Executives who want to operate a large cryptocurrency mine near Belvoir Elementary School are trying to allay fears over the proposed facility as opposition continues ahead of an expected vote from Pitt County officials on Monday.
Compute North’s chief executive said in an interview Thursday that moving here is a win-win situation for the county and its business and that many naysayers have been misinformed about its ability to dampen noise from the facility, its energy consumption and environmental impact.
“There has certainly been some vocal opposition to the project,” said CEO Dave Perrill, who is also one of the founders of the Minnesota-based company. “Our biggest concern has been the lack of facts, the lack of true evidence and some of what I would consider hearsay and ultimately false rumors about our project, our engineering, and our project.”
Compute North wants to locate 89 containers that house banks of computer equipment used to “mine” cryptocurrency about three-tenths of a mile from the school. The property is bordered by Belvoir School Road, NC 33 West and US 264 bypass (Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard).
The Pitt County Council of Commissioners is due to continue a quasi-judicial hearing at its 6 p.m. meeting on Monday to consider a special use permit requested by the company to operate the facility.
Most of the objections focus on the noise generated by the 1,246 fans needed to cool the container. Each of the containers will house 14 industrial fans that will run almost non-stop.
People shouldn’t be worried, said Jeff Jackson, Compute North’s vice president for site development. “We have invested quite a bit in the engineering of the project, particularly around noise,” Jackson said.
The noise attenuation design will follow the county noise ordinance that a sound source does not exceed 50 decibels between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. and the day / early evening cutoff of 55 decibels.
Most of the noise abatement will be achieved by erecting noise walls, similar to noise walls found along highways bordering residential areas, he said.
Mufflers are also used on the air inlet and outlet areas of the modules, Jackson said. The design of the mitigation is still underway, he said, so that it can be done in the most cost-effective manner.
Monday’s hearing continued from October 18 so Compute North could produce acoustics experts to testify. “We have to obey the law. There is no gray area there; it’s a law enforcement order, ”Jackson said.
Two commissioners expressed doubts during the Oct. 18 hearing that the noise ordinance would do little to force compliance once the equipment is operational. Commissioner Tom Coulson said the sheriff could do little more than issue a citation.
Opponents used audio from a facility operated by another company and complaints about a Compute North facility to substantiate their case. Jackson and Perrill said the equipment Compute North will use in Pitt County will change the way high-speed crypto mining and processing is done.
“Our mission is to be an environmentally conscious and profitable IT company,” said Perrill. The company uses fans to circulate the air to cool the equipment in the modules, not the air conditioning, so most of the energy used goes to operating IT devices instead of air conditioning systems.
“The typical data center can actually use a significant amount of water and chemicals are present in the air conditioning units. None of this is present in our facilities, ”said Jackson.
Despite the high humidity of eastern North Carolina and summer temperatures, air conditioning is not needed, said Kristyan Mjolsnes, vice president of marketing.
Indeed, the modules of Compute North have an air cooling equipment which isolates the heat given off by the processors. Hot air is then blown out of the module.
“Since no active air conditioning is required, power consumption and overall running costs are significantly reduced compared to traditional data centers,” said Mjolsnes. “We wouldn’t consider this location if we didn’t have confidence in the design.
Opponents have argued that the air conditioning used by cryptocurrency miners causes environmental damage. The huge electricity consumption has also raised concerns over the fuel needed to create the energy and potential cost impacts on other Greenville Utilities Commission customers – impacts that GUC officials have dismissed.
GUC’s testimony at the Oct. 18 hearing indicated that the revenue generated by Compute North would help offset other expenses, and the utility could order Compute North to shut down during costly peak demand periods.
The company’s efforts to locate in Belvoir have drawn criticism that it has been indifferent that most blacks and poor Hispanics live in the area.
About 20 residents and their supporters gathered at the Holly Hill Original Free Will Baptist Church on Friday.
“Does this company even know how hard we’ve worked to try to keep this little piece of land we call home,” said Maria Cortes, whose daughter Kyara Cortez has translated her comments. “They only care about their business.”
Cortes said she has lived in Belvoir for 25 years, all of her children were born in the community and went to Belvoir Elementary School and that one day she hopes her grandchildren will attend school.
“We all think about our future, but they just focus on their profits,” Cortes said.
She asked if Compute North had chosen the area because of its large Hispanic population, believing they might have “issues with their papers” and would not protest.
“I’m allowed to defend Belvoir because it’s part of me, it’s part of my family,” she said.
Perrill said he was surprised by the pushback. The company has sites in South Dakota, Nebraska and Texas and all have welcomed the project, he said. He recently met with Texas Governor Greg Abbott who wants more crypto mining operations in his state.
Perrill said it was also surprising to hear community members complaining that the company had not done enough research on people living in the area, but also that the location was chosen because the people who live there are predominantly Hispanic and black.
“We’re completely indifferent to race, demographics of beliefs, all of those types of components,” Perrill said. We are an equal opportunities employer and we believe in diversity.
He also opposes the accusation that the community does not want the project.
The transaction would provide a tax boon of about $ 3 million to the county, create 27 jobs and allow the company to form partnerships with Pitt Community College and other institutions.
She attended the “Better Skills, Better Jobs” career fair at the Greenville Convention Center on Tuesday. Perrill said 47 people have inquired about jobs on the site.
“The level of investment, the type of jobs, the remuneration of the jobs, the tax revenues. I know there were 30 people who repelled some of these gatherings, but there are 180,000 residents in the county, ”Perrill said. “I think there are a lot of ideas about what $ 3 million a year could do in terms of social services and the good of the community in general.”
However, Perrill acknowledged that the company should have been prepared to provide bilingual information to residents.
They made up for the oversight this week with a plan to deliver bilingual flyers to Belvoir Elementary School with information about the project.
Pitt County Schools spokeswoman Jennifer Johnson said parents asked Belvoir School officials many questions about the project and could not answer them. Johnson said she learned on Wednesday that the flyers went to school and would be “available while parents ask questions at the school level.”
Johnson said Pitt County schools were first notified of the project on October 12 when a parent emailed. Superintendent Ethan Lenker then met with executives from Compute North and raised concerns about the noise level, she said.
However, Lenker does not intend to make an official statement on the project, she said.