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Monday, March 4, 2024
March 4, 2024

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Longview cryptocurrency center plan dead

Clark County-based firm cites ‘resistance’ to Longview project

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LONGVIEW — A proposal to open a cryptocurrency mining center in the Mint Farm Industrial Park appears dead, and Longview may take steps to prevent similar businesses from moving into town in the future.

Earlier this month, the Longview Planning Commission instructed staff to write a policy that would largely ban the creation of new cryptocurrency mining operations.

The decision came while Clark County-based Advanced Electric Inc. was planning a mining center for the Mint Farm. The mining center would be built on a plat purchased by DNR Lease Inc. last year, which shares multiple business officials with Advanced Electric.

Advanced Electric’s vice president, Neal Stewart, told The Daily News on Thursday that company officials had abandoned development plans for the land because of “resistance” from the Mint Farm Industrial Park Property Owners Association. Stewart said the company would be selling the land.

Cryptocurrency mining centers are primarily massive networks of computers. The computer rigs complete millions of calculations per second to try and create new units of the virtual currency, with successful operations getting paid in transaction fees or a share of the new coins.

“They take up a lot of land, obviously use a lot of power, and don’t provide a lot of payroll,” Planning Commission Chairman Craig Collins said.

The project, as city planner McAllister Kosar described it to the Planning Commission, would operate out of a series of storage containers in the industrial park. Kosar said the business would have only one employee who stopped by daily once the computers were up and running.

Crypto mining centers have a notoriously high demand for power because they require running large banks of computers around the clock. Kosar said there would be minimal ability for the city to collect taxes from the business for local employees or on any cryptocurrency transactions that move through the mining center.

“In my research it’s hard to find positives besides the profits that are made,” Kosar told the Planning Commission, adding that those profits are rarely used to benefit the local communities.

As part of its application, Advanced Electric had completed a feasibility and impact study with the Cowlitz PUD and the Bonneville Power Administration, PUD spokesperson Alice Dietz said. The study is a requirement for companies that would have at least 1 megawatt impact on the power grid.

According to the feasibility study, the Advanced Electric farm would have started out with a 1 megawatt load connection. The power requirement would roughly double every subsequent year, according to the projection given to the PUD, eventually reaching 54 megawatts.

That would be the equivalent of about 10 percent of all the power generated by PacifiCorp’s hydroelectric dams on the North Fork Lewis River.

The Cowlitz PUD study recommended that the project would require building a new direct transmission line to the power substation in the Mint Farm, since the current substation caps out at 6 megawatts.

Multiple cities across Washington have dealt with a surge of cryptocurrency businesses because of the low cost of power in the Pacific Northwest. The most widely reported example is East Wenatchee, where an influx of mining operations requests over the last decade eventually consumed more power than the 70,000 residents of Chelan County.

The Planning Commission had been discussing regulations for cryptocurrency businesses since 2021, Community Development Director Ann Rivers said.

A crypto company called MiningSky briefly operated out of the former Fishers Lane Water Treatment Plant in 2018. The company pulled out, however, after a few months during negotiations over the power connection, leaving equipment behind.

The Washington Legislature took a step to address industry’s power demands this year with House Bill 1416, which has passed both chambers. The bill places clean energy standards on businesses getting power from municipal and public utilities, which would include many cryptocurrency mining centers in the state.

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