El Salvador became the first country in the world to declare Bitcoin a form of legal tender a few weeks ago, spending $225 million and growing its government stockpile to 550 Bitcoins as part of a rollout meant to solidify the country’s position as a world leader in cryptocurrency.
On Friday, President and right-wing populist Nayib Bukele tweeted that a Bitcoin mining operation run by the state-owned energy company LaGeo SA de CV had generated a whopping $269 in Bitcoin utilising geothermal electricity from volcanoes.
Bukele tweeted early Friday morning that the government was still “testing and installing,” but what he called the “#volcanode” was officially operating. That follows on a video the president tweeted earlier this week of government-branded shipping containers carrying ASIC miners to an energy facility in a jungle for installation by LaGeo technicians.
The use of geothermal energy to power cryptocurrency generation is not new, but the disclosure comes at a time when international attention is focused on the vast quantities of electricity that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies consume to power their blockchains.
Geothermal plants already supply around a fifth of El Salvador’s electricity, and Bukele’s proposal is intended to capitalise on the Bitcoin growth while retaining an environmentally benign image.
El Salvador’s government has launched its own Bitcoin wallet called Chivo, which is available for all people with a national ID card to register for and get $30 in Bitcoin. That’s a lot, given that El Salvador’s national gross income per capita is expected to reach roughly $3,600 in 2020.