Local police from Tianjin recently found a Bitcoin mining den where a massive amount of electrical power was being siphoned off of the energy grid. They seized 600 mining rigs, which we are presuming are ASICs because a Xinhua newspaper reported that they were worth “hundreds of thousands of yuan.” Given that an average ASIC consumes between 800 and 1000 watts, it’s safe to assume that the stress endured by the power grid was between 480 and 600 megawatts.
In some smaller communities in China, a load of this size might be enough stress to cause massive blackouts in pockets around cities, specifically in the neighborhood surrounding the point of consumption. Tianjin is not a small city by any means; it boasts a population of 15.5 million people. But considering that the city only started upgrading its grid to a UHV format in 2014, we can’t expect the entire city to be equipped for this kind of consumption.
The police were told to investigate the area when the power company noticed an abrupt surge in power losses across one particular line, spiking at 28% higher than its peak capacity. After searching the area, they found one particular place where the junction box housing the suspect’s meter was short-circuited to avoid the enormous utilities costs that come with running so many rigs simultaneously.
Five individuals are currently under investigation for the siphoning incident, and another one is in custody. Further digging might uncover how this team acquired so many ASICs in the first place, a question that might legitimately tie them to a case in another continent. Note that 600 rigs were confiscated.
At the beginning of last month, Iceland suffered one of the greatest heists in its history when a few individuals broke into a mining center and stole 600 rigs. Even after the mastermind behind the heist was placed into custody (for a second time after escaping prison to fly to Sweden), authorities still couldn’t find any trace of the hundreds of ASICs that went missing.