El Salvador: Volcano energy for mining is expensive


Ricardo Navarro, a renewable energy ecologist from El Salvador, in an interview with the British newspaper The Telegraph, criticized the proposal made by the government of El Salvador to use energy from volcanoes for Bitcoin mining, calling it uneconomic.

Volcanic energy for mining: why El Salvador’s proposal is no good 

Navarro, who heads El Salvador’s Centre for Appropriate Technology, told the British newspaper The Telegraph:

“Geothermal still costs more than oil, otherwise we would already be using more of it. What will end up happening is that we will just be buying more oil”.

At the same time, he was equally critical of the country’s President Nayib Bukele‘s subsequent plan to create the world’s first Bitcoin city, built close to the volcano to harness its geothermal energy.

He said:

“Talking about building this city beside a volcano is like thinking you are rich because you live next to a bank”.

The proposal to mine Bitcoin using the energy of volcanoes is not viable

The ecologist then explained the problems that make this very difficult to implement. 

Navarro argues that: 

“Geothermal energy doesn’t need volcanoes. It needs groundwater, steam. But we already have problems with not enough water in El Salvador”.

But to reiterate the concept expressed by the Salvadoran ecologist, the executive director of the International Geothermal Association based in Germany, Marit Brommer, also expressed doubts about the El Salvador government’s proposal.

“El Salvador is known for its geothermal potential. But if he is promising anything in the next six months, that would not be feasible. Geothermal has a long lead time. We need to identify the resources, do modelling, drill wells. It would likely take at least two or three years, and probably longer before you could generate any electricity”.

This is because, explains the German geothermal expert, drawing geothermal energy requires a series of infrastructures that the Central American country does not have, and which it would have to build from scratch.

Proposal to use geothermal energy from volcanoes in June

Last June, El Salvador’s President Bukele announced via Twitter the proposal that the country should use geothermal energy from the country’s many volcanoes (25) to mine Bitcoin, an activity known to be very energy-intensive. 

The president commissioned La Geo, a state-owned electricity company, to 

“offer facilities for Bitcoin mining with very cheap, 100% clean, 100% renewable, 0 emissions energy from our volcanoes”.

Then, in November, came the announcement that the world’s first Bitcoin city would be built next to a volcano to harness its geothermal energy, and financed with government bonds collateralized in Bitcoin.

But according to experts, at least for now, this seems destined to remain a dream in the drawer.

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