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Cryptocurrency mining puts electrical grid of small Washington state county 'to the test'

  • "Our infrastructure is actually being put to the test. We're full," said Ron Cridlebaugh, the Port of Douglas County economic development manager.
  • Cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and ripple have skyrocketed in value recently. Many people have been trying to get in on the action.
  • Mining digital currencies requires a lot of electrical power as computers process gargantuan amounts of data.

The cryptocurrency craze is helping many people rake in money, but it is also putting pressure on the electrical infrastructure of a small county in Washington state.

"Our infrastructure is actually being put to the test. We're full," Ron Cridlebaugh, the Port of Douglas County economic development manager, told CNBC's Michelle Caruso-Cabrera on Thursday.

Electricity in Washington state is considerably cheaper than in most places in the U.S. The average electricity price per kilowatt in the state is 4 cents. The national average is 7 cents.

Cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and ripple have skyrocketed in value recently. Last year, those digital currencies surged 1,500 percent and 35,000 percent, respectively.

People have been trying to get in on the action by purchasing these digital assets or by "mining," or creating, them. But the mining process requires a lot of electrical power as computers process gargantuan amounts of data.

Cridlebaugh said the county is building out 100 megawatts (100,000 kilowatts) of infrastructure just in data centers to keep up with demand. "It's going to take some time to catch up because growth has been so quick."