SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) – El Salvador’s ongoing experiment as a first adopter of bitcoin cryptocurrency could be increasingly fueled by new flows of renewable energy, the chief told reporters on Friday of the country’s hydroelectric commission.
Energy-intensive cryptocurrency “mining” is done by computers and has come under criticism from environmentalists as a major source of demand for electricity derived primarily from fossil fuels.
Last month, El Salvador became the first country to adopt bitcoin as legal tender alongside the U.S. dollar, which for years was the country’s only official currency.
Daniel Alvarez, chairman of the state-run Lempa River Hydroelectric Executive Commission (CEL), said El Salvador has the potential to generate electricity through hydroelectric, solar, wind power projects. and tidal.
“The possibilities are endless here, it’s just a matter of will and that we have the means and the capacity to start these projects,” Alvarez said.
The Salvadoran government in September began harnessing geothermal energy for bitcoin mining from a factory at the base of the Tecapa volcano, 106 kilometers (66 miles) east of the capital, which belongs to to a company that is part of CEL.
The plant generates around 102 megawatts and the government plans to add an additional five megawatts next year. Currently, 1.5 megawatts are allocated to bitcoin.
Next to the factory, officials set up a room inside a shipping container to house 300 computers that process cryptocurrency transactions.
The Tecapa power plant and another geothermal power plant in northwest El Salvador provide between 23% and 24% of the national electricity grid, authorities say.
Reporting by Nelson Renteria; Editing by Sandra Maler