HARVEST

Wind energy used to mine cryptocurrency to fund climate research

Oliver 2017

harvest

HARVEST is a work of critical engineering and computational climate art. It uses wind-energy to mine cryptocurrency, the earnings of which are used as a source of funding for climate-change research.

Taking the form of a 2m wind turbine with environmental sensors, weatherproof computer and 4G uplink, HARVEST ‘feeds’ from two primary symptoms of our changing climate: wind gusts and storms. It does this by transforming wind energy into the electricity required to meet the demanding task of mining cryptocurrency (here Zcash), a decentralised process where computers are financially rewarded for their work maintaining and verifying a public transaction ledger known as the blockchain. Rather than filling the digital wallet of the artist, all rewards earned by the HARVEST mining machine are paid out as donations to non-profit climate change research organisations such that they can better study this planetary-scale challenge.

Acting as a fully functional prototype beyond a media-art context, it is envisaged hundreds of such HARVEST nodes could be deployed in the windiest parts of the world, together generating large sums of supplementary funding for climate-change NGOs in a time where climate science itself is under siege from the fossil-fuelled interests of governments and corporations.

TECHNICAL INVENTORY

Turbine

Energy storage

Mining rig

SOFTWARE

Energy management is based on wind speed read from PWM signals from the anemometer like so:

 
#!/bin/bash

tty=/dev/ttyACM0
stty -F $tty 9600 ignbrk -brkint -icrnl -imaxbel -opost -onlcr -isig -icanon -iexten -echo \
    -echoe -echok -echoctl -echoke noflsh -ixon -crtscts -hupcl
#sleep 1
echo temp >$tty
read reply <$tty
echo "$reply"
stty -F $tty hupcl
 
#!/bin/bash

SCRIPTS=/root/scripts
MIN=5 # meters/second
POLL=60 # once a minute

while true;
    do
        fspeed=$($SCRIPTS/read-anemometer.sh | awk '{ print $9 }' | sed 's/\r//')
        echo "Current wind speed is: "$fspeed
        mpid=($(ps ax | grep [m]iner | awk '{ print $1 " " $3 }'))
        mstate=${mpid[1]}
        if [ $fspeed != "0.00\r" ]; then
            ispeed=$(/usr/bin/printf "%.*f\n" 0 $fspeed)
            if [[ $ispeed -lt $MIN && "$mstate" == Sl* ]]; then
                echo "Windspeed is too low. pausing miner"
                kill -STOP ${mpid[0]}
            elif [[ $ispeed -gt $MIN && "$mstate" == Tl* ]]; then
                echo "Windspeed is high enough. resuming miner"
                kill -CONT ${mpid[0]}
            else
                echo "State unchanged, leaving alone this round"
            fi
        fi
        sleep $POLL 
    done

EXHIBITIONS

HARVEST was commissioned by the Konstmuseet i Skövde an exhibition of which was designed and launched on the 14th of September, 2017, running for two months in the museum.

The exhibition comprises a live feed directly from the miner, conveying data relevant to the mining process. This data was visualised by Christopher Pietsch and can be seen in the two projections in the exhibition. Chris has kindly provided a public version of his work on this project here.

Photo by Alexandra Magnusson

Photo by Alexandra Magnusson

Photo by Alexandra Magnusson

Photo by Alexandra Magnusson

Photo by Alexandra Magnusson

Photo by Alexandra Magnusson

Photo by Alexandra Magnusson

Photo by Alexandra Magnusson

PAYOUTS

The initial mining process of HARVEST generated approximately EUR 600, which in turn was donated to Climate.Org and the US Climate Network.

WRITING ON HARVEST

DISCLAIMER

Since making this project my views on mined (PoW) cryptocurrencies have changed. I today find them to be computationally and environmentally wasteful, regardless of input energy form. I have no investment in any cryptocurrency, and have no cryptocurrency wallet.