PENN YAN, NY (WSKG) — Despite protest from environmental activists, the Town of Torrey Planning Board gave the go-ahead for Greenidge Generation to move forward with expanding the Bitcoin mining operation at its facility along Seneca Lake.
In a four to one vote, the board approved both a negative declaration of need for an environmental review and the site plan for Greenidge to erect four structures that would house data processing equipment used to “mine” cryptocurrency.
“We’re excited to move forward and we can’t wait to start building,” Greenidge CEO Dale Irwin told reporters after the meeting.
Activists have been fighting the expansion, asserting that adding the computers would increase the demand on the plant to generate electricity and in-turn release more fossil fuels.
“Think of the future. Think of future generations. And think of what we’re doing to this lake, and what we’ve already done to this lake,” Geneva City Councilor Ken Camera told the board during public comment.
Planning Board Chairman David Granzin said he and the other members could only consider the specific elements to the site plan and environmental review, neither of which specifically related to the main concerns about emissions and water intake raised by many of the activists.
“We got all the same issues you do,” Granzin replied to the council member from Geneva. “We understand everything you say. Everything you’re concerned about. We know that Bitcoin is a big waste of energy, but we’re bound by the law. We have to follow the rules.”
Greenidge is currently permitted by the DEC and EPA to operate its facility at full capacity, but, when it was refurbished from a coal to natural gas-burning plant in 2017, its primary role was to be a peaker plant. That means it would provide electricity to the grid at times of high demand. The next year, they began using excess power for computing power needed to solve the complex algorithms needed to obtain cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin.
At Monday’s meeting, officials from Greenidge continued to say the plant would operate within its permits.