Bitcoin miner Zack Pettit skates during his break from work at SCATE Ventures’ mining facility in Dallesport, Washington.

SCATE Ventures Inc.

Nick Sears was 17 years old when he helped set up a Bitcoin mining farm in Dallesport, Washington. He was 18 when he was allowed to legally buy Bitcoin for the first time. And now, at 19, Sears has doubled his life as a bitcoin miner, saying “no” to college and “yes” to living in a room in a data center that houses 4,500 swirling ASICs.

“My room is soundproof,” says Sears about the acoustic retrofitting of his living space. “So I can’t hear the machines when I close my door, but they are definitely loud when I have my door open.”

The machines each generate around 80 decibels of noise – but Sears says he likes to be as close to the action as possible. It’s also better to commute back and forth from your parents’ house in White Salmon for the half hour.

The 19-year-old has spent almost every day for the past two years teaching himself the nuances of how mining equipment works – and most importantly, how to fix it. He believes his soldering and electronics training is worth a lot more to him than a university degree.

“I’m not thinking of going to college at all, just gaining more knowledge of the miners’ repairs,” Sears continued.

CNBC spoke to several miners for this story. Many stated that the appeal of mining is to tangibly grasp the power of Bitcoin.

“If you’ve been to one of these data centers, the first thing you’ll notice is how big and impressive they are. They are huge, “said Thomas Heller, chief business officer of Compass Mining, which works for Sears’ employer SCATE Ventures.

“There is so much noise and there is so much heat. There is just so much going on. It’s pretty cool to go to a data center mining bitcoin for the first time, because you really have the intangible aspects of bitcoin as currency, with the physical nature of these machines using energy and doing these calculations. ”

Bitcoin miner Nick Sears lives on-site at the SCATE Ventures mining farm in Dallesport, Washington.

SCATE Ventures Inc.

A day in the life of a miner

Bitcoin mining is not a glamorous job.

“When we got here, we had racks in place, network infrastructure for the Internet, and essentially everything wired,” he said.

Once the physical infrastructure was up and running, Sears got more into a rhythm. He now gets up at 7 a.m. and works from eight to four. After that, he stays on site, just in case, and there’s a technician who works night shifts so Sears can get some sleep.

But outside of working hours, there is no typical work day for Sears.

“That’s the cool thing about the job – I don’t have a set routine that I do every day,” he said. “Every morning I find what needs to be fixed.”

Some days it means Sears is repairing walls and other physical infrastructure. “If we have to fix a camera, I might fix a cable.”

But most of the work is monitoring and managing each of those 4,500 Bitmain and Whatsminer ASICs to make sure they’re running 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If even one of these machines goes offline or is only partially used, the SCATE Ventures mine loses money.

That’s because someone digging for bitcoin lends their computing power to the bitcoin network. The more machines you have online, the better your chances of winning Bitcoin.

Drill rig inspected at SCATE Ventures’ mining ranch in Dallesport, Washington.

SCATE Ventures Inc.

Approximately every ten minutes, 6.25 bitcoins are created. In order to mint these new tokens, a global pool of miners contributes their computing power to execute a hashing algorithm. But these miners don’t work in a vacuum. You will compete against each other to see who can unlock each batch of new bitcoins first.

So a lot is at stake for Sears. Being conscientious and knowing how to sort out problems throughout the facility is critical to success.

Some mining sites use more sophisticated software to monitor the machines, including checking the temperature of each hash board within each miner.

But the most important thing for Sears is figuring out which of his machines are not working at full capacity.

“Every day you find the machines that have stopped hashing, then remove them from the rack and fix bugs,” he explained. “You have to find the problem with the machines. You have to find out why it went offline.”

It could be a power outage that would affect all machines, or it could be a network outage that could affect all or just some of the machines.

“Sometimes they just need a power cycle,” he said.

But the hardware fix isn’t always that easy.

“It is possible that the fan of the individual machine, which is used for cooling, is broken or the power supply has to be repaired or replaced,” explains Heller.

“It could be the hash boards themselves,” continues Heller. “Each hash board has many individual chips, and these are the chips that do the calculations. I think on a Bitmain machine, if more than four chips are broken on a single hash board, the entire hash board is turned off 100%, you only has two-thirds or one-third of the hash. ”

Seasonal changes in weather add an entirely different level of complexity.

Senior Technician Nick Sears repairs hardware at SCATE Ventures Inc.’s mining farm in Dallesport, Washington.

SCATE Ventures Inc.

Storms can cause power outages or other disruptions. According to Heller, machines can also overheat in summer, especially in companies that have switched to more powerful machines in the past two years.

SCATE’s Washington mine appears to work around this problem by using its own immersion cooling technology, which involves dipping bitcoin miners in a non-conductive liquid to dissipate heat, rather than relying on fans.

Train and get paid

Sears may not need a diploma to mine, but attending online training courses given by Chinese engineers who work for Bitmain has helped him a lot in repairing specialized mining equipment.

Last month, Sears and another employee took a virtual course on Bitmain to learn how to work on the ASIC chips on hashboards, as well as the power supplies on the S17s, one of the most popular machines used to mint Bitcoin today.

“I have a maintenance repair certification, so I’ve been honing my skills in this category lately,” said Sears. “It certifies my knowledge and gives me access to purchase consumables and materials directly through Bitmain.”

Senior Technician Nick Sears at SCATE Ventures Inc. mining farm in Dallesport, Washington.

SCATE Ventures Inc.

Next, he hopes to take a personal class in Atlanta, Georgia to learn more about soldering. “The hard part is learning how to solder and disassemble a circuit board,” Sears said.

Sears’ boss, Scott Bennett, takes great care giving his team access to the resources they need to improve their jobs.

Bennett, CEO of SCATE Ventures, is a self-taught miner who opened his business in his parents’ garage back in 2017, just before the last crypto winter when the prices of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies fell. Much like Sears, Bennett once lived in one of his data centers – only he opted for a motorhome on site and not a room on the complex itself.

It helped him live on one of the cheapest sources of energy in the world within minutes.

“All of our facilities are 100% hydropowered,” said Bennett.

The mining facility that Sears works at is on the Columbia River and adjacent to the Dalles Dam. “We love this source of energy. It’s cheap, renewable and very abundant,” he said.

As for employee pay, Sears says he makes $ 54,000 a year, plus full health insurance, which is paid for by the company.

Bennett also operates some mining equipment exclusively for its employees. That’s roughly the equivalent of 0.02 BTC quarterly, which at today’s price equates to a $ 788 every three months bonus for Sears.

“With all miners in China going offline, the difficulty level has changed so the rewards are higher,” said Sears. “Last time we got a little more than the last time, which is cool to me.”

SCATE Ventures’ mining farm is powered by hydropower generated by the Dalles Dam.

SCATE Ventures Inc.

Remote mining

It is also possible to become a crypto miner without physically dealing with mining equipment.

Adam Gitzes decided in early 2021 that he really wanted to mine after Bitcoin. After his wife vetoed the installation of equipment in their home, he began looking for alternatives.

Gitzes discovered Compass Mining, which allows customers to purchase mining machines for between $ 5,800 and $ 11,700, then locates them in partner data centers and takes care of the physical logistics.

“I bought the machines on the website, Compass handled the logistics and shipped the machines to three different data centers in North America,” said Gitzes, who stated that he sold 1.1 Bitcoin – about $ 60,000 at the time of purchase. spent on it.

“Compass also configured them as I asked.”

So a typical day in the life of a miner like Gitzes is waking up and checking online how much bitcoin his machines mined overnight and to make sure none of his units have failed.

At the SCATE Ventures mining farm in Dallesport, Washington.

SCATE Ventures Inc.

Gitzes owns six machines that he says are on the “higher end”. When China drove out all of its miners, it doubled the amount of money its machines make every day, Gitzes said.

After paying the 1.25% mining pool fee, Gitzes’ miners generate about 0.0055 bitcoin per day, or $ 216 at today’s prices. Daily electricity bills are around $ 30, so he makes about $ 186 a day, or just under $ 5,700 a month. At this rate, he will amortize his investment in about 11 months, provided that there are no major fluctuations in energy or Bitcoin prices.

Gitzes was so impressed with the Compass business model that he quit his job at Amazon to join the team in March. “I think the mission to decentralize mining and ensure that everyone can participate is very important,” said Gitzes.

SCATE Ventures’ mining farm is located in Dallesport, Washington.

SCATE Ventures Inc.