A bitcoin mining project in a remote corner of Malawi is connecting more families to the grid, while providing economic empowerment in an impoverished area.
A mining project harnessing clean, bottlenecked, surplus hydropower has picked up steam in south-east African landlocked Malawi Gridless, the company behind the project, tweeted that now “1,600 families are connected to this remote water small grid in the mountains of southern Malawi”.
The project exploits 50 kilowatts (kWh) of stranded energy for testing as a new bitcoin mining site. Eric Hersman, CEO and co-founder of Gridless, told Cointelgraph that although it was a brand new mining project, “the impact was felt immediately”.
“The power developer had built these power stations a few years ago, but they couldn’t expand to more families as they are barely profitable and couldn’t buy more meters to connect more families so, our deal allowed us to buy 200 more meters to connect them More families at once.”
Bitcoin miners are flexible but energy-hungry customers. They are a plug-in-and-play solution for the world’s additional power sources. In Malawi, miners produce environmentally friendly hydropower.
The facility is powered by hydroelectricity. Source: Hersman
In Hersman’s words:
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“The environmental footprint is quite small, because it has run off the river. And bitcoin mining hasn’t changed any of that.”
This is Gridless’s second project in sub-Saharan Africa to date. Late last year, a Kenyan mining project connected remote communities using additional hydropower.
Street vendors in Malawi. Source: Hersman
Environment aside, bitcoin mining brings economic empowerment and job opportunities to Malawi. Hersman explained that electrical load shedding is common in Malawi, but the 1,600 families using hydropower sources do not have electrical issues:
“It’s always amazing to me to see how useful and valuable small networks are to the community. It [Bitcoin mining] instantly transforms education, healthcare, business, logistics and money for the communities they visit.”
Obi Nwosu, CEO of Fedimint and Board Advisor to Gridless, also sheds light on the story, explaining it as one along the lines of “the project in Malawi will be an example for many in the years to come”.
“As usual, these humble people roll up their sleeves and help talented, local engineers do what they do best. The project brings strength and financial and economic independence to many.”
Bitcoin miners using stranded energy while empowering local communities is a growing trend in 2023. From El Salvador’s promise of geothermal bitcoin mining to balancing grid loads in Canada and keeping jobs for local communities, there’s “a stream of opportunities coming their way, ” Nwosu explains .
Related: Seven Times Bitcoin Miners Made the World a Better Place
Michael Saylor described bitcoin mining as “an ideal high-tech industry to set up in a nation that has plenty of clean energy but is not able to export a product or produce a service with that energy.” This is an accurate summary of the project in Malawi.
A canal carries water in Malawi. Source: Hersman
After all, this type of bitcoin mining project is more like a partnership. Hersman sums it up by saying, “We work with the power producer, and they work to keep the power price affordable, and all of their employees are also from the community, providing jobs for everything from security to line workers to operations.”