Nelson City Council has banned data centres, bitcoin mining and other computer process it calls “industrial scale computing” in the city.
“There is a lot of chat about how we are positioned as a tech-ready community,” Councillor Keith Page said at council’s March 9 meeting.
“But we are putting some containment around what is an appropriate use of electrical consumption. (This bylaw) restricts bitcoin mining (and data centres) that consume the equivalent of nine or 10 homes.”
Council has defined industrial scale computing as “use of premises for the purpose of housing computer systems that collect, maintain, store, and/or process data for profit, exceeding an electricity consumption of nine megawatt-hours per month.”
Page defines bitcoin mining as “purpose built computers tasked to solve artificially difficult math problems to mint new coins and validate transactions on a particular blockchain (virtual ledger).”
It was announced at the meeting that there has already been industry interest in the Nelson area.
The electrical consumption issue is particularly interesting to Nelson because, unlike most municipalities, it owns its own electrical utility, Nelson Hydro.
“If you are burning a neighbourhood’s worth of power to make a couple of bitcoins that is not an appropriate use of residential property,” Page said. “This is not a ban on bitcoin but there is a time and a place for that, and it is not in your basement.”
A staff background report to support the ban includes the following information:
• Nine megawatt-hours is equivalent to the power used by 10 homes.
• According to the federal government, data centres consume about one per cent of the total electricity used in Canada every year.
• According to economist Alex de Vries, a single bitcoin transaction uses as much electricity as a typical Canadian home would consume in a month.
• Nearly a dozen Québec municipalities have placed a moratorium on new crypto-mining operations, saying that they take up too much space and electricity, generate too much noise from ventilation fans, and create too few jobs.
• A 250-megawatt bitcoin mining operation (which would require the equivalent of 16 of Nelson Hydro’s Bonnington Falls generation facilities to power) would create about 100 jobs.