Experts offered a cautious reaction to the plans announced last month for a 900-megawatt desert wind park dedicated to technology blockchain .
The $ 2.5 billion Soluna project aims to provide low-cost energy for blockchain computing and will be located in Dakhla, a city in the disputed territory of Western Sahara.
Because the location has no connection to the network, Soluna will have to rely on a co-located data center for muscle calculation. But Soluna is sure that investors will be willing to bet on the project thanks to its falling energy prices.
The site, initially intended for development by a company called AM Wind, has a wind speed of 22 miles at the time, said Soluna CEO John Belizaire. Based on this resource, the company hopes to obtain energy for less than $ 30 per megawatt hour.
Even strong regular winds should mean the wind farm, which is believed to be the largest off-grid installation in Morocco, and potentially in the world – could work with a capacity factor of over 50 percent.
This is not yet the 24-hour supply of electricity that most blockchain companies would appreciate in locations connected to the network. The Soluna wind farm will only have "nominal storage", said Belizaire.
Soluna, which defines itself as a renewable energy extraction company and a vertically integrated cryptocurrency, hopes to obtain a connection to the grid within five years. But a delay in connecting to the network was the one that hindered the original project of AM Wind. The company plans to invest $ 100 million in the first phase of the project which hopes to generate around 36 megawatts.
To overcome the intermittency problem while doing network work, Soluna is planning to have what Belizaire said would be "a unique dynamic data center design" that could take the processing power up and down to the exit of the wind farm.
At full capacity, the wind farm should be able to support 4 million terahash computing capacity, Belizaire said. The structure will not be used for cryptocurrency transactions, which the Moroccan authorities oppose, reports Reuters. Instead, it will provide computing services to blockchain networks that offer computing capabilities to foreign entities in exchange for foreign currency.
Although the company can convince investors that intermittent supply is worth it because of the low cost of electricity,
Dakhla, which in the past was a Spanish colony known as Villa Cisneros, is the capital of the Moroccan administrative region of Dakhla-Oued Ed-Dahab.
But the region, along with the rest of Western Sahara, is claimed by a nationalist movement called Polisario Front, which represents a community known as Sahrawi.
Although the Moroccans and the Sahrawis currently have a difficult truce under a United Nations-sponsored ceasefire in 1991, Morocco's control over Western Sahara is still under discussion.
This month, the Trump administration put pressure on the UN to resolve the situation. n Western Sahara, based on a Moroccan proposal to turn it into an autonomous region of Morocco, as part of plans to reduce the potential for terrorist activity in the area.
But days after Soluna unveiled plans for wind power, a non-governmental organization called Western Sahara Resource Watch said in the Moroccan press that the renewable energy project would violate the rights of the Saharawi people.
Belizaire said that Soluna is "fully aware of the region's political sensibilities."
"Our investments in Dakhla, Morocco, fully respect the legal structures that affect energy development," he said.
"We are aware of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions relating to the region, and we are in line with the US government's view that the Moroccan autonomy plan is serious, credible and realistic," he added.
The Soluna project, which should begin construction at the start of next year, with a first phase that will come into operation in 2020, would help to enrich the local economy, said Belizaire.
In addition to providing work in the wind farm itself and in its technology business, Soluna intends to allocate 1% of its revenue to programs that provide significant value to local citizens of Dakhla, according to the CEO.
skeptical that investors would support the project, however.
Matt Novak, partner of the London-based investment company All Blue Capital, whose investments include Pinterest and Uber, said the criptomining companies have traditionally been very cautious about the location of their operations, even in western locations .
Although energy is a significant amount of cryptographic operating costs, putting infrastructure in a disputed region of the desert could be too far for investors.
Any other blockchain company "would be reluctant to operate in unstable and disputed territory, where there could be a risk of expropriation on its hardware," he said.