June 16th, 2024

Hut 8 helps city break power record

By Collin Gallant on June 23, 2018.

An aerial view of the new 17-acre Hut 8 facility in Medicine Hat, which is now operating phase one at full capacity and helped the city break a record for power usage.--SUBMITTED PHOTO


cgallant@medicinehatnews.com
@CollinGallant

The city power plant set an all-time record for electricity production Thursday night thanks to hot weather, a new major commercial customer coming on line, and high prices on the Alberta grid.

Medicine Hat’s mayor says more records will fall as the summer progresses and another major utility customer is added next winter.

“We’re going to see new peaks,” Mayor Ted Clugston told the News on Friday. “And when our air conditioners kick in during July and August, we’ll see record demand.”

The 209-megawatt output occurred about 7 p.m. Thursday evening and fulfilled lower-than-record local demand, but was needed to also support the new Hut 8 Cryptocurrency facility, with the remainder going to the export market.

The new total is five megawatts, or about 2.5 per cent, higher than the old record of 204 MW, but well below the 255-MW stated total capacity of the city’s generators.

Hut 8 announced via press release on Thursday the first phase of its data processing facility was running at full capacity of 18.7 megawatts.

Power plant general manager Brian Strandlund said the power plant covered the usual internal load demand from city customers of about 160 megawatts, not including Hut 8’s requirements, plus exported 37 megawatts toward the total.

“We maxed it out and exported everything we could,” said power plant general manager Brian Strandlund, who says at 210 MW the city would have engaged another generator.

The record for local demand is 175 MW. A typical day’s usage is about 120 megawatts.

By mid-morning on Thursday, the Alberta Electrical Systems Operator reported total net generation at City of Medicine was 174 MW, including about 35 MW that were being sold on to the Alberta grid.

That ability to export power is restricted by the city’s tie-in to the provincial grid.

However, Strandlund told the News that work to complete a new line and tie-in could be completed next week, which would allow even greater exports.

Early on Thursday, Hut 8 announced it is now operating 16 data boxes at the company’s site off Box Springs Road.

Construction at the 17-acre parcel beside the Medicine Hat Speedway began in March, and earlier this month the company said it was rapidly advancing to operational stage.

“We are extremely proud of the team at Hut 8 and the Bitfury Group to have successfully set up 16 BlockBoxes in the City of Medicine Hat,” stated Andrew Kiguel, Hut 8’s chief executive officer in a release.

Those units are capable of using a total of 19.2 MW of power while processing payment routing and calculations for Internet currency. The company plans to add another 24 boxes in September, bringing the total to 40.

In late 2017, the city commissioned a new 45-MW natural gas generator in the city’s north-end.

That came just months before the city signed two massive power supply agreements, one with Hut 8 to eventually buy more than 40 MW of power.

Another contract of similar size will supply the Aurora Sun cannabis production plant that is currently under construction and could be operational in early 2019.

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