Historic power plant embraces bitcoin mining as electricity fails to pay

The hydroelectric station, similar to this, has survived threats to embrace new earning potential
The hydroelectric station, similar to this, has survived threats to embrace new earning potential Photo credit: Getty Images

A historic power plant in the United States has started using its renewable energy for bitcoin mining because it's more profitable than selling electricity.

The Mechanicville hydroelectric station was built in 1897, but was abandoned by the National Grid because the plant still uses all of its original machinery.

Its future had been in doubt for nearly 35 years after decades of fighting over refurbishing the site, Times Union reported.

Albany Engineering Corp, which currently owns the hydroelectric station, earns three cents per kilowatt hour by selling electricity to the grid. But, by mining bitcoin, it can make up to three times as much.

"We can actually make more money with bitcoin than selling the electricity to National Grid," Jim Besha, CEO of Albany Engineering Corp told Times Union.

"It’s the best because we’re using renewable energy. We’re just doing it on the side, experimenting with it. We're buying used servers."

Every week he converts whatever bitcoin has been created to cash instead of holding on to it - Besha is sceptical of bitcoin as an investment so is just doing it to bring in cash.

The Mechanicville plant has survived threats of being dismantled by the National Grid, flooding, a generator fire and over a decade of court cases to get to the point where it was usable once again.

It's now on the National Register of Historic Places - but it's not clear how that might save the site from what could be its next battle.

A bill to ban cryptocurrency mining in New York would likely impact Albany Engineering's ability to mine cryptocurrencies.  The bill has passed the New York Senate and is waiting for a New York Assembly vote.

Regardless, with National Register protection the plant will remain intact for the foreseeable future - and for maybe centuries to come, Besha said.

"We're in our third century now," he said.