Canadian City Balances Energy Demands With World's Largest Bitcoin Mining Farm

This week, the grand opening of the largest bitcoin farm in the world was overshadowed by a statement from the city that they would be temporarily shut down in event that a heat wave overloaded capacity. BitFury and Hut 8 set up the mining farm in Medicine Hat, Canada with the expectation that they would be welcome in a region that is known as a top energy producer.

Over $100 million has been invested in the giant mining operation, with 56 shipping containers spread over a 4.5 hectare plot. The bitcoin farm consumes roughly the same amount of electricity as the entire Medicine Hat City, which is home to over 60,000 people, generating 20 bitcoins a day in the process.

Andrew Kiguel, Hut 8’s CEO made the following statement:

Medicine Hat has enough power capacity to service both Hut 8's load and the city's load through a heat wave, without any blackouts. In the event of equipment failure, the load to Hut 8 would be curtailed, as is standard for any industrial power producer.

Andrew Kiguel

Despite the heat wave caveat, Medicine Hat mayor Ted Clugston seemed generally welcome to crypto in an interview given at the mining farm on Monday. Clugson admitted that he knows very little about cryptocurrency, but said that he was happy to sell BitFury and Hut 8 electricity. Still, he feels that the industry is nonessential, and will be the first to get cut off in cases of emergency or scarcity.

Andrew Kiguel, CEO of Hut 8 said that people who have lost faith in traditional banking institutions see crypto as an extremely valuable tool. Kiguel stated:

Bitcoin was created during the financial crisis. It has really served a purpose in terms of providing the opportunity for people who don't necessarily trust their government or their central banks.

Andrew Kiguel

The mayor has received pressure from groups concerned about the amount of energy that the bitcoin farm would use. However, there are many misconceptions behind fears of cryptocurrency representing an environmental danger.

Critics argue that cryptocurrency mining operations could make better efforts to use sustainable energy sources, however, proponents of the technology insist the energy consumption is smaller than traditional banking and credit card companies. It has even been calculated that Bitcoin mining uses less electricity annually than seasonal Christmas lights.

As CryptoGlobe recently reported, Bitfury, one of the companies behind the mining farm, revealed a new ASIC chip that they touted as being, “unparalleled in performance and efficiency.”

Cryptocurrency advocates say that the temporary shutdown of even a large bitcoin mining operation such as Medicine Hat would have a minimal impact on the network, because it comprises a very small portion of the global distributed hashrate.

Lightning Labs’ Lightning Wallet Desktop App Now Works With the Bitcoin Mainnet

Siamak Masnavi

On Tuesday (April 23), Lightning Labs announced the release of the first alpha version of its non-custodial Lightning wallet for the Bitcoin mainnet. This is the desktop (MacOS, Windows, and Linux) version of the app.

The first time that the world saw Lightning Lab's completely redesigned "Lightning App" (i.e. their "user-facing wallet application")  was on 10 September 2018, however that alpha release was only for use with the Bitcoin testnet.

The idea of the UX redesign was to appeal to novice Bitcoin users. In a blog post published back then, Lightning Labs described their Lightning App as follows:

"The redesigned Lightning App bundles lnd and is meant to run as a standalone wallet in light client mode (using Neutrino, BIP 157 + 158) both on desktop as well as mobile devices. By default the app will connect to a bitcoin full node cluster hosted by Lightning Labs. As Neutrino support progresses however, we will remove our hosted cluster. Optionally, users can also run their own full node and have the app connect to it if they want to. Users do not however need to run a separate lnd node. The goal is to build an application that is easily approachable and that can simply be opened with a double click."

Here were the main UX guidelines for the Lightning App:

  • "Use plain english"
  • Use "a high contrast color shift" to "distinguish between primary user actions and technical details"
  • "Limit funds per channel"
  • "Automatically handle address & invoice"
  • "Display local fiat currency by default"

As for Neutrino protocol BIP 157, BIP 158), which was proposed by "Lightning Labs’ Olaoluwa Osuntokun (roasbeef) and Alex Akselrod, along with Jim Posen (formerly of Coinbase)," it is, according to yesterday's blog post, "a light client specification that allows non-custodial Lightning wallets to verify Bitcoin transactions with improved privacy, minimized trust, and without needing to sync the full Bitcoin blockchain (which is about 200 GB)."

The main new features of version "v0.5.0-alpha" of the Lightning App compared to what was offered last September are as follows:

  • "syncing the Neutrino client is now much faster and begins in the background while the user writes down her recovery phrase (a.k.a mnemonic seed)"
  • updated home screen that "with a unified balance that includes on-chain as well as Lightning funds"
  • operation on the mainnet by default (although you can open the app in test mode)
  • "smarter autopilot"

Please note that Lightning Labs wants you to realize that this version of the app is "an early version targeted at testers" and that "there’s a risk of losing all of your funds" since "this is still very early technology." 

Finally, if you'd like to try the mobile version of the app, don't despair:

"This release... represents an important stepping stone towards mobile while we continue to invest in performance and stability. We’re working as quickly as we can to get our mainnet iOS and Android apps out soon."


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