Why one small Washington town has seen so many bitcoin miners move in

Key Points
  • Low-cost electricity has brought dozens of bitcoin miners to the small town of Wenatchee, Washington.
  • Cool temperatures also help keep the necessary servers at the right temperature.
Here's how bitcoin is mined in the U.S.

A small town three hours east of Seattle is turning into the epicenter of bitcoin mining in the United States.

Wenatchee, Washington is home to a dozen of the largest bitcoin and cryptocurrency miners in the country. And the head of the local power utility, Steve Wright, says another 75 have inquired about coming here since the price of bitcoin surged in December.

"We've come from just a few people out there who have been knocking on the door all of a sudden to people who are banging on the door pretty loudly," Wright said.

Malachi Salcido is one of the area's earliest miners. He runs 3 mining operations in the area, producing 5 to 7 bitcoins per day.

Salcido uses 7.5 megawatts of power — enough to power 11,000 homes. He wants to produce 50 bitcoins per day by July, which would require a whopping 42 megawatts of power.

That's why he's in Wenatchee: Power is extremely cheap — between 2 to 3 cents per kilowatt hour.

The reason? A series of dams on the Columbia River provide abundant hydroelectric power.

But it's not just the cheap power. Cooler temperatures help keep the servers at the right temperature. And for a small town Wenatchee has great internet capacity.

"So we have not only low-cost electricity but also very good access to internet," says Wright. "People put those two together and think 'opportunity for bitcoin'."

The deluge of wannabe miners has the utility regulator worried.

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"What we don't want is people who come here to make a quick buck off of our low-cost electricity and then leave town and leave us holding the bag, and leave the people of this community holding the bag," Wright said.

Despite the low-cost electricity, Salcido says his monthly electric bills top $100,000.

But to him, the cost is worth it.

"We mine bitcoin because bitcoin blockchain is becoming the cashless, peer-to-peer payment settlement system of the future," Salcido said.

"This is a true peer-to-peer settlement tech that once it's mature is going to significantly disrupt these existing markets and it's going to make new direct purchase options available that there are not tech options available currently on the market," he said.