Crypto, green hydrogen form ‘dynamic duo’ to thwart climate change | Cornell Chronicle

Crypto, green hydrogen form ‘dynamic duo’ to thwart climate change | Cornell Chronicle


Combining cryptocurrency mining (noted for its huge consumption of carbon-based fuel) with green hydrogen could lay the groundwork for broader deployment of renewable energy, such as solar and wind, according to a new study from Cornell Engineering.

“With current cryptocurrency operations contributing heavily to carbon emissions around the world, it is vital to explore opportunities to capitalize on widespread enthusiasm for cryptocurrencies as we move towards a sustainable and climate-friendly future,” he said. Fengqi youRoxanne E. and Michael J. Zak Professor of Energy Systems Engineering at Cornell Engineering.

You and PhD student Apoorv Lal are authors of “Climate sustainability through a dynamic duo: green hydrogen and cryptocurrencies drive energy transition and decarbonization,” which was published March 25 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Their research shows how linking the use of energy-intensive cryptocurrency mining with green hydrogen technology (the “dynamic duo,” they call it) can boost renewable energy sectors.

“Building green hydrogen infrastructure to help produce cryptocurrencies can accelerate renewable energy and create a more sustainable energy landscape,” Lal said.

Using clean energy sources to power blockchain mining operations and fuel green hydrogen production can lead to growing wind and solar capacity and expand sustainable energy production across the country, researchers said.

As it is currently structured, blockchain-based cryptocurrency mining in the US can use as much carbon-based energy as the entire country of Argentina, according to a 2022 report from the White House Office of Science and Technology. Almost all of the domestic crypto mining electricity is driven by computing power-intensive consensus mechanisms, known as “proof of work,” which is used to verify crypto assets.

Preliminary estimates from the US Energy Information Administration suggest that annual electricity consumption for cryptocurrency mining in 2023 will likely account for between 0.6% and 2.3% of all US electricity consumption USA

“Recognizing the significant energy demands of cryptocurrency mining, our research proposes an innovative technological solution,” You said. “By leveraging cryptocurrencies as virtual energy carriers alongside the use of green hydrogen, we can transform what was once an environmental challenge into a dynamic force for climate mitigation and sustainability.”

In their research, You and Lal examined individual U.S. states to assess potential energy strengths in each region.

Supporting cryptocurrency can accelerate the construction of additional energy infrastructure and potentially create 78.4 megawatt hours of solar energy for every Bitcoin mined in New Mexico, for example, and potentially 265.8 megawatt hours of wind energy for every Bitcoin mined in Wyoming, According to the document.

“While the cryptocurrency currently has a high dollar value (Bitcoin traded for over $67,000 on March 25), you can't hold it in your hand,” You said. “It's virtual. Think of cryptocurrencies and energy in the same way: much like the concept of a gift card. Cryptocurrencies can also have an energy value and that becomes an additional function.”

To promote a sustainable future for blockchain-based cryptocurrencies, the researchers said, it is necessary to advance stronger federal policies for climate goals and renewable energy.

“Together with green hydrogen, this approach to cryptocurrencies not only mitigates its own environmental impact, but also opens a sustainable path for the transition to renewable energy,” You said. “It's a novel strategy.”

You are a senior faculty member of the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability. Funding for this work was provided by the National Science Foundation.


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