Growing interest in cryptocurrency mining and related blockchain operations in the Tri-Cities area has Benton PUD taking steps to ensure reliable electricity delivery.
Cryptocurrency is virtual currency, such as bitcoins, that exists only on line, allowing purchases without using a bank and often anonymously.
They can be "mined" on line by using high-end computers to verify transactions in exchange for some of the currency. Blockchains are the digital ledgers that keep track of the currency and transactions.
The Tri-Cities may be an attractive area for such power-intensive operations because of the area's relatively low electricity rates.
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Benton PUD has a new policy for intensive electricity users, which include businesses with multiple computer systems used for conducting cryptocurrency mining, blockchain work or similar work.
It already has some customers involved in virtual currency operations, which are sometimes done in homes and garages, according to the PUD.
Because such customers use more power than a typical business, PUD equipment may not be able to handle the additional load. It poses a potential safety and reliability risk for customers and their neighbors.
Customers who meet the PUD's definition for "electricity intensive load" will be required to notify the PUD and an assessment will be performed to ensure the electricity distribution system can safely serve the load.
Customers who fail to notified the PUD will be liable for damage to distribution system equipment caused by the operation of their business.