Yesterday I had the chance to visit the world’s first (mostly) solar powered Altcoin mining farm, which is based near San José, Costa Rica. It is run by Avalon Life, the new sponsor of our educative series Captain Drakins’ Bitcoin Show.

With Andreas Meyer (Avalon Life) in one of their Altcoin mining farms in Costa Rica.

I was on my way to the Bitcoin Conference in Miami anyway, so I used the opportunity to visit beautiful Costa Rica and to talk some things through with Thomas Graf and Andreas Meyer, two of the main guys of Avalon. They are both Germans who have emigrated to Costa Rica, Thomas four years ago, Andreas last year.

Energy is an important cost factor in mining, and Costa Rica offers both lots of sun hours and geothermic energy, taken from its many active volcanos. Energy taken from the grid is still needed to fill gap hours when the sun doesn’t shine and geothermic energy is not enough, but electricity can be very cheap in Costa Rica, especially in off-peak hours at night. So Costa Rica was an obvious choice for mining farms mainly powered by renewable energy.

Costa Rica (Image: WikiCommons)

Thomas and Andreas drove me and some other visitors from abroad to one of their five mining farms in Costa Rica and showed us around. Well, mining farms are actually not that exciting to watch. They consist of racks of computers which produce a lot of noise and heat.

Compared to Bitcoin mining, this farm has a relatively low hash rate and energy consumption. It is a medium sized room in a factory building, about half filled with working racks, and lots of miners stored in the back, which are still in their original packaging. Thomas told me they will be installed in the future, but only after new solar panels have been added to the factory building’s roof to provide them with enough cheap electricity.

This is something unthinkable in the Bitcoin world: if you have a miner in your hands, you would not leave it in the package, but you want it to produce coins every second of its short life span. The Bitcoin difficulty goes up so fast that today’s fastest miner will be obsolete in just a few months. This seems to be different in the world of Altcoin mining, which I never cared about so far.

Avalon Life started their mining operations only last (Northern Hemisphere) summer. Their strategy is to not join the expensive arms race of Bitcoin mining, but rather mine other coins and trade them for Bitcoins.

If you invest in a mining package with them – and they only accept Bitcoin as payment – you will be paid out in Bitcoin on a daily basis. So although Bitcoin mining is just a very small part of their activity (they have some test Bitcoin miners in their mining farm in China), Bitcoin is still the most important point of reference.

Screenshot Dash Block Explorer from January 9th, 2017.

In this short time, Avalon Life have become one of the market leaders for Dash mining, which you can see on the Dash Block Explorer. The mining farm I visited has about 200 GigaHash, about half of which is dedicated to Dash mining, the rest of it to a variety of other coins, such as Litecoin, Ether, Monero and some other coins I have never even heard of.

They are not mining Steem yet, but I think they should consider to do so. By the way, the next episode of Captain Drakins will be about mining, too.