Burnaby's MintGreen to make North Vancouver world’s first city heated by bitcoin

Bitcoin mining company MintGreen to deliver innovative low-carbon mining waste solution to heat City of North Vancouver.

As part of an effort to reduce its urban carbon footprint, the City of North Vancouver and Lonsdale Energy Corporation (LEC), its district energy utility, will be introducing a novel heat source to their district energy system. MintGreen, a Burnaby-based cleantech cryptocurrency miner, will be working with LEC to provide heat to North Vancouver from bitcoin mining.

How will this work?

Bitcoin mining facilities produce significant amounts of heat, which until recently, would have been considered an undesirable output. To combat this, miners have gone so far as to invest in venting and cooling infrastructure to remove this heat. MintGreen, however, has built a proprietary solution to capture this heat and sell it to buyers of heat.

MintGreen calls this tech their “Digital Boilers” and says it can recover more than 96% of the electricity used for bitcoin mining in the form of heat energy that can be used to sustainably heat communities and service industrial processes. Because cryptocurrency miners run at full capacity 365 days a year, this creates a unique opportunity to provide a reliable and clean heating baseload for North Vancouver's district energy system.

“Being partners with MintGreen on this project is very exciting for LEC, in that it's an innovative and cost-competitive project, and it reinforces the journey LEC is on to support the City's ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets,” said Lonsdale Energy Corporation CEO, Karsten Veng, in a statement.

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A partnership two and a half years in the making

The partnership didn't happen overnight. In fact, MintGreen has been working with LEC for nearly three years, according to MintGreen CEO Colin Sullivan, who spoke to Vancouver Tech Journal over the phone. “When we were sort of in our proof of concept phases, we did a bunch of cold calls for district energy companies,” said Sullivan, and LEC picked up.

LEC had certain demands related to temperature thresholds and other hardware considerations — and MintGreen essentially built their product to meet them. “That was kind of the technical challenge that we had to deal with, so you know, flash forward, two years later, and we have an MOU,” Sullivan explained.

“It’s really exciting,” he added.” I mean, I feel like we have a very exciting opportunity to sort of go against the narrative of ‘excessive consumption of bitcoin.’ In our work, we're contractually obligated to provide 96% of our energy in the form of heat. We think we can do better than that.”

The deal with North Vancouver comes nearly half a year after MintGreen closed its seed round, a USD$2.5 million injection of cash which valued the company at USD$25 million. The round was led by Nelson Investments and CoinShares, as well as a dozen more of MintGreen’s pre-seed investors.

MintGreen has already deployed its tech on a smaller scale, including with Campbell River’s Shelter Point Distillery (which interestingly, has also taken in funding from Nelson Investments). Now the firm gets to operationalize its innovation on a much larger platform.

In 2019, the City of North Vancouver Council passed a motion for the City to increase its greenhouse gas reduction targets to achieve net zero by 2050, and reduce emissions by 80% below 2007 levels by 2040. Further, Canada has proposed a $170 per tonne carbon tax coming into effect in 2029 that will drive up the recurring cost of conventional natural gas.

"The complex issue of climate change requires innovative solutions, and LEC, with the City of North Vancouver, is showing tremendous leadership in environmental stewardship," said Sullivan.

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