It’s uncomfortably warm in the Pacific Northwest, to put it mildly.
A “1,000 year” heat wave or “heat dome” has descended upon the majority of the PNW with temperatures reaching into the 40 degrees Celsius this week, according to the New York Times. Most every governmental body north or south of the Canadian border has issued heat warnings as stories emerge of roads buckling and energy lines melting.
Bitcoin miners in the area haven't been spared. Hosting facilities are reporting temperatures as high as 49 degrees Celsius leading to under hashing, reboots and cooling issues within many facilities.
Bitcoin miners aren’t strangers in the region, given its abundance of hydro-electric power stemming from the Columbia River Basin. Hydro power accounts for 62%-77% of electricity generation in the greater region, and bitcoin miners have historically moved into the region during bull markets to take advantage of cheap power.
Call it a miniature version of China’s Sichuan valley for miners with per kilo-watt hour rates as low as 2 cents.
Local power grids have not taken kindly to temporary intrusions, however, and have often discouraged mining through ordinances or increased power costs. While accurate hashrate values do not exist, CoinShares has pinned the region as a “major region” for Bitcoin mining globally.
Machine and facility temperatures
Temperature guidance varies by both manufacturer and by machine. For example, the popular Antminer s9 series states chips should not surpass 135 degrees Celsius and should operate in a range between 65-115 degrees Celsius, according to Bitmain.
When managing a facility, ambient temperatures remain of greater focus and should not surpass 35 degrees Celsius. Higher temperatures risk permanent damage to machines, such as underhashing or chip burnout. As a note, most air cooled facilities do not use HVAC systems due to costs, but design for maximum airflow.
Over this week and going forward, regional facilities have been focusing on increasing air intake into the facilities, as well as other cooling techniques such as evaporative cooling pads. Miners Compass talked with have leaned on each machine's internal software to moderate hash output and downtime, as opposed to manual reboots.
The takeaway for many miners in the region has been the importance of immersion cooling. In these systems, a miner is submerged in a mineral oil or similar liquid in order to keep temperatures in a stable range. Machines that do not handle the heat well, such as the Antminer s17 series, are typically submerged before newer models that offer better cooling, such as the double fanned Antminer s19.
Acts of nature such as the heat wave stunning the PNW only serve as more encouragement to facilities and miners to upgrade to the newest tech so as to protect equipment and profits.
Thanks to Jesus Guillen and Scott Bennett.