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Burgum touts Applied Blockchain's facility, state's energy policies

Applied Blockchain hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday, May 5, for its hosting facility that is located about 7 miles north of Jamestown near the substation owned by Otter Tail Power Co.

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North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum flips a control switch Thursday, May 5, 2022, at Applied Blockchain Inc.'s hosting facility north of Jamestown.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun
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JAMESTOWN – A celebration of a project like Applied Blockchain Inc.’s state-of-the-art hosting facility does not happen unless there are entrepreneurs and risk takers willing to get the capital together to execute a plan and collaboration among many entities and partners, according to Gov. Doug Burgum.

“You can’t celebrate a project like this that is on the cutting edge of innovation unless you’ve got entrepreneurs, unless you have risk takers, unless you have people that are willing to get out and try to do things with new models in places where people say it will never work,” he said.

Applied Blockchain hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday, May 5, for its hosting facility that is located about 7 miles north of Jamestown near the substation owned by Otter Tail Power Co. The hosting facility is co-located with the substation.

Plans in September called for Applied Blockchain’s hosting facility to provide 100 megawatts of capacity in early 2022. Construction on the hosting facility began in September.

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North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum looks to the mountain-high rack of computers Thursday, May 5, 2022, inside one of the buildings at Applied Blockchain's hosting facility north of Jamestown.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

Applied Blockchain, which is headquartered in Dallas, is a publicly-traded builder and operator of next-generation data centers across North America, which provide substantial compute power to blockchain infrastructure and support Bitcoin mining, according to the company’s website. Applied Blockchain’s hosting facility mines Bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrency assets.

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Wes Cummins, co-founder and CEO of Applied Blockchain, said it is amazing what his team and the contractors have done. He said Applied Blockchain came to the right location.

“We just got really lucky that we made this match,” he said. “We found the right partner (with) Otter Tail.”

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North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum speaks during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Applied Blockchain Data Center north of Jamestown on Thursday, May 5, 2022.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

Irene Gao, head of global business development at Bitmain, said Applied Blockchain’s hosting facility has very high-end mining infrastructure.

“We really cherish this partnership with them (Applied Blockchain),” she said. “We are very happy to see how it runs efficiently.”

The facility includes eight buildings with a total square footage of about 65,000 square feet. Each of the first four buildings is about 33 feet by 280 feet and each of the second set of four buildings is about 33 feet by 205 feet. The eight buildings will host anywhere between 30,000 to 35,000 mining machines.

The facility in Jamestown has 30 full-time employees.

Burgum toured one of the facility’s 33-by-205-foot buildings that had about 4,500 computers used as mining machines stacked on top of each other along a straight line all the way down the center of the building. One side of the building was noticeably cooler than the other side because of the fans pushing the heat from the computers from one side to the other.

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A wall of computers, as seen from the backside, seems to go on endlessly inside one of the buildings at Applied Blockchain's hosting facility north of Jamestown.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

Burgum said the digital economy needs power like electricity to run on whether it is running a server farm that manages transactions online, managing emails or even businesses such as banks or health care providers.

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“You need power and you need data centers to run all that,” he said.

Companies like Applied Blockchain want to be in North Dakota because of its reliable and affordable power supplies, the climate and the state having the right policies, he said.

“North Dakota has a solution for energy policies that no state in the nation has,” he said. “We are the first state in the nation that has primacy away from the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency).”

North Dakota has a combination of cold, dry weather and cheap electricity costs that attract data center operators to the state. Two Montana companies have a $1.9 billion data center planned near Williston, North Dakota, and another company is building one in Grand Forks.

Burgum said another company is thinking about using power from the Garrison Dam as a carbon-free source of power for a data center.

“It is happening here because in North Dakota, unlike the federal government, we believe that innovation is the solution to the problems, not regulation,” he said. “Regulation is backward looking. Regulation adds costs to companies like Applied Blockchain and then they don’t get to do the work that they are doing. But when we lead with innovation we can solve almost any problem.”

Burgum said the state of North Dakota could become a customer of high-performance computing for blockchain. He said the state government has data for every citizen, including licenses, health care and Medicaid.

Cryptocurrency is a digital currency that can be used for payments or held as an investment similar to the stock market. Cryptocurrency is not a government currency and doesn’t have a central bank, interstate rates or a long history of exchange rates against other currencies.

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Cryptocurrencies are stored in virtual wallets such as Klever or Coinbase, multi-cryptocurrency wallets.

Cryptocurrency can be purchased and sold on exchanges, and each cryptocurrency system is separate and not interchangeable other than through these exchanges.

Cryptocurrency transactions are recorded and kept through a ledger called blockchain. Each block is connected to those before and behind it, making it more difficult for hackers to tamper with the blockchain because the block containing the record and all other blocks linked to it would need to be changed to avoid detection.

Masaki Ova joined The Jamestown Sun in August 2021 as a reporter. He grew up on a farm near Pingree, N.D. He majored in communications at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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