RIDGWAY – A rusty, lonely postbox stands alone at the end of a short road leading to the BitCoin mining site along Long Level Road in Ridgway. Located in the middle of the Allegheny National Forest which covers most of Ridgway Township, the road passes many natural gas extraction wells. Large pipes bring the gas to the central Pin Oak facility to be transformed into electricity to power the computer banks and cooling towers that make up the BitCoin “mine”.
What exactly is a BitCoin “mine”? The short answer is that it’s complicated.
Bitcoin was conceived by a person or group called Satoshi Nakamoto, a pseudonym featured on the original 2008 Bitcoin white paper describing how cryptocurrency works. On January 3, 2009, Satoshi mined the first Bitcoin block on a simple personal computer with a standard central processing unit or CPU. In 2010, the first Bitcoin mine was produced which used the power of a graphics card or GPU to speed up the task. Then in 2013, Chinese company New Cannan launched a bitcoin mine using an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) that has become the industry standard for bitcoin miners.
Now for the complicated part. Bitcoin mining is the process by which new bitcoins are brought into circulation. This is also how the network confirms recent transactions and is an essential part of the maintenance and development of the blockchain ledger. Mining is done using sophisticated hardware that solves a mathematical computational problem. The first computer to find the solution or find the closest answer to the problem receives the next block of bitcoins. Miners act as auditors, confirming that each Bitcoin transaction is legitimate and valid, thus guaranteeing the “value” of Bitcoin.
What is bitcoin? It is a 64-digit hexadecimal number or Hash in Bitcoin terminology.
The number above has 64 digits and contains not only numbers but letters of the alphabet. The worldwide accepted decimal system uses factors of 100 as its base, which means that each digit of a multi-digit number has 100 possibilities, from zero to 99. The decimal system is simplified to base 10, or zero new in computing. Using a “hexadecimal”, this calculation incorporates a base 16 with “hex” and “deca” derived from the Greek words for six and ten. In a hexadecimal system, each digit has 16 possibilities. Our standard number system has only ten ways to represent numbers (from zero to nine). The hexadecimal system must add letters, specifically A, B, C, D, E, and F, to represent 11 through 15. Software developers and system designers make extensive use of hexadecimal numbers to provide a user-friendly representation of encoded values in binary. . Each hexadecimal digit represents four bits or binary digits, also called nibbles. In other words, the hash above has 64 digits, with each digit representing 16 possibilities, for each of the four digits in the quartet, or 4096 units.
Apart from the coins minted through the “genesis block”, which was the first block created by founder Satoshi Nakamoto, all other bitcoins came into being through miners. Since the rate of “mined” bitcoin is reduced over time, the final bitcoin will not be distributed until around the year 2140.
To earn new bitcoins, the company must be the first miner to find the correct answer, or the closest solution, to a digital problem. This process is also known as Proof of Work (PoW). No really advanced math or calculation is involved, despite the belief that miners solve complicated math problems. In a way, that’s true, but not because the math itself is complex. The computing power of trying to be the first miner to find the 64-digit hexadecimal number, or Hash, is essentially guesswork. The answer, or the closest number, is how a transaction with Bitcoin is verified and guarantees the legitimacy of the cryptocurrency.
In a way, it’s a matter of chance, but with the total number of possible guesses for each of these problems running into the trillions, it’s incredibly tedious work. And the number of possible solutions only increases with each miner who joins the mining network. To solve a problem in the first place, miners need a lot of computing power. To mine successfully, they must have a high “hash rate”, which is measured in terms of gigahashes per second (GH/s) and terahashes per second (TH/s). The huge amount of electrical power required is the main “cost” of Bitcoin mining, in addition to the cost of the hardware itself. The Bitcoin miner needs access to large amounts of cheap electricity to be profitable. This is where energy companies like Pin Oak come in.
Using the generators at its natural gas drilling rig in Ridgway Township, Bitcoin miners have access to a dedicated power source at a very reasonable rate since they are right at the production site of the bitcoin. ‘electricity. The generators at the site do not supply electricity to the Elk County or even Pennsylvania power grid, but exclusively to the Bitcoin mine. With the entire process handled remotely via the internet, no on-site office buildings or staff need to be paid to live in the area. The money produced using the natural gas resources of Elk County does not enter the local economy at all, other than the cost of drilling natural gas and the upfront payment to the owner of the Pin Oak site. . And as Neighbors and the Ridgway Record discovered, it’s nearly impossible to contact anyone to provide answers from Pin Oak or the as-yet-undisclosed Bitcoin mining company.
Why is such a complicated system in place in rural communities across the county and around the world? Because it’s incredibly lucrative. Currently, there are around 21 million bitcoins, with around 19 million in circulation, which is only increasing to around $1.3 trillion. In March 2022, the Bitcoin price was around $39,000 per bitcoin, which means a miner will earn $243,750 (6.25 x 39,000) for completing a block.
After being confronted by numerous neighbors and Ridgway Township supervisors, Pin Oak Energy Partners reached out and promised to implement sound attenuation efforts to reduce noise from generators, computers and towers chills that keep neighbors awake one night, and in the case of the owners of Big Maple Farm, Natural Therapy is having a serious impact on their therapy horses and chicken production, both for meat and eggs. Sound “blankets” were installed along a chain-link fence surrounding the site, apparently reducing sound near the facility. Yet the sound that propagates out of the mine, for locations at a higher altitude than the central installation, is still covered with a constant hum. The sound could be described as the hum of a computer fan on a laptop or desktop computer directly near your ear. At times, Big Maple’s Amanda Balon recorded sounds well above the 65 decibels allowed under the township’s ordinance regarding sounds from industrial zoned properties. She believes the sounds are directly causing the death of some of her hens, which require noise levels below 45 decibels at night to rest properly and has cut her egg production in half. Big Maple Farm and other neighbors are scheduled to attend the Ridgway Township Supervisors meeting on Tuesday evening. Residents are asking for an ordinance like Fox Township just passed to control the spread of BitCoin mines in the area and demanding that Pin Oak make more soundproofing efforts at its Long Level Road location.
The Ridgway Record has contacted Pin Oak Energy for a response to recent complaints, but has not yet received comment from the company. This ongoing story will be updated as developments occur.