Australia’s largest bitcoin mine hopes to utilise unused renewable energy and lead the world on decarbonisation

Australia’s largest bitcoin mine hopes to utilise unused renewable energy and lead the world on decarbonisation
Picture: Getty Images
  • Byron Bay will soon be home to Australia’s largest bitcoin mine, powered entirely by renewable energy.
  • The mine’s founders hope the project could see bitcoin mining lead decarbonisation efforts around the world.
  • One of the groups behind the project said Australia could soon be home to more large-scale bitcoin mining projects if the Morrison government legislates the recommendations handed down in a recent Senate report.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

A deal struck by Mawson Infrastructure Group and renewable energy group Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners will see Australia’s largest bitcoin mine find a home in Byron Bay, powered solely by renewable energy. 

Nick Hughes-Jones, chief commercial officer at Mawson, said the move could see Australia thrust bitcoin to the forefront of the nation’s decarbonisation efforts, after the industry for so long has been a major contributor to carbon emissions.

“So, we have a view as a business that bitcoin mining can actually lead the transition to a decarbonised society, because renewable energy will ultimately be the cheapest energy,” Hughes-Jones said. 

Mawson’s new 20-megawatt project is poised to add about 0.4 exahash — a measurement of computing power — to the world’s global crypto mining efforts, powered by the renewable energy generated next door by Quinbrook.

The setup is one known as a “co-locating” partnership, which Hughes-Jones suggests will pave the way for other groups looking to establish similar arrangements.

He said the deal proves that renewable energy can in fact be the most economical power solution for bitcoin mining projects around Australia, where renewable energy assets still aren’t operating at full capacity.

“We’ve got lots of renewables in Australia. I think a lot of them, if you look at some of the solar assets out there, are not operating 100% of the time. 

“So this comes back to our view of locating next to underutilised, stranded renewable energy assets,” he said. “By adding a bitcoin mining facility next to them, you make it economic, which promotes more renewables globally, which is really the perspective that we’re coming from.”

Data released by the Australian Energy Market Operator last week showed that renewable energy powered more than 31% of all Australian electricity between July 1 and September 30, a new record, and as much as 61.4% of the nation’s power grid between 1-1.30pm on September 24. 

The trend has been driven by surging investments in large scale wind and solar farms across the country, according to the AEMO, along with the proliferation of rooftop solar initiatives being rolled out across the states, resulting in wholesale prices so low that coal and gas can’t compete.

Hughes-Jones said prospective bitcoin mining will only stiffen competition for coal and gas, particularly if recent recommendations handed down by the Senate Select Committee on Financial Technology and Regulatory Technology last week end up being legislated.

The report called on the federal government to commit to a full overhaul finance and tax regulations as Australia strives to become a crypto superpower. 

Among the Senate committee’s recommendations, headed by Liberal senator Andrew Bragg, was a tax credit of 10% for crypto miners whose operations are powered by renewable energy. 

Hughes-Jones celebrated Bragg’s efforts, which he said could become a critical drawing point for bitcoin mining projects around the world. 

“At a minimum, [it could stop] them [from going] offshore, right? Historically, that was sort of the direction that we and others were getting nudged because Australian regulation is so prohibitive.”

“But I think the Bragg report goes a long way to bring it home, which is why — even though we have bigger sites on offer in the US — it made sense to have a site here in Australia.”

After third-quarter results are released, the Mawson-Quinbrook partnership is set to announce a raft of other new bitcoin mining projects powered entirely by renewable energy, both in Australia and the US.

Mawson chief executive James Manning said the partnership is logical, but also one that he hopes will driver major advancements in the full decarbonisation of societies around the world. 

“Our partnership reflects our joint view that renewable energy will be key to future data centre infrastructure,” Manning said. 

“Mawson is seeking to identify renewable energy projects which lead the transition to a decarbonized society, with a key focus on sustainable bitcoin mining.”