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Idaho Power and GeoBitmine clash over energy rates

ABERDEEN, Idaho (KIFI) - A plan to recycle heat from computer servers to a greenhouse has been stopped.

In May GeoBitmine presented plans to the Aberdeen extension of the University of Idaho. They are looking at studying how heat from computers can provide warmth during the winter months in a greenhouse. Their plan would use the potato cellars at the old Simplot plant for their experiments.

But the plans have been halted as the company petitions Idaho Power's crypto-customer classification. It would allow Idaho Power to redirect or interrupt the company's power in the summer months.

GeoBitmine founder and CEO Jay Jorgensen says Idaho Power isn't considering his company's heating and agricultural applications.

“Southeast Idaho is known for its agriculture community, and it also has a large supply of workers," Jorgensen said. "However, that supply can only work about six months a year due to the weather and the crop cycles. My technology would enable crops or farmers to work indoors year-round."

He estimates the first project would bring over 80 jobs to Aberdeen and more as they expand, but plans for the partnership have halted as the company petitions Idaho Power's new customer class.

In November, Idaho Power applied for a new customer class with the Idaho Utilities Commission.

The class would apply to commercial and industrial crypto mining operations in the state and any potential High-density-load customers.

According to Idaho Power, the customers would require them to build new infrastructure with additional financial risks.

"These customers’ potential for large-load energy demand that may abruptly end when the commodity price of the cryptocurrency to be mined is no longer profitable could create financial risk for Idaho Power and its customers," an Idaho Power statement said.

The new class would also allow Idaho Power to interrupt those customers during the high-demand-summer-months, to ensure power to the rest of the state.

GeoBitmine's legal counselor Peter Richardson says the servers can't function if they interrupt their power.

“They want us to be able to treat essentially make us go dark in the afternoons during the summer. And they don't do that to any other customer on their system," Richardson said. "That's just clearly discriminatory because like I say, our usage pattern is not any different from other large industrial customers who operate year-round on Idaho Power System.”

According to Idaho Power, customers with usage above 20 megawatts enter into special contracts, but Richardson argues their usage isn’t much different from Meta’s planned data center near Boise or large industrial customers.

Jorgenson claims the power will allow them to heat a greenhouse year-round by venting the servers directly to the building above.

“We noticed that these Bitcoin mining computers were generating massive amounts of heat. And what I ended up doing was creating technology and inventing a way to take that waste heat and circulate that into any indoor application," Jorgensen said.

According to GeoBitmine's estimates, they'd be able to produce four times the regular amount of food using 90 percent less water.

The GeoBitmine has made an appeal for reconsideration to the Public Utilities Commission. They expect Idaho Power to respond in the following weeks. If they cannot come to a consensus, the company plans to approach a higher state authority.

“According to the Constitution of Idaho, we go straight to the Idaho Supreme Court. So if Geobitmine feels that this is significant enough of an issue to take the Supreme Court, that would be the next step,” Richardson said.

Correction: GeoBitmine has not yet entered into a partnership with the University of Idaho. The project is still in the planning stage.

Article Topic Follows: Idaho

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Seth Ratliff

Seth is a reporter for Local News 8.


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