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Soluna gears up for world’s first utility-scale blockchain infrastructure

The first phase of Soluna's 900-megawatt wind farm in Dakhla will start early next year and will be operational in 2020 generating 36 megawatts of power

New York-based Soluna Technologies will start construction early next week of the world’s first utility-scale blockchain infrastructure powered by its private renewable energy resources in Morocco.

The $2.5 billion project will cover 37,000 acres in Dakhla, one of the world’s windiest regions, and will enable the firm to own sustainable energy resources along with a utility-scale blockchain computing facility.

First stage to cost $100 million

Soluna plans to fund the first phase of the project with $100 million and forecasts it will be in operation in 2020, generating about 36 megawatts of power. Once completed, Soluna’s powerplant will generate 900 megawatts. The firm aims to provide low-cost (about $30 per megawatt-hour) for blockchain computing.

The company will have to depend on a co-located datacentre for computing power because the location currently has no grid connection. However, Soluna executives believe they will achieve this within the next five years. They are also confident they will find investors willing to gamble on the project due to its low-cost energy.

With winds averaging 22 mph, the Soluna wind farm – believed to be the largest off-grid installation in Morocco, and potentially in the world — could operate with a capacity factor of more than 50%.

A million terahashes

Once fully operational, the Soluna wind farm should be able to support four million terahashes of computing capacity, says CEO, John Belizaire.

The facility will not be used for cryptocurrency transactions, he adds. The Moroccan government is opposed to that, Reuters reports. Instead, the firm will provide computing services to blockchain networks that offer calculation capacities to foreign entities in exchange for foreign currency.

The firm, which was founded in 2018 with the mission to power the blockchain-economy with clean, low-cost renewable energy, has yet another hurdle to overcome: assuring investors regarding security at the facility.

Who runs Dakhla?

Dakhla – a former Spanish colony, known as Villa Cisneros – is the capital of the Moroccan administrative region of Dakhla-Oued Ed-Dahab, which is claimed along with the rest of Western Sahara, by a nationalist movement called the Polisario Front. The front represents a community known as the Sahrawi.

The Sahrawi and Moroccans currently have an unstable truce in place which was brokered in 1991 by the United Nations. That means the Moroccan government’s control over the region is still in question.

The rights of the Sahrawi

Soluna faces charges by a non-governmental organisation called Western Sahara Resource Watch that the project violates the rights of the Sahrawi people.

“Soluna is “fully aware of the political sensitivities of the region,” says Belizaire.  “Our investments in Dakhla fully respect the legal frameworks that pertain to energy development.”

Soluna intends to allocate 1% of its revenue to programmes that provide significant benefits to the local population, he concludes.

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