There may be many things you don’t understand about the concepts of data mining, blockchain and cryptocurrency. But a concept that is easier to digest is load growth, and that is what Nodak Electric Cooperative experienced with the 2021 arrival of three data processing centers in Grand Forks. “The digital asset mining sector is new territory for Nodak Electric Cooperative, and we’re thrilled to be able to energize an industry that is on the grow,” said Mylo Einarson, Nodak president and CEO. “Digital asset mining is changing the way we use digital information in our lives – Grand Forks is becoming a hot spot for that kind of innovation.”
Digital asset mining uses blockchain, a decentralized peer-to-peer transaction ledger that can store all types of digital information. When an entity “mines,” they use powerful computer hardware to solve complex algorithms that confirm the validity of transactions. Those validated transactions are consolidated into “blocks” and then chained together to create a ledger of all verified transactions since the creation of the first block. As an economic incentive for miners who manage and operate the fleets of specialized computer hardware, each block contains a “reward” of cryptocurrency (like bitcoin). This reward is typically two pronged – a “block reward” that is earned for each new block created, and a transaction fee, which are fees charged to users who access the blockchain and submit transactions to new blocks.
The largest of Nodak’s new data processing loads is Core Scientific, one of the nation’s largest blockchain infrastructure providers and digital asset miners. The company’s work requires large facilities filled with specialized computer hardware that continuously mine digital assets – primarily bitcoin – for clients worldwide. To be most effective, that process requires electricity and a cool climate. Grand Forks is able to supply both.
“This environment should allow our operations to experience a higher efficiency ratio over a typical year when compared to our facilities in the southeast and southwest,” a Core Scientific report to Nodak explained. “Additionally, digital mining is uniquely tailored to be able to use excess local grid capacity when local consumers are not using it and curtail when the community’s grid needs increase.”
Core Scientific says it’s pleased to be a new part of the Grand Forks community and is happy to help contribute to the local economy. The new data processing center offers numerous skilled and technical jobs along with positions for managerial, safety and security personnel.
Nodak energized two other Grand Forks data mining projects in 2021 as well. All three centers will have significant power needs. Nodak and Minnkota Power Cooperative worked together in 2021 to ensure the facilities were supported with the reliable electric infrastructure and rate affordability necessary for the companies to find success in North Dakota.
“Electric co-ops must be strong partners with any businesses sharing their lines,” Einarson said. “Collaboration is key to not only economic development, but also sustaining a robust and resilient electric grid for the community.”