Marathon Digital and Zero Two Partner for Abu Dhabi Bitcoin-Mining Facility

Marathon Digital Holdings and Zero Two have announced a partnership to create a large-scale immersion Bitcoin-mining facility in Abu Dhabi. The joint venture, called the Abu Dhabi Global Markets JV Entity, will be based in Mina Zayed and Masdar City in the United Arab Emirates, and will comprise two mining sites with a combined 250-megawatt capacity. Marathon and Zero Two plan to power the facilities with excess energy from Abu Dhabi’s grid, claiming it will increase its base load and sustainability.

According to Marathon Digital, crypto mining in the desert climate of Abu Dhabi, where the average annual temperature is roughly 28 degrees Celsius (82 degree Fahrenheit), was often “infeasible.” However, the company said it had helped develop a “custom-built immersion solution” to cool mining rigs at the proposed facilities, suggesting a liquid-cooling solution.

The two firms expect both Abu Dhabi facilities to be online by 2024 and produce a combined hash rate of roughly 7 EH/s. Ownership of the project will be split between Zero Two and Marathon Digital, with the two companies controlling 80% and 20%, respectively.

The move comes as executives from United States-based crypto exchange Coinbase visited the UAE to test the potential of the region as a “strategic hub” for its international operations. Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong met with policymakers and spoke at the Dubai FinTech Summit.

The joint venture between Marathon Digital and Zero Two aims to take advantage of Abu Dhabi’s excess energy to power the mining facilities, with a view to increasing sustainability and base load. The use of liquid cooling solutions will help to overcome the challenges of the desert climate, where high temperatures make traditional air cooling methods infeasible.

Marathon Digital’s experience in developing a custom-built immersion solution for cooling mining rigs will be key to the success of the project. The two firms plan to have both facilities up and running by 2024, with a combined hash rate of roughly 7 EH/s.

Meanwhile, Coinbase is exploring the potential of the UAE as a strategic hub for its international operations. The visit by the company’s executives, including CEO Brian Armstrong, highlights the growing interest in the region as a destination for crypto-related businesses.

Overall, the partnership between Marathon Digital and Zero Two represents a significant step forward in the development of the crypto mining industry in Abu Dhabi, as the two companies look to capitalize on the region’s excess energy and overcome the challenges of the desert climate. With the backing of both firms, the joint venture is well-positioned to succeed and could pave the way for further expansion in the Middle East.


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BTC Mining Report Draws Criticism

The New York Times’ recent report on Bitcoin mining, “The Real-World Costs of the Digital Race for Bitcoin,” has been met with criticism from BTC proponents. The article claims that Bitcoin mining has a “voracious” appetite and uses as much energy as all residences in New York City. However, some analysts have pointed out that the article cherry-picks data and neglects the increasing use of renewable energy in the mining sector.

Bitcoin environmental, social, and governance (ESG) analyst, Daniel Batten, said that the article exaggerates the fossil fuel use of BTC miners and uses incomplete datasets to support its thesis. He also noted that some Bitcoin miners in the United States and Canada use 90% sustainable energy to fuel their mining activities, but the NYT article focuses on the sites least backed by renewable energy.

Bitcoin proponent, Troy Cross, criticized the article for using “marginal emissions accounting” and selectively applying it only for carbon emissions, not generation. Dennis Porter, CEO of the Satoshi Act Fund, also noted an error in the article’s initial reporting, where the wrong town was named for a BTC mining facility in Texas.

BTC mining firm Riot’s vice president of research, Pierre Rochard, accused the NYT of using “fictitious fractional-reserve carbon accounting” and “cooking the books to fabricate emissions.” Meanwhile, another Twitter user believed that the article was fear-mongering.

Despite the debate on Bitcoin mining’s energy consumption, it remains significant for the blockchain. Mining is used to verify transactions, make it decentralized, and add a layer of security. According to the Bitcoin Mining Council’s Q4 2022 report, the Bitcoin network is already a leader in sustainable energy use, with 58.9% of its energy coming from renewable sources.

While some mainstream outlets criticize Bitcoin mining for its environmental impact, many BTC proponents see these reports as hit pieces and offer opposing perspectives. Some are even campaigning to change Bitcoin’s mining consensus to the more environmentally friendly proof-of-stake. Despite the criticism, Bitcoin mining’s importance to the blockchain makes it an essential area for continued development and research into sustainable energy solutions.


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WEF Launches Coalition to Deal with Climate Change through Web3.0

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has established a Crypto Sustainability Coalition to investigate the capability of Web3 in tackling climate change.

In a statement, the WEF noted that blockchain tools would propel transparency in the worldwide carbon credits market, whereas crypto mining would trigger renewable microgrids through off-peak demand and decentralization.

Since the adoption of technologies like non-fungible tokens (NFTs), blockchains, and cryptocurrencies in Web 3.0, members of the coalition will find out how they can boost social and environmental agendas.

The coalition also seeks regulatory clarity that enhances Web3 innovation, propels financial inclusion, and protects consumers.

Brynly Llyr, World Economic Forum’s head of blockchain and digital assets, noted:

“I am excited about the work we are expecting from the Crypto Sustainability Coalition. An important and unique aspect of web3 is that it uses technology to support and reward direct community engagement and action.”

Llyr added:

“This means we can coordinate the work of many individuals directly with one another, enabling collective action without centralized control – a powerful accelerator for grass roots action.”

The Crypto Sustainability Coalition consist of 30 partners hosted by the WEF as a public-private initiative. Its primary areas of concern include Web3’s potential for climate action, energy usage, and “on-chain” carbon credits. 

Some partners include Solana, Circle, NEAR Foundation, PlanetWatch, University of Lisbon, eToro, Crypto Council for Innovation, and Sustainable Bitcoin Standard. 

Moreover, the coalition will come up with best practices and tangible action on how Web3 technologies can positively impact communities most affected by climate change. The report noted:

“The coalition’s wider aim is to foster a broad education campaign on what Web3’s potential and capacity look like, to better inform governments on how they regulate these technologies and incentivize investment and research into their development.”

Meanwhile, a report by Chainlink Labs and Tecnalia noted that blockchain technology could help fight the climate crisis through smart contracts, Blockchain.News reported. 

Image source: Shutterstock


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How Far Does Your Electron Travel?

Can blockchain solve one of the most problematic issues in renewable energy?

In recent months one of the biggest themes in energy has been the understanding that 100 percent renewable or carbon free energy is a very different proposition to 24/7.

First to cotton on to this were the big data tech giants like Google and Microsoft. They comprehended with total clarity the problems in the US of buying certificates to cover the total volume of energy consumed within a year, without consideration of time and place, and how it could destabilise the grid by sending wrong or even perverse incentives, and market signals.

Data giants arguably were in a better place than most to understand 24/7 and manage their power in a more nuanced way. With plenty of energy intensive operations that could be moved at choice, across the day and night, they could even do some useful load shifting. 

But outside of this elite band with their deep pockets, it has been interesting to watch the less technocratic but similarly determined manufacturing sector change and evolve, starting their own journey to greater sustainability.

One such example is Mercedes, which, for a number of years has been asking how to become more genuinely green. Patrick Koch, Head of Origination in Germany at Statkraft, has developed the Mercedes concept for Germany together with Klaas Bauermann and the two are at the forefront of this transformation. 


“Like everyone else, Mercedes is on a journey and they are plotting their own way to get to a place that you can really call sustainable quality” Says Bauermann.

Helping the car marque on this journey has involved careful coordination of all of the electrical resources of different shapes and sizes to create solid daily intake, hour by hour, painstakingly ensuring every kilowatt hour is accounted for once and once only.

For German plants, there is the solar park near Ingolstadt and twenty-four wind farms, which according to Elke Pußkeiler, Head of Supply Chain at Mercedes, the company is keen to increase. But when the wind and sun aren’t producing enough energy to meet demand, the company needed to find a solution to the variability of its renewable energy sources. To overcome this they worked with energy supplier, Enovos, and the Norwegian energy producer and retailer, Statkraft. 

Norwegian Hydro kicks in when the load outstrips the local renewable supply and every single hour is produced physically and accounted for by a Guarantee of Origin (GoO), which proves the renewable origin of the electricity. This, as well as the synchronicity of production and consumption, are independently certified by the German TÜV (the Technical Inspection Association).

Says Bauermann, “The complexity surprised us as we started to address the challenges of bringing in high-quality energy. But the mission itself was established with a very clear brief: Firstly, source for Mercedes the cleanest energy, for every hour of operation and secondly maximize, the share of local physical production (PPA) PPA , which are like a physical PPA, while minimizing the share of unbundled GoOs”.

“We start with the requirements from Mercedes and, to an increasing extent, many of their supply chain companies. The tyres, gearboxes and all the component parts that go into the car, and start building out the variable energy contributions. 

“Green baseload and peak load contracts from Germany lay the foundation of supply. We then add as much wind and solar as possible, taking care not to significantly exceed the demand in any few hours. The last part is delivered from flexible hydropower in Norway, and our green battery that we use to make sure we cover Mercedes’s demand for every single hour. So it all adds up exactly.”

Predictably there is no nuclear on the Mercedes energy charts, which places the whole operation on a different footing from say Google who use nuclear, or ‘carbon free energy’ as Clean Energy Buyers Association likes to call it, as a flexible baseload.

Germany is less than a thousand kilometers from the huge hydropower stations of Norway and has barely 11 percent nuclear, so hydropower was never in question for this part of the task.

The Scandinavian hydropower gets sent, in high voltage direct current form (HVDC), by a newly built undersea connection that has only just been finished in March of this year.

NordLink, the new subsea interconnector between Norway and Germany, became operational with its 1,400MW link and there’s no doubt that it plays a crucial role for Mercedes.

It does raise an issue, although the power is delivered to the north of Germany, the passage through to the rest of the country is more theoretical and less physical in nature.

The importance of place

Sure, there is a national grid in Germany, but the level of electrical congestion in the north is one of the reasons for the building of a national interconnector, called Suedlink, between North Germany and South Germany. This part of an electron’s journey is a less happy story and remains far from complete: Suedlink is still under construction, with an uncertain future. The €16.7 billion price tag will push up electricity prices in Germany, despite the country already having the most expensive electricity prices in the world. While laying cable undersea is relatively easy, laying it two metres underground is a more expensive proposition. And none of the residents between Schleswig Holstein and Baden Württemberg want to see more power lines crossing their countryside, so tunnelling it remains the only, if most expensive option.

Clearly bringing the energy from north to south Germany has its issues. And while many energy commentators are unconcerned about this congestion issue, and see the process as electrons coming into and out of a big and somewhat theoretical lake, others are less certain about this view.

One seasoned investor with twenty years experience, and as many successful renewables projects under his belt, disagrees with the ‘lake’ notion, and says that the place of entry of electricity is vital. “From a financial, and market point of view, there is a clear right way to do it and also a very clear wrong way too.”

“The right way is to start with the interconnector and say how can we get our power to this point the cheapest way. The wrong way is to say where the wind is strongest and leave the rest to chance.”

“There is naivete about some developers and even some investors who expect the grid to be constructed to meet their needs, and are sorely disappointed when they find themselves having to curtail the energy coming from their much heralded project.”

It’s also possible that when the interconnectors are all built, there remain monopolistic control issues that prevent interconnectors being used to the full extent.

Certainly solving the congestion problems may turn out in the coming years to be a non-trivial issue.

In that eventuality, the importance of local energy markets, trading with blockchain enabled systems could be a solution. After all, an energy trading platform enabled by blockchain would allow for fast, secure and seamless energy trades to help solve congestion issues. 

It’s too soon to say whether the trade of renewable energy will continue to scale internationally or more locally, but you can see both trends in the market.

Ultimately it will depend on what the companies that are ordering it want to achieve and are willing  to pay for. Today, place appears to be of secondary importance for most companies. Tomorrow it may be a different story.


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Samsung uses blockchain technology to address climate change

Samsung Electronics America announced Monday at the CES Tech Conference in Las Vegas its partnership with veritree, a blockchain-based climate solutions platform, to plant two million mangrove trees in Madagascar over the next three months. veritree uses blockchain technology to manage the reforestation process and verify each tree that is planted.

The tree-planting initiative is part of Samsung’s nature-based action plan on environmental sustainability, specifically to capture and sequester carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. The goal is to restore roughly 200 hectares of land and sequester roughly 1 billion pounds of CO2 over a 25-year period.

Veritree, developed by tentree, a sustainable apparel company that plants 10 trees for every item of clothing sold, will handle the logistics. Built as an accounting system, veritree attempts to provide greater transparency of the entire process from field-level data collection, site planning, tree inventory and impact monitoring. Tree planters use their phones to track trees that a sponsor has paid to plant, essentially creating a digital map of the corresponding digital trees. 

Samsung’s head of corporate sustainability Mark Newton said that investing in innovative technology and so-called “nature-based solutions” is vital for combatting climate change. 

Related: Samsung announces NFT platform for smart TVs

According to Samsung, mangrove trees are some of the world’s most effective nature-based carbon sinks. Mangrove roots, which are usually covered by water, capture and store CO2 in the soil. Samsung plans to work with local community members of the Mahajanga region of Madagascar, a region faced with large deforestation, to reach its two million tree goal by the end of the first quarter. 

The tree-planting initiative is part of Samsung’s growing efforts around sustainability. In addition to using renewable energy in the United States, the company recently unveiled a new smart TV lineup with an integrated NFT platform.