Chia has been touted as a greener version of Bitcoin and other energy-demanding cryptocurrencies. But how does the proof of space concept stack up against proof of work protocols?
Proof of space vs proof of work mining perspectives
Most people have heard of proof of work (PoW) thanks to the popularity of Bitcoin. But actually understanding what it means and the requirements behind it can be another story. Proof of work utilizes computer hardware to solve incredibly complex problems/algorithms. Once an algorithm is solved, cryptocurrency is released to the solver(s). The difficulty of these problems increases as time goes on and tokens are released into the economy.
This has lead to increasing demand and hardware requirements for miners of proof of work cryptocurrencies. This in turn leads to more power consumption, and more machines needed to solve these increasingly complex algorithms.
Proof of space
The proof of space (PoS) concept is often touted as a green alternative to proof of work. This is primarily because it uses hard drive storage to facilitate mining as opposed to high energy demanding hardware. But energy demand isn’t the only reason it may be a more environmentally friendly alternative.
One of the advantages of PoS is that it utilizes hard drive storage rather than using a computer’s CPU or GPU. Numerous hard drives can be connected to a single computer or server, while CPUs and GPUs require more supportive hardware to operate. This means that it requires considerably less hardware to scale PoS mining as opposed to PoW.
Hard drives also demand considerably less energy compared to their counterparts. In fact, a common Chia mining strategy is to transfer plotted hard drives to a microcomputer like a Raspberry Pi. This lowers the energy requirements considerably, while still providing the same mining utility.
So is proof of space a greener alternative to proof of work?
- Requires less hardware
- Requires less energy
- Scaling requirements are considerably lower
Yes, proof of space is considerably more eco-friendly than proof of work.
Proof of space energy consumption
Energy plays an integral role in cryptocurrencies since it’s entirely dependent on power to run the network and miners. While energy use is a controversial topic when it comes to the environment, it’s also an important aspect for those looking to maximize mining profits. In fact, besides hardware, energy is one of the biggest expenses cryptocurrency miners will pay.
Now we’ve noted that proof of space is much more energy-efficient than its counterpart, but let’s look at real numbers to see how much more effective it is. Chiapower.org tracks the power usage of the entire Chia network and compares it to other cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ehtereum.
Based on Chiapower, the Chia network currently consumes .308TWh annually. Bitcoin is estimated to consume over 154TWh. That means that the Chia network consumes less than .2% of the power used for Bitcoin. So purely from an environmental standpoint, PoS, and by extension, the Chia network, is much more eco-friendly than Proof of stake.
But what about profitability? The most energy-demanding part of mining/farming Chia is the plotting process. This is the initial process that’s required to set up plots on your hard drive that can then be used to farm Chia. The process is quite resource-intensive, especially when you are setting up multiple plots at one time.
But once the plotting process is finished, power consumption drops significantly. The only consumption required is what it takes to power the hard drive and basic functionality of the computer or server. In fact, a western digital 6TB hard drive consumes just 6 Watts when under load. So at this point, power is practically negligible unless you plan on running a massive server farm.
Is Chia suitable for home farming?
While some cryptocurrencies are almost impossible to profit from when mining from home, Chia is a bit different. Since it primarily uses hard drives to facilitate mining/farming, heat generation and noise can be quite minimal. Now if you plan on using a big gaming rig to facilitate your farming, then you are bound to have some noise. But if you plan on using more efficient methods like farming with Raspberry Pi, noise and heat are practically nonexistent.
Using a Chia profitability calculator can help provide an estimate on how much you could potentially earn. But it really comes down to how many plots you have, which converts to how many hard drives you might need.
For example, a 6TB hard drive can hold about 60 plots and costs around $130. The calculator says that 60 plots can amount to about $10 a month based on the current network size. So just by adding a few external or internal devices, farmers can start seeing earnings of over $100/month. And once the plotting process is finished, the farming process can be set up and pretty much forgotten about. That’s practically passive income.
MTBF and things to watch out for
While the farming process can be a “Set it and forget it” type of situation, there are some things to keep in mind. For one, MTBF or mean time between failures can play a big part in profitability. MTBF can be seen as the lifetime of a hard drive or other pieces of hardware. Because mining/farming cryptocurrency uses hardware consistently, it’s important to purchase hardware that will last under high usage.
The Seagate Exos is a great example of a hard drive built for heavy use. This commercial-grade hard drive has an MTBF of 2.5 million hours, meaning it will last a long time and can be a solid investment. While consumer-grade products can certainly be used for farming Chia, they certainly won’t last as long which can end up cutting into your profitability.
The plotting process
We briefly mentioned the plotting process earlier, but for those unfamiliar here is a brief explanation.
Plotting is the initial process that’s required to set up a plot on your hard drive. It typically takes several hours to finalize the process, so it’s common for plots to be plotted in parallel (several at one time). Plotting is a time-consuming process that is dependent on the hardware of your computer. For the fastest results, most farmers use SSDs for plotting and then transfer the finalized plots to high-capacity hard drives.
While SSDs are incredibly fast, they have a limited number of uses. Due to the plotting process and the relocation of the plots to hard drive, this can lead to SSDs quickly being burned out and having to swap regularly. This should be taken into account before jumping head first into plotting and farming Chia.
Fortunately, there is a better way that can alleviate the issue of burning through your hardware or managing a bunch of hard drives. Chia plotting services like Plotting Cloud allow you to buy Chia plots without having to plot them yourself. This can save a considerable amount of time and money while still allowing you to farm your plots.
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