Bitcoin is helping increase the profitability of one of the oldest hydro-power stations in the U.S., the Mechanicville plant, as reported by Times Union. After decades of court fights, unused antique machinery, and plenty of restorations, the plant is now back at total capacity, and it is using part of that to mine bitcoin.
“We think this is the oldest renewable energy facility in the world that’s still running,” said Jim Besha Sr., CEO of Albany Engineering Corp., which owns the Mechanicville plant. “We can actually make more money with bitcoin than selling the electricity to National Grid.”
Albany Engineering got involved with the plant after National Grid asked the company to refurbish and operate the facilities in 1986, which were founded on an antique structure. The two corporations then signed a contract in which National Grid would lease the station to Albany and buy the power for 40 years, below market price.
Besha swiftly started repairing the plant and applied for an independent license to operate it, which was only conceded seven years later. Besha would later learn that, in the meantime, National Grid changed its original plans and claimed it would not honor the contract. Besha sued National Grid, and it took ten years to settle.
During the dispute, the plant began to fall apart as the National Grid refused to buy power, and eventually, Albany couldn’t run it anymore. Substantial damage was made, with part of the building having flooded once and a generator catching fire another time. But after the settlement, National Grid agreed to give up the plant, help pay for repairs, and buy its energy at the market rate.
The plant is now back at full capacity, generating power and selling it at market rate to National Grid at 3 cents per kilowatt-hour. Additionally, the ancient facility is currently experimenting with bitcoin mining to increase its profit margins, which allows it to make three times as much money as just selling the energy.
“It’s the best (type of bitcoin mining) because we’re using renewable energy,” Besha said. “We’re just doing it on the side, experimenting with it. We’re buying used servers.”
Furthermore, the Mechanicville hydroelectric plant has now been nominated for landmark status in three different types of engineering: civil, electrical, and mechanical. That, along with the plant’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places and its increased profitability through bitcoin mining, is set to potentially keep the plant working for centuries to come.