecturer Jonathan Koomey told NBC News that there are a few problems with the research’s underlying assumptions, namely that energy used in bitcoin mining and the price for that energy “are picked out of air”.
“For two decades, people have been eager to overestimate electricity use by computing,” Koomey told NBC. “My concern is that we simply don’t have adequate data to come to the strong conclusions that he’s coming to.”
“The worry is that those are two numbers that are picked out of the air,” Koomey added. “There may be some basis for them, but it’s a very unreliable way to do these kinds of calculations, and nobody who does this for a living would do it like that. It’s odd that someone would.”