At a secret location in the midst of one of Iceland’s breathtaking lava fields stands a warehouse whose non-descript siding belies the fact it is ground zero in a digital gold rush for cryptocurrencies that is burning through more electricity than Icelanders’ homes. Iceland’s combination of fire and ice not only makes it a stunning site to film parts of the medieval fantasy epic Game of Thrones.

It also offers a unique combination of cheap renewable energy and free air conditioning that is making it a promised land for those “mining” virtual currencies, including bitcoin, using powerful computers that are voracious users of electricity and throw off lots of heat. The din from shelves and shelves of computers whirring inside the 400-square-metre (4,300-square-foot) warehouse rivals a jet during takeoff.

Unlike the dollar and the euro, bitcoin is not issued by central banks. Instead it is “mined” or created in computer “farms” like this one.

It uses computers souped up with six graphics cards tasked with the heavy lifting of thousands of thousands of calculations needed to solve complex algorithms to process bitcoin transactions and be rewarded with bitcoins in exchange. “It’s possible for everyone to do it at home.

There is no one stopping you (and) there are no technical limitations,” said Philip Salter, head of operations at Genesis Mining, told AFP. Last year saw a meteoric rise of hundreds of virtual currencies led by bitcoin, which was fetching almost $20,000 per unit in December as both amateur and professional miners jumped onto the bandwagon. Read more from phys.org…

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