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Cryptocurrency miners take over Wenatchee, Eastern Washington

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency that has gained popularity in recent years. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)
LISTEN: Cryptocurrency miners are taking over Wenatchee, Eastern Washington

Cryptocurrency operations are becoming as prevalent as the farms in Eastern Washington, thanks to the region’s cheap energy costs.

“Let’s say I’m going to send you some money,” Ron explained to Don. “You say, ‘Hey Ron, I need $1 million in bitcoin.’ So I go to my computer and I send you $1 million. There are computers verifying this transaction all around the world — one of them is in Wenatchee. They get this transaction and they start solving an algorithm. It’s a really tough math problem and one computer in the world will come up with a solution first. It proves that the transaction was above board, verifying I have $1 million in bitcoin, and verifying your address. They are rewarded with a tiny fraction of a bitcoin for doing the work.”

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That computing process eats up a lot of electricity. And cryptocurrency miners like to use a lot of computers to do the job — thousands. Thanks to nearby hydroelectric dams, Politico reports, bitcoin miners have targeted Eastern Washington to set up cryptocurrency operations — particularly in Chelan, Douglas, and Grant counties. Power in the region is the cheapest in the nation — 1/4 of Seattle’s energy rates and about 1/5 of the national average.

Eastern Washington cryptocurrency

Bitcoin miners have added all these factors together over the past few years. They have bought up any old building they can find in Eastern Washington — old fruit warehouses, closed down car washes, etc. They put computer servers inside and start mining. Others are building new structures for mining operations.

Today, new miners are coming to the region to build operations with tens of thousands of servers. Servers use up to 30 megawatts (enough to power 13,000 homes, Politico notes). Out-of-state investors from Wall Street, Asia, and Europe are supporting the mining operations.

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Introduction of the new industry leads some to wonder about the vitality of the area. How will these high-tech mining operations affect the local communities?

“That’s what’s happening in Eastern Washington right now,” Ron said. “Power over there is cheap. Land is relatively cheap. So the big guys, the bitcoin miners are coming in and buying up old warehouses or putting in thousands and thousands of bitcoin mining processors.”

“It could either be ground zero of the future of money,” he said. “Or it could decimate those Eastern Washington towns.”

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