Summer on Seneca Lake, the largest of the Finger Lakes in upstate New York, is usually a time of boating, fishing, swimming and wine tasting. But for many residents of this bucolic region, there’s a new activity this season — protesting a gas-fired power plant that they say is polluting the air and heating the lake.
“The lake is so warm you feel like you’re in a hot tub,” said Abi Buddington of Dresden, whose house is near the plant.
The facility on the shores of Seneca Lake is owned by the private equity firm Atlas Holdings and operated by Greenidge Generation LLC. They have increased the electrical power output at the gas-fired plant in the past year and a half and use much of the fossil-fuel energy not to keep the lights on in surrounding towns but for the energy-intensive “mining” of bitcoins.
Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency — a digital form of money with no actual bills or coins. “Mining” it, a way of earning it, requires massive high-performance computers. The computers earn small rewards of bitcoin by verifying transactions in the currency that occur on the internet around the world. The math required to verify the transactions and earn bitcoins gets more complex all the time and demands more and