Is Intel Building an Eco-Friendly ASIC?

Key Takeaways

  • Intel is scheduled to present its “Bonanza Mine” processor at February’s ISSCC conference.
  • Details on the new Bitcoin mining hardware include that it is “ultra-low-voltage” and “energy-efficient.”
  • Intel has been working on the problem of efficiency in blockchain validation for years.

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Intel is scheduled to present its new energy-efficient “Bonanza Mine” processor at the upcoming International Solid-State Circuits Conference this February. The processor is described as “an ultra-low-voltage energy-efficient Bitcoin mining ASIC” and it may represent a more environmentally-friendly means of mining Bitcoin.

Intel Innovates in Bitcoin Mining

The world’s largest semiconductor manufacturer may enter the Bitcoin mining hardware market with a more eco-friendly product. 

Intel is scheduled to present “Bonanza Mine: An Ultra-Low-Voltage Energy-Efficient Bitcoin Mining ASIC” at this February’s ISSCC conference, according to the event’s agenda. The language of the title would suggest that Intel is interested in bringing a more environmentally-friendly ASIC to the market.

ASICs, or application-specific integrated circuits, are processors that are tailored for particular rather than general uses. Bitcoin is primarily mined via ASICs rather than CPUs or GPUs. 

While details of Intel’s plans are still unclear, there are hints as to its direction in this regard. In Nov. 2018, the company filed a patent for an “optimized SHA-256 datapath for energy-efficient high-performance Bitcoin mining.” SHA-256 is the cryptographic hash function used in Bitcoin’s Proof-of-Work mining algorithm. 

Furthermore, Intel’s senior vice president and general manger of accelerated computing systems, Raja Koduri, confirmed last month that Intel was working to solve various problems in terms of blockchain validation efficiency. Koduri said that “being able to do much more efficient” blockchain validation was a “pretty solvable problem,” and that Intel had plans to  share certain “interesting hardware” in the near future. 

Bitcoin mining currently consumes an estimated 137.4 terawatt-hours of electricity per year—more electricity than many nations consume. However, a sizable portion of this electricity is expended from renewable sources, as the University of Cambridge estimated in 2020 that 39% of “Proof-of-Work” mining “is powered by renewable energy.”

Intel is scheduled to present Bonanza Mine on Feb. 23.

Disclosure: At the time of writing, the author of this piece owned BTC, ETH, and several other cryptocurrencies. 

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Report claims each Solana TX uses less energy than 2 Google searches

A transaction on the Solana network takes less energy than two Google searches, and 24 times less energy than charging your phone, according to a Nov. 25 report by the Solana Foundation.

The report states that a single transaction on its network uses 0.00051 kWh, or 1,836 Joules, of energy. According to Google, an average search uses 0.0003 kWh or 1,080 Joules of energy.

Perhaps more surprisingly, the report claims the entire Solana network uses an estimated 3,186,000 kWh per year, which is equivalent to the average electricity usage of 986 American households.

In May, the Solana Foundation contracted Robert Murphy to write the report in order to “frame the environmental impact” of transactions on the Solana network. Murphy is the founder of Othersphere and was formerly an Energy Specialist at the World Bank.

The Solana network is less decentralized than Bitcoin or Ethereum with 1,196 validator nodes that process an estimated 20 million transactions per year. The report states the Foundation will further reduce the network’s energy usage by implementing a program before the end of this year to become carbon-neutral and offset the environmental footprint of the ecosystem. No additional information was provided on whether the network plans to purchase carbon offsets or actually reduce its emissions.

As Solana (SOL) relies on a Proof of Stake consensus mechanism, the network is far less energy intensive than those relying on the Proof of Work mining method such as Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH). Statista estimates that a single BTC transaction uses an average of 4,222,800,000 joules.

It should be noted that networks technically do not use any particular amount of energy for an individual transaction. The energy usage of the network can be the same whether it processes one transaction or one million. However it is often used as a rough, if contested, comparison,

With that in mind, one Ethereum transaction uses about 644,004,000 joules based on the average number of transactions and amount of energy required to run the network. According to Statista, the energy consumption of one ETH transaction is comparable to “more than several thousands of VISA card transactions.”

Related: Crypto’s climate impact: Are carbon offsets good enough?

However Eth2 is expected to use about 99% less energy than the current mainnet following the switch to Proof of take.

Another low-energy alternative is Ripple (XRP), which uses 28,440 Joules per transaction. Ripple says that for every million transactions on its network, the amount of energy used could’ve powered a light bulb for 79,000 hours.

For the same amount of transactions, the energy used by BTC could power a light bulb for 4.51 billion hours. For this reason, Ripple claims that XRP is 57,000 times more efficient than BTC.


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