You’ve probably been hearing about how much electricity Bitcoin is consuming: more than 33 terrawatt-hours (TWh) in 2017. The Land Art Generator Initiative (LAGI), which promotes the intersection between renewable energy and public art, created an eye-opening graphic revealing just how much land area we’d need to generate enough energy from solar panels to power Bitcoin sustainably.


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Bitcoin isn’t exactly environmentally friendly right now. The Bitcoin network is largely powered by coal plants in China, according to Digiconomist. Bitcoin transactions in total emit as much carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases as some of the biggest coal-fired power plants in the world, according to LAGI. The Bitcoin network consumes more energy than many countries do. Digiconomist said Bitcoin could power 3,029,126 American households, and the country closest to Bitcoin when it comes to electricity consumption is Denmark.

Related: One Bitcoin transaction takes more energy than a household uses in a week

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So what if we powered Bitcoin with solar arrays instead? They’d have to be pretty large. LAGI’s graphic shows in 2017, we’d need a solar array greater than the size of San Francisco. By the 2020s, when Bitcoin electricity consumption could escalate to over 500 TWh a year, we’d need an array that would sprawl from San Francisco to Sacramento, around two hours away by car.

LAGI said, “It seems that nearly all of our global efforts at green building design, energy efficiency retrofits, demand side management, and renewable energy investment are being undone by the block-chain currency phenomenon…Either Bitcoin must figure out a way to use less electricity, or it will cease to have value in a global economy that responsibly places a higher value on carbon emissions reductions than we do on the marginal benefits of cryptographic currencies.”

They said they targeted Bitcoin in their graphic, but the issue is also present in computing and data requirements.

Via the Land Art Generator Initiative

Images via Depositphotos and the Land Art Generator Initiative