Multi-Currency Economy and Gridcoin as the World's Largest, Decentralized, Green-Energy Powered Supercomputer

in gridcoin •  25 days ago



We in the Gridcoin community promote our coin as an environmentally-friendly alternative to other cryptocurrencies, but the reality is that even our model of coin minting is insufficient to offset our environmental impact, if we our honest about confronting our current ecological crisis. Carbon emissions caused by doing computations for scientific and mathematical projects are emissions nonetheless. The fact that expending energy as we do is better than expending it on Proof of Work computations is not itself sufficient justification for using so much energy. In this article, I will present a model for offsetting the carbon emissions from our hardware by trading GRC for green energy based coins. This would be one of the first instances of a multi-currency economy, developing naturally by trading two coins with their own original, individual purposes for existing.

If you happened upon this article and are unfamiliar with Gridcoin (GRC), our coin rewards crunchers of scientific and mathematical projects in the distributed computing platform BOINC, on top of a Proof of Stake protocol. For a list and short descriptions of actively rewarded projects, see



I started this journey a year ago (January 26, 2018 to be exact), with the intention of designing an alternative, incentive-compatible reward structure for Gridcoin. Currently, projects are each allocated the same amount of GRC - thereby inducing very disparate rewards for the same hardware that crunch different projects - see, for example, this post from @parejan. My goal was to normalize, as much as possible, the rewards for different projects, so that the same piece of hardware would receive approximately the same amount of GRC across different projects.

Recently, I published an updated alternative to my original proposal which I think accurately reflects the goals I wanted to achieve, in addition to creating multiple side benefits for the community, such as the world's largest, open-access, open-source hardware profiling database.

Here, I hope to achieve another goal, which I have mentioned a number of times in the Fireside chats (hosted every Thursday evening on the Gridcoin Discord server). That goal is to make Gridcoin the world's largest green-energy powered supercomputer.

How Would It Work?


A GRC/Green Energy exchange would allow Gridcoin crunchers to offset the carbon emissions created by their hardware. There are multiple coins oriented towards green energy; the model described in this article would rely on a cryptocurrency that represents a certain amount of energy produced. While I am not involved with any such communities, Solarcoin (SLC) seems to be a good example of such a coin:

Any size Solar energy producers freely submits a claim with a SolarCoin Affiliate to register their solar installation. Claimants download a free SolarCoin wallet to create a receiving address that acts like a bank account. This address and some solar facility data and documentation are shared with the Affiliate.

The SolarCoin Foundation then sends SolarCoins to the Claimant’s wallet at a rate of 1 SolarCoin per 1 MWh of verified electricity production. Claimants can save, exchange, or spend SolarCoins as they wish, and may receive ongoing grants over the next 20-30 years they generate energy.

With my most recent proposal, it is possible to closely associate GRC with the amount of energy required to mint it. The normalization was established by asking the question: "If all of the computing power on the network was focused on one application, how many Work Units would get done?" By doing this for every application, we establish the normalization. Furthermore, that question has a close relative: if all of the computing power on the network is being used, how much energy is being consumed?

With those questions in mind, for every application, we know Total Number of Work Units of Application XYZ / Total Energy Consumption = WU of XYZ / Megawatt-hour. Thus, we know how much energy was required to achieve a WU from a particular application.

Now, this would only be an approximation, and would be much more accurate if we were to account for the types of hardware that were predominantly crunching specific applications. Since some hardware architectures are better suited to some applications than others, it is likely that there will be an uneven distribution in hardware types across projects. There are other tweaks that would improve the relationship as well, but they are beyond the scope of this post.

Now, how does this tie in with a green energy coin? Well, Solarcoins, for example, represent actual Megawatt-hours (MWh) produced. A Gridcoin cruncher could exchange their GRC for SLC, thereby offsetting their carbon emissions, and allowing even residential and small-scale solar energy producers to contribute to scientific progress.



Naturally, the platform for exchange would be a marketplace. Given the difference in demand for GRC and SLC, converting each to BTC or some other standard might give a different exchange rate than if the two were exchanged based on only the energy produced/consumed. However, direct exchange between the two might in turn have an effect on their exchange rates with BTC. In any case, such an exchange would be the beginning of a multi-currency economy. It naturally extends the value of both coins, and allows for greater buying/selling flexibility, as well as providing a proof-of-concept for the multi-currency economy.



Many thanks to @jamescowens and @jringo for their thoughts pre-publication, and to @jringo especially for suggesting the possibility of tying GRC to a green energy coin, as I mentioned at the end of my original proposal almost a year ago.

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This is a fantastic idea. I would love to see comments from the SolarCoin community. I would personally use this, as I have a 6kW solar installation on my house and am an avid long-time BOINC cruncher!


Gridcoin Core Developer

I run my Gridcoin mining on energy from my solar panels, and yes I also claim and stake Solarcoins (note the ticker is SLR not SLC).

I have seen a lot of crossover in the missions of the two coins, so this is an excellent idea. The main SolarCoin community hangs out on Slack


note the ticker is SLR not SLC

Thanks for the correction.

I have seen a lot of crossover in the missions of the two coins, so this is an excellent idea. The main SolarCoin community hangs out on Slack

Thanks! I've contacted you on Gridcoin Slack for an invite link.

Nice read! I'm always happy to see fresh ideas being floated around the broader Gridcoin community on platforms like Steemit.

Great idea.

Solarcoin is a nice suggestion.

Or perhaps GRC can follow the same way as NANO does for off setting their CO2 footprint.

Here's the link:

They work with

I don't posses any nano but it came up when researching low emmision currencies.

Posted using Partiko Android


Absolutely. I was going to address this option as well. The more cryptocurrencies that are involved, the stronger the multi-currency economy, its applications, and its popularity, making the whole ecosystem more viable. I definitely think that having multiple cryptos involved is the right way to go.

Interesting and thought provoking article!

But How Would It Work? We buy solarcoins with gridcoins through voluntary actions? I would expect only a tiny drive to do so. Apart of the direct bridge omitting bitcoin, which should be quite straightforward to do, what else we need for this idea to work?
Also, both coins have lost close to 95% value since the peak a year ago. Rewarding anything is, at ~1M market cap for each, rather symbolic.

What about if coins would merge into one and reward both crunchers and energy producers? Or one of the coins would also start rewarding what the other one does? This would be a more user friendly solution, as one doesn't need two running wallets and two sets of keys / backups to worry about.

Another idea for offsetting carbon emissions: Run a BOINC based scientific or engineering project that solves some fundamental or design / construction challenges in green energy field (similar to DHEP).


We buy solarcoins with gridcoins through voluntary actions?

That was how I phrased it; there could be other mechanisms as well, but I opted for the simplest option for this proposal.

Apart of the direct bridge omitting bitcoin, which should be quite straightforward to do, what else we need for this idea to work?

That's it, as least as I described it here.

Also, both coins have lost close to 95% value since the peak a year ago. Rewarding anything is, at ~1M market cap for each, rather symbolic.

That's a really good point. However, I think that there's a danger in thinking about the future of Gridcoin limited to its current marketcap, since that argument could also extend to much of the other work that we're doing for the coin as well. We need to be aware that it's only ~1M, but plan like it's 100M.

What about if coins would merge into one and reward both crunchers and energy producers? Or one of the coins would also start rewarding what the other one does? This would be a more user friendly solution, as one doesn't need two running wallets and two sets of keys / backups to worry about.

I'm not sure how we could could merge two coins together. What do you mean? Regarding the two wallets/keys problem - as cryptocurrencies become more popular I think there will probably be other solutions to this problem, since it's not limited just to this scenario.

Another idea for offsetting carbon emissions: Run a BOINC based scientific or engineering project that solves some fundamental or design / construction challenges in green energy field (similar to DHEP).

We have a climate prediction project, but unfortunately it's not whitelisted since they don't update their stats often enough. I believe we also had a project that tried to improve solar panels design (similar to your last point), but I don't know much about it. Although finding such a project and crunching for it would certainly be a really good way to do that.

If I have well understood, you suggest to trade GRC for a green coin (whatever it is) so compensate the energy consumption associated with the energy used by the BOINC application. Is that correct? If yes, this in an interesting idea but I don't see how it will reduce the amount of non-green energy used worldwide. It would have been better to rely on green energy from the start, wouldn't it?

Or maybe I totally missed the point? Please let me know.


To answer your last question first, yes, it would be best to start with green energy first. However, 1) that isn't an option for everyone at this moment in time, and 2) if/once we achieve a green-energy based electricity grid, this exchange would still allow those with idle processing power and excess energy production to put their assets to better use.

To address your main point: you are correct that such an exchange alone would not affect the power creation and consumption balance. The reason for this is that in some reasonably small slice of time, global energy production is approximately static, and the percentage of each type of energy technology contribution to the total production is approximately constant. Buying/selling SLC does not itself increase the number of solar panels producing energy, hence the amount of non-green energy production would remain unchanged. However, the exchange would not be operating in a static environment.

Suppose person A pays for the electricity consumed by their hardware in fiat, and that electricity comes from a mix of dirty (D) and green (G) energy, and A's total energy consumption T = D + G. Also, suppose person B with rooftop solar is receiving money in fiat for whatever surplus energy they send to the grid (1). If A and B are geographically isolated in terms of the electric grid, it is impossible for B to actually "supply" A with the electricity A requires. However, suppose that they are in close enough proximity that B is able to supply A with T energy (2), and that global energy production remains constant. In this scenario, A's energy consumption is theoretically disjoint from the non-green energy sources (not in practice, of course). This is critical to emphasize: the energy that A is consuming is not coming from dirty energy sources. If all other energy sources and sinks were to disappear but the infrastructure to remain intact, this would be a simple exchange of energy between A and B. Why this abstraction? Well, at some geographical critical density of Gridcoin crunchers and solar energy producers, this is actually what happens, just with more agents.

But why is this important? Isn't the same amount of emissions being created? Well, if the process I just described occurs, then many Gridcoin crunchers would be in a situation where their energy is effectively coming from green sources. But if the global power creation and consumption remains constant, and the demand for green energy remains constant outside of Gridcoin crunchers, then green energy sources will have to replace non-green energy sources in order to meet that demand. This is a consequence of that fact that Gridcoin crunchers were themselves demanding that their energy come from green sources (whereas before it was coming from a mix), by trading their GRC for SLC. The demand mechanism is not occurring via fiat, but rather by trading GRC for SLC, thereby giving the latter value (or increasing its value). Ideally this would increase the incentive for installing solar panels, but in the short term it is more likely that already existing solar producers would start claiming their SLC.

  1. This isn't exactly how Solarcoin works, which is why I only used it as an example
  2. I am making many simplifications regarding how the grid works

The above was my original response and thought process, but that reality is, it is a shaky logic, and personally I am not even convinced by it. Maybe some modification of my proposal could achieve what I am describing, but as it stands I am not sure it holds up to scrutiny. I would have to develop the proposal more and then maybe come back with some updates.

However, after thinking about it, I realized an easier approach: Gridcoin crunchers trade their GRC for a cryptocurrency that invests in/builds/installs sources of green energy. One that I am familiar with is Solar DAO, but there could be other ones which are better suited to the task. In this case, new sources of green energy are actually being brought online, which solves the original problem I described at the beginning of this response. This actually would decrease the amount of non-green energy being produced.

There is also another way to offset carbon emissions that I was planning to address in another post eventually: crunchers sell their GRC and used the proceeds to buy/donate land in the Amazon rainforest that would otherwise be cut down, or for responsible reforestation projects (similar to how Flixbus offers its riders the possibility to offset their carbon emissions), whether through traditional means, or some cryptocurrency. This is a clear instance where GRC is being used to offset carbon emissions. If this was done with a cryptocurrency, then it would reinforce and expand the multi-currency economy. (Also, I see that @gregan just mentioned something similar in a comment below).


Ah great, I always thought that I'm the only lone snowflake that checks the option when using flixbus to offset emmissons 😄

I also use for the rare occasion in air travel.

Which makes me wonder why airline companies don't automatically include and check these emission offset options..

It would do wonders for their public reputation and for forestry projects


I'm glad I'm not the only one either :P

I wonder how long it would take to buy up the Amazon before it gets destroyed if the airline companies offered that option and every passenger took it...


I would definitely use this if existing... if it is implemented as an opt-in option, I am convinced that many people will actually do it, and it won't cost a thing for the airlines.


Thanks for all the explanation. I must say I agree with what you said. In particular, I love the last proposals (spending GRC to do good things for the environment) a this could be the way to go to make this planet better and increase the green-energy supply / the rebuilding of the forests.


I also didn't understand. Also I think the author misses a vital point that voluntary computing is practiced on many computers that are already running, like a computer used for word processing, or browsing the web... That is actually what makes the computation environmentally friendly, because it uses an already fired up machine, instead of spinning up a designated HPC that can sometimes sit idle (e.g. Christmas Holidays)


There is a big difference in power consumption with a modern computer at idle, and at 100% processing background tasks for distributed computing. Typical power draw for an idle Intel based desktop is on the order of 75W including the monitor. This goes up to 150 to 250W (or more) at full tilt.

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I'm not sure I follow. My current understanding of what I've read is we would be paying for the electricity used twice. The first time through our electric bill, the second by donating GRC to an renewable energy coin? Or are we trading a portion of GRC for the other coin, so we are holding two coins instead of one in the hopes that one may do better than another?

The current research rewards don't even come close to covering the electricity used.

If we want to be environmentally responsible a bonus should be given to more power efficient hardware. Or a environmental fee assessed and donated to a program that plants trees, or helps low income households replace inefficient appliances (save electricity and help people reduces living expense) for really old and inefficient hardware.

After reading a few comments I wonder if the energy being used is considered fungible. Most renewable energy has priority for being purchased first by the utilities. The way to be green is to use less energy so dirty energy sources are not activated. When we contrive to specifically buy 'green energy' more isn't created, someone else is just buying dirty energy.


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