In a press release, Marathon Digital Holdings announced a partnership with Nodal Power, a renewable energy developer and operator, to launch a pilot project for mining bitcoin powered solely with energy derived from landfill methane. The already-active 280kW mining project is located in Utah and represents a step forward for the companies in implementing environmentally beneficial bitcoin mining technologies.
Marathon’s announcement comes after the release of a report co-published by Marathon and Bitcoin Magazine Pro: “Cashing in on Trash: Bitcoin Mining Offers an Economical Solution to Mitigating Landfill Methane Emissions” outlining the potential for bitcoin mining to profitably reduce methane emissions from landfills. According to the report, over 50% of U.S. landfills vent their methane emissions directly into the atmosphere, meaning they employ no greenhouse gas emissions mitigation solutions. This trend of vented methane represents both an environmental problem — methane emissions are 80x more potent in terms of the greenhouse effect compared to CO2 — but also an economic and energetic inefficiency, with massive quantities of the energy dense gas not being put to any use.
Ostensibly, bitcoin mining can change this calculus in a positive way.
“Do you want to pay to be compliant, or be paid to be compliant… if you’d rather be paid, you should look into bitcoin mining”, Marathon’s Chief Growth Officer Adam Swick said in an interview with Bitcoin Magazine on the topic of increasing federal methane regulation at U.S. landfills.
In a request for comment, Swick framed of the cost-benefit analysis for landfill owners, highlighting the emerging alignment between environmental health and the profit-seeking incentive of mining: “to any landfill owner, municipality, private or public entity that has a landfill and is struggling with what to do with their methane – we’d love to talk about how to improve economics at your site and my belief is that you’ll be highly impressed with what bitcoin mining can do for your landfill.” Swick went on to say that this “really is one of those rare win-wins” from both an ESG and capitalism perspective.
Daniel Batten, Co-Founder of CH4 Capital, a venture capital firm focused on methane mitigation (also cited in “Cashing in on Trash”) said the following of Marathon’s announcement: “Ever since [Fred] Thiel assumed the CEO role, Marathon has been consistently pioneering the use of recycled and renewable energy. First with its migration of 100MW to the King Mountain wind farm, and now with using greenhouse negative energy from landfills.” Batten has been a longtime advocate for landfill methane bitcoin mining, arguing that it has the potential to help the bitcoin network’s overall carbon footprint become carbon negative as early as December 2024.Charlie Schumacher, Marathon’s Vice President of Corporate Communications, emphasized that miners can serve as an important part of sustainable energy infrastructure: “I think what is starting to happen is people are realizing that bitcoin mining is actually a technology solution for the energy sector… if you think about it from the energy side, miners could be your first customer for a new generation project as it comes online. Bitcoin mining can also be the way that you could hit your ESG goals through [methane mitigation or heat recycling]… You can view these positive externalities that come off of mining as the primary use case for the customer, which is very exciting.”
This launch of the Utah pilot project and continued exploration of bitcoin mining’s ability to bolster environmental protection and critical energy infrastructure come at a time when discussions are ongoing with regards to data center energy use more generally, such as those engendered by the Biden Administration’s “Executive Order on the Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Development and Use of Artificial Intelligence”.
While this 280kW implementation is a small step in rolling out landfill mining operations, Swick noted the potential magnitude of mitigating landfill methane through Bitcoin’s incentives: “People are just starting to wrap their heads around how big of an environmental impact this is because again, people hadn’t even considered these stranded landfills in the past because there was no other solution. So this can be bigger than people think.”