Solar and Wind Energy for Bitcoin Mining: Opportunities and Limitations

Published on 29 May 2023 by in Research

wind and solar energy for bitcoin mining

Sustainable energy series, pt. 2


Welcome to part two of our sustainable energy for bitcoin mining series! In the first article we discussed the potential of geothermal power as an energy source for the mining of bitcoin and other crypto currencies. 

In this article, we will evaluate the usefulness of wind and solar energy as a power source for mining. Both have become incredibly popular as green alternatives for energy from fossil fuels, which put a strain on the environment and contribute greatly to global warming. First, we will dive into what wind and solar power is and how energy is being generated from these sources. After that, we will evaluate their potential as a sustainable energy source for bitcoin mining by looking at the advantages and possible limitations.

About wind and solar energy

What is wind energy?

Wind energy refers to the kinetic energy derived from the movement of air masses due to the pressure gradient created by the unequal heating of the earth’s surface by the sun. Wind energy has been used for centuries, primarily for transportation and milling grains. The first wind turbine for electricity generation was developed in 1887 by Scottish engineer James Blyth, which produced enough electricity to power his holiday home. However, it was not until the 1970s that wind energy started to gain popularity as an alternative source of electricity due to the oil crisis and increasing concerns about environmental issues. Since then, wind energy technology has advanced significantly, with larger and more efficient turbines capable of generating electricity on a commercial scale. Today, wind energy is a major player in the renewable energy sector, with countries around the world investing in wind farms as a means of reducing their reliance on fossil fuels and mitigating climate change.

Generating wind energy usually happens through the use of wind turbines. As the wind blows across the blades of the turbine, it creates a lift force that causes the rotor to spin. The rotational motion is transferred through a gearbox to increase the rotational speed of the generator’s shaft. The generator then converts the rotational energy into electrical energy, which is fed into a power grid or stored in batteries.

The amount of electricity that a wind turbine can generate depends on various factors, including the size and design of the turbine, the wind speed, and the turbine’s location. Wind turbines work best in areas with consistent, high wind speeds, and are typically installed in open areas like wind farms or offshore locations.

The environmental impact of wind turbines

Similar to the manufacturing of solar panels, the production of wind turbines can have environmental impacts, though the overall impact of wind turbines is relatively low compared to traditional energy sources. Especially the production of steel for wind turbines is an energy-intensive process that can lead to emissions contributing to global warming. To offset these negative impacts as much as possible, producers of steel can best opt for sustainable energy sources to power their production processes, but ofcourse this can be challenging to implement. 

Another environmental impact of wind turbines – one that is often overlooked by people – relates to their installation and use. The construction of wind farms can cause soil erosion and disruption of wildlife habitats. Especially for windfarms at sea, the loud noises occurring during installation and once the turbines are in use, can cause severe damage to the hearing abilities of nearby sealife. Moreover, due to the loud noises during installation, the area of a windfarm can become unsuitable as a resting and foraging area for many of the species affected, which in turn impacts their survival and reproduction. 

Once in use, wind turbines can also cause noise pollution and pose risks to bird and bat populations. Both birds and bats run the risk of flying into the blades of a wind turbine, which often leads to death. This risk is not limited to birds that live at sea, but also impacts species of birds and bats that fly over sea from land or that are migrating. 

There are several measures and precautions that can be taken to reduce the harmful impact of wind turbines on wildlife. One approach is to conduct a thorough environmental impact assessment before constructing wind turbines. This can help identify sensitive habitats and populations of birds and bats in the area, allowing for the development of strategies to minimize impacts on wildlife.

Another approach is to carefully select the location of wind turbines to avoid areas with high concentrations of birds and bats or sensitive habitats. This can be achieved through the use of bird and bat radar, aerial surveys, and other technologies.

Wind turbine design can also be modified to reduce their impact on wildlife. For example, using a slower rotational speed can reduce the likelihood of collisions with birds and bats, and painting the turbines with reflective or contrasting colors can increase their visibility.

In addition, ongoing monitoring of wildlife populations near wind turbines can help identify any negative impacts and inform the development of mitigation strategies.

It is important to realize, however, that the impacts of wind turbines on wildlife can never fully be mitigated or prevented. Therefore, if big consumers of energy, such as bitcoin miners, have the opportunity to choose between several possible sustainable energy sources, opting for something other than wind energy might be the best course of action.

What is solar energy?

Solar energy is the energy obtained from the Sun in the form of electromagnetic radiation. It is a renewable and sustainable energy source that can be harnessed through a variety of technologies, including solar photovoltaic (PV) cells and concentrated solar power (CSP) systems. The use of solar energy dates back to ancient times, with the Greeks and Romans using mirrors to reflect sunlight for heating and lighting purposes. However, it was not until the 19th century that scientists began to understand the photovoltaic effect, which is the process of converting sunlight into electrical energy. In 1954, the first practical solar cell was invented by Bell Laboratories, which marked the beginning of the modern solar energy industry. Since then, solar technology has advanced significantly, with more efficient and cost-effective PV cells and CSP systems being developed.

Similar to wind energy, the power of solar energy is dependent on the technology used to capture it, and weather conditions. Clear skies with bright sunlight provide the best conditions for generating electricity with solar panels. However, air temperature also plays a role in the effectiveness of solar power, as high temperatures can cause solar panels to lose efficiency. They work best at moderate temperatures, and some solar panel systems have cooling mechanisms to prevent overheating.

Environmental impact of solar panels

The creation of solar panels involves the use of various materials, some of which may have environmental impacts. However, the overall environmental impact of solar panels is relatively low compared to other energy sources, and ongoing efforts are being made to reduce their environmental footprint.

One of the primary materials used in solar panels is silicon, which is an abundant and non-toxic element. However, the production of silicon requires a significant amount of energy, and some manufacturing processes involve the use of hazardous chemicals. The environmental impact of silicon production can be mitigated by using renewable energy sources to power the manufacturing process and implementing sustainable practices such as recycling and waste reduction.

Other materials used in solar panels include metals like aluminum, copper, and silver, as well as polymers, glass, and other components. While these materials are generally safe and non-toxic, their production can have environmental impacts such as energy use, water consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions. However, these impacts can be reduced through sustainable practices such as recycling and responsible sourcing of materials. Once in use, solar panels only have a positive impact on earth. 

Overall, the environmental impact of solar panels is relatively low compared to other energy sources, and ongoing efforts are being made to reduce their environmental footprint. 

Advantages of wind and solar energy for bitcoin mining


It is not surprising that the main advantage of wind and solar energy for bitcoin mining is the sustainable nature of these power sources compared to traditional energy sources such as fossil fuels. The high energy demand of bitcoin mining can have a significant carbon footprint, and the use of sustainable energy sources like solar and wind power can help reduce this impact. 

Additionally, wind and solar energy are renewable sources, meaning they will not run out in the near future, as fossil fuels probably will.

Wind and solar energy are not as restricted by geography

One of the biggest disadvantages of geothermal energy that we highlighted in the first article of this series, is that geothermal power is strictly limited by geography. It cannot be harnessed everywhere, but only in those areas where geothermal activity can be found relatively close to the earth’s surface. Wind and solar energy are not as dependent on geography as geothermal energy. Ofcourse, wind turbines perform best in regions with a lot of wind throughout the year, but these areas are much more plenty than areas with geothermal activity, making them more accessible for bitcoin mining operations.

Decreasing costs

Since solar and wind energy play such an important role in the world’s energy transition, a lot of innovation has taken place in this field, making the energy generating technologies more efficient and leading to a decrease in costs associated with wind and solar energy. These lowered costs make them increasingly competitive with fossil fuels in terms of cost-effectiveness, and also more attractive compared to geothermal energy, of which the installation can be quite expensive.

Applicability at a smaller scale

Another advantage of wind and solar energy over geothermal energy and hydropower, is that wind and solar power offer greater scalability and flexibility compared to geothermal energy. Solar and wind systems can be installed on a small or large scale, making them suitable for a wide range of bitcoin mining operations. A bitcoin mining farm can easily add solar panels to its roof or place wind turbines at its terrain to power its activities with these energy sources. This decentralized nature of solar and wind energy could be exceptionally attractive for bitcoin miners, given the ideology behind decentralized currency. With solar panels or wind turbines on one’s own terrain, a miner is less dependent on a central energy supplier.

Geothermal energy, on the other hand, typically requires large-scale installations managed by electrical companies and is not as easily scalable. 

Possible limitations on solar and wind energy for bitcoin mining


As opposed to geothermal energy, which can provide power around the clock, wind and solar energy are intermittent, meaning they may not always be available when needed since they are dependent on the amount of wind and sun. The intensity of both wind power and sun radiation vary both throughout the day and throughout the year, depending on climate and seasons. Intermittency can lead to energy supply and demand imbalances, which can be problematic for bitcoin mining operations that require a consistent and reliable energy supply. 

A possible solution to this problem is the use of high capacity batteries which can store excess energy generated during peak energy moments, e.g. on very sunny days, to be used at times when energy from wind and sun is low, such as during the night or on cloudy days. In addition to this, bitcoin mining operations can choose their location where conditions for generating wind and solar energy are most favorable. 

Land use issues

The installation of wind and solar systems for bitcoin mining requires significant land use, which can be a limitation for some bitcoin mining operations. This is because wind and solar systems require a relatively large amount of space to generate significant amounts of energy.

For solar energy, this typically involves the installation of solar panels, which require a large surface area to capture sunlight. The amount of space required can vary depending on the efficiency of the solar panels and the amount of energy needed. For example, a 1 MW solar array may require between 5 and 10 acres of land, depending on the type of solar panels used.

Similarly, wind turbines require a significant amount of land to be installed, with each turbine requiring a clear area of several acres to operate effectively. This can be a limitation in densely populated areas or areas with competing land uses.

The land use requirements for wind and solar systems can also be a limitation for bitcoin mining operations located in remote or off-grid locations, where suitable land may not be readily available or accessible. In these cases, it may be necessary to transport the necessary equipment and materials to the installation site, which can add to the overall cost and complexity of the project.

However, since the mining of bitcoin can be done from anywhere in the world, miners could choose a location where land use is not as big as an issue to avoid these potential problems.

Impact of wind turbines on wildlife

As explained earlier in this article, another major disadvantage of wind turbines is their significant negative impact on wildlife, especially regarding wind farms. Again, when choosing a location for their bitcoin mining operation, miners can try to avoid sensitive habitats and populations when planning on using (large scale) wind farms. 


Wind and solar energy are sustainable energy sources that can be utilized for bitcoin mining, providing significant advantages over traditional fossil fuels. They are renewable, emit no greenhouse gases or harmful pollutants, and are becoming increasingly cost-effective due to innovation and decreased costs. Wind and solar energy offer greater scalability and flexibility compared to geothermal energy and are not as dependent on geography. However, there are also possible limitations on wind and solar energy for bitcoin mining, such as the intermittent nature of these sources and their significant land use requirements. Additionally, the negative impact of wind turbines on wildlife is a major concern that should be taken into consideration. Despite these limitations, wind and solar energy offer great potential as a sustainable energy source for bitcoin mining, with the opportunity for miners to choose a location where conditions for generating wind and solar energy are most favorable.

The integration of solar and wind power into bitcoin mining operations can also promote a more sustainable approach to cryptocurrency mining, aligning with the growing awareness and demand for environmentally conscious and socially responsible practices in the industry.

Further reading / sources

  • Gundaboina, L., Badotra, S., Bhatia, T. K., Sharma, K., Mehmood, G., Fayaz, M., & Khan, I. U. (2022). Mining cryptocurrency-based security using renewable energy as source. Security and Communication Networks, 2022.
  • Kuvlesky Jr, W. P., Brennan, L. A., Morrison, M. L., Boydston, K. K., Ballard, B. M., & Bryant, F. C. (2007). Wind energy development and wildlife conservation: challenges and opportunities. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 71(8), 2487-2498.
  • Welcker, J., & Nehls, G. (2016). Displacement of seabirds by an offshore wind farm in the North Sea. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 554, 173-182.