In the Eastern Townships, musician and entrepreneur Pirre-Philippe Cote had a vision of turning an old church into a multimedia studio for local artists. The only problem? The freezing cold. The solution? Bitcoin.
Cote, who goes by the stage name Pilou, discovered the building in St-Adrien had poor insulation and used an oil-burning furnace. Keeping it heated through the winter would cost around $60,000 per year and have a detrimental effect on the environment.
“We wanted to change that, definitely,” he said. “We wanted to go to an electric system to heat up the church and at that time, that’s when I met Pat. He told me about his servers.”
Pat is Patrick Lussier, an expert in cryptocurrency. Lussier is among the many people around the world who uses computer servers to run complex algorithms in a process known as mining Bitcoin.
“Bitcoin is kind of a network, where computers verify the transactions between the members,” he explained.
For doing that work, people like Lussier are paid with newly created or “mined” Bitcoin. But running the servers requires a lot of electricity and generates enormous amounts of heat: Lussier was forced to keep his windows open in winter to keep his servers cool.
“We looked at each other and we had the same idea at the same time,” said Cote. “We were like, ‘Oh my God, let’s put the servers in the church and then we can heat up the church and won’t have to cool down the servers.”
Now, 75 servers call the church basement home, set up in a contraption that sucks the heat out with fans, pumps it through air ducts through the floor and into the church. The pair have dubbed their synergistic enterprise “Project BTU.”
The generated Bitcoin also covers the cost of the electricity required to run the rig.
Cote said the same concept can be applied to any kind of data processing.
“What we want to do with Project BTU is diverge from cryptocurrencies and go into data centres. We think of (artificial intelligence) 3D rendering, there’s a lot of other uses for data and a lot of heat to harvest from data centres,” said Cote.