Here’s a guide prepared by Filecoin Green, describing the sustainability of Filecoin as of February 2022. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to Alan Ransil: email@example.com or @alanransil on Filecoin slack.
(1) Filecoin uses about 170 MW of electricity, which is about 0.7% of Bitcoin’s electricity use and about 1.4% of Ethereum’s. (Updated 4/29/2022)
(2) The energy used to run Filecoin is not wasted: it is used to contribute storage capacity to the network.
- Proof of Work (PoW) chains have attracted a lot of criticism because the substantial amount of energy they consume is used only to secure the network.
- Filecoin storage providers (SPs), by contrast, provide a useful service beyond maintenance of the network in the form of data storage.
(3) Storing data on Filecoin currently uses about 173% as much energy as storing in a typical data center (April 2022) and the energy efficiency improves as the network grows.
- Specifically, Filecoin provides about 0.87% of all data center storage capacity across the world and consumes about 0.67% of total data center electricity use. See second sheet here for calculations.
- Filecoin has about 1/12 the storage of AWS as of April 2022: track on storageindex.io
- The energy used to store files is similar to that of a typical datacenter. The energy to seal files (ie. onboarding new storage capacity and preparing to prove that the data is stored over time) is a bit less than the energy used to run typical computing workloads.
- Energy used to store data, which is similar to that used in other data centers, dominates Filecoin energy use today. This component of energy use along with its associated overhead, required to perform functions like supplying power to hard drives, accounts for 97.5 MW out of the network’s total 170.5 MW energy consumption. Comparing these numbers shows that the energy intensity of storing data on Filecoin is about 174% of that needed to store data in a typical data center. As the network has grown, it has become more energy efficient. The storage portion of Filecoin energy use has increased over the past year from 23% to 57%, indicating that the network energy use profile has approached that of typical data centers over time. (Third sheet here for calculations)
- The extra 74% energy use corresponds to the energy required to generate sealing proofs, providing a set of cryptographic guarantees that the data is stored over time.
(4) We are ramping up our ability to help build new solar generation, including a $38M fund to build new solar projects in the US, to produce at least as much renewable energy for the grid as the network consumes.
- Protocol Labs recently invested $35M (over 90% of the fund capital) to fund new solar projects in the US. These projects will produce 50 MW of renewable energy, compared to Filecoin’s estimated consumption in the US of 2.8MW (see Press Release)
- Note: There is some nuance here. The 50 MW is the nameplate capacity - ie output when the sun is shining brightest - and the 2.8 MW is continuous. Average solar production across the day and across seasons gives about 10MW which is still more than 3.5x that consumed by Filecoin. Reach out for more info.
- As another example, the Filecoin Foundation gave a grant to DCENT hosting to install rooftop solar and make generation records publicly auditable.
- This addresses a problem with some sustainability claims: if a network ‘uses renewable energy’ but does not build new capacity, they can end up displacing other users and increasing emissions. Building new capacity is a way to avoid this.
(5) We are connecting Filecoin to renewable energy markets, and aim to source more renewable energy than the network uses by the end of 2022.
- We partnered with Zero Labs to do this through Energy Attribute Credits (EACs or RECs) which give payments directly to renewable energy producers in order to incentivize new projects. More details are here.