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Chelan County PUD developing approach to power requests from bitcoin miners

Chelan County Public Utility District No. 1 is in the process of determining how to respond to seven requests from bitcoin miners each seeking from 5 MW to 100 MW.

Chelan PUD, which is headquartered in Wenatchee, Wash., and delivers power from three dams, said it has fielded more than 75 inquiries about service since the price of bitcoin spiked in 2017, with many of the requests assumed to be for cryptocurrency.

The strategies for addressing the requests build on the high-density load rate approved in 2017 for load below 5 MW and are based on risk assessment including impacts to existing customers, how to manage those risks and the pricing strategies, according to a Feb. 20 release. The total amount of power sought is more than double Chelan PUD's average local load of 180 MW to 200 MW.

Requests for large amounts of energy can increase issues for managing power production, transmission and distribution. The PUD expects to respond to the requests by expanding the application process to gather more information, receive payments in advance for work to be performed and redefining contract options, including rates.

Additionally, the PUD ended 2017 $20 million above budget with a $105 million positive bottom line. Cash reserves rose $28 million year over year to $511 million, according to the news release. Wholesale prices, however, are expected to decline, which will mean low bottom lines in the future, CFO and Chief Risk Officer Kelly Boyd said.