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Bitcoin Mining Is Coming To Dickens County. Why The County Judge Thinks It’s A Good Fit.

the bitcoin symbol on a gold coin stylized over a shot of an open highway in Dickens County, Texas with a blue sky in the background and ranch land on either side.
Image by Laura Rice, Dickens County photo by flickr.com/davidlayne (CC BY 2.0)
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Texas 114 in Dickens County.

From Texas Standard:

For someone looking for Dickens County, Texas on a map, there’s not a large city to point them to. The best guide for locating it is “due east of Lubbock.” Kevin Brendle is the Dickens County Judge.

“[It] sits on the western escarpment off the caprock. Gently rolling hills. We've got some rangelands, about 20,000 acres plus of cultivated ground, mostly cotton. But Dickens County is primarily cattle country,” Brendle said.

Brendle says he didn’t know much about bitcoin mining before UK-based Argo Blockchain reached out about building a facility in Dickens County. He finds many of his constituents are also still learning about it.

“Well, the biggest question is, ‘what are they going to be doing there? What's going on up there?’” Brendle said. “When you start talking about bitcoin mining, a lot of people start looking for mining equipment. They want to see what kind of holes are being dug in the ground and what’s going to be mined out of there.”

Bitcoin mining is actually the process of using computers to solve very complex problems to ensure the security of the cryptocurrency. As a reward for protecting bitcoin, “miners” earn bitcoins for themselves.

Because the process requires intense computer power, it also consumes a lot of energy. That’s one major reason bitcoin mining is relocating from China, which is trying to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. Miners are drawn to Texas because of its business-friendly reputation and its relatively cheap energy.

Brendle says that’s just part of the reason Argo Blockchain reached out to Dickens County.

“One thing to keep in mind is that all of Dickens County is a qualified opportunity zone, which is a federal incentive program which offers investors who qualify some offsets in their capital gains taxes,” Brendle said. “So that's one good thing that we had going for us. The McAdoo Wind Farm and the Cottonwood substation are offering very competitive rates on electricity. That was another, I think, major component and an attractant to Argo.”

The necessary consumption of energy has some concerned that bitcoin miners could overwhelm Texas’ already strained energy grid. The grid nearly collapsed during a winter storm in February. But Brendle says the information he has doesn’t have him concerned.

“No, it's our understanding that there is an excess of energy that's being produced out of our wind farm coming into the Cottonwood substation,” Brendle said. “So it presents itself as a very good place for these energy intensive companies. And I think some of these businesses, as we start talking about renewable energy and energy on electricity, on the grid, they have a symbiotic relationship. If everybody can work together with the same goal of making sure that the electricity is there and having no place for excessive electricity or energy to go, I think it's a win for everyone.”

Beyond that, Brendle thinks the mining operation could have a positive economic impact on the county. Argo Blockchain has said it will create up to 20 full-time jobs.

“I think the position that we're taking is to cautiously move forward and embrace any opportunity that we have to improve our tax base and put people to work,” Brendle said.