Is Chia as Green as it’s Painted?

A new crypto coin called Chia has bounced onto the market with a double promise—to shake up the way we mine crypto, and green up the entire process of token creation.

On the blockchain, however, nothing is quite as it seems. Chia has a different kind of environmental impact, managing to chew up hard drives—designed to last a decade—in as little as 40 days.

Why is Chia different?

The new coin uses a ‘proof of space and time’ algorithm to mine coins, rather than the proof of work (PoW) and proof of stake (PoS) algorithms.

The original blockchain PoW is used by Bitcoin and Ethereum. It involves high-powered computers in overdrive, in a global network, using megaloads of energy. These specialist computers must unscramble a complex mathematical puzzle to create new tokens, an energy-hungry process often relying on fossil fuels.

Some newer PoS systems, like Cardano, mine or validate block transactions according to how many coins you hold. Each miner is limited to a percentage of transactions, reflecting their ownership stake. If you have 5% of coins, you can mine just 5% of blocks. Accessible via PC, it’s pretty much self-regulating and less energy-draining.

While the process uses a fraction of the energy needed for PoW, Chia operations are greedy for something else—space. To ‘farm’ Chia coins, you need plenty of empty hard discs to house ‘plots’. These plots are then granted a number of blocks, based on the space available. Using a laptop, just download the Mac or Windows version and start up.

The downside of Chia

Chia has definite green credentials in terms of energy use. However, it can use up and throw away hard drives at frightening speed.

As reports out of China indicate, this hard drive attrition is leading some manufacturers to void warranties. Continuous Chia farming can, allegedly, reduce the functional life of a standard 512GB hard drive from around a decade to just 40 days.

Apart from the warranty issue, this has enormous implications for global e-waste, with discarded electronics already creating toxic landfill hazards.

Chia catches green cryptocurrency wave

Despite its drawbacks, Chia is the latest step in green cryptocurrency evolution.

While much of the world’s crypto mining is still done using coal-fired power, more crypto users are reducing their high carbon footprint by switching to renewable energy sources.

Notably, Cardano surged after Elon Musk announced he would no longer accept Bitcoin as payment for Tesla cars, due to its high fossil fuel load.

Ethereum is also in transition to Ethereum 2.0—a more eco-friendly PoS which is currently running parallel to its PoW system.

According to the Ethereum Foundation, the platform’s energy use will drop by a staggering 99.99% when the switch is complete—probably, realistically, sometime in 2022.

It’s only a matter of time before technology catches up with the industry’s green ambitions!


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