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Trailblazing desert bitcoin project raises fresh questions over Morocco’s role
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Trailblazing desert bitcoin project raises fresh questions over Morocco’s role

For all the revolutionary potential of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, the digital inventions are extremely bad news for the environment.

At the end of 2017, when bitcoin mania was at its peak, the surge in processing power needed by computers for mining and transactions upped its estimated annual energy consumption to a staggering 30 terawatt hours – roughly the same energy use as the entire country of Morocco.

A new blockchain company, Soluna Technologies, is building a huge 900-megawatt wind farm in Dakhla in the Sahara to power its computing needs, touted as a potential model for powering blockchain computing with renewable sources in the future.
Snow falls in Sahara desert for third time in 40 years “We at Soluna have a goal, to bring abundant, efficient green energy online at utility scale,” CEO John Belizaire told The Independent. “Dakhla is one of the most promising regions for renewable energy generation in the world  and thus the perfect location for our flagship site.” The farm will take up 36,000 acres of desert classified as a high quality wind site and will also help the country of Morocco meet its goal of producing 52 per cent of its electricity from green sources by 2030.

Activists, however, have taken issue with the project’s claim that the Dakhla site is in southern Morocco – pointing out the area actually lies in the disputed territory of Western Sahara.
Bitcoin’s volatile history in pictures. The initiative raises new questions about the legality of Moroccan administered infrastructure projects in the area, Sara Eyckmans, coordinator for Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW), said in a statement.

“[The project] is situated on land under foreign military occupation,” she said.Any agreement that [parent private equity firm] Brookstone has signed with the Moroccan government for that particular area is thus null and void.” Parts of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, were annexed by neighbouring Morocco in 1975 in a move not recognised by the international community. The mostly desert territory is home to just 500,000 people and has been subject to physical and political clashes between Rabat and the Polisario independence movement ever since.


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