The combination of rising energy prices and falling cryptocurrency prices has made it much more difficult to turn a profit mining Bitcoin (BTC).
Bitcoin prices have been volatile this year. While the original crypto soared to $69,000 in November 2021, it sank to as low as $17,708 in June before rebounding to its current trading level at around $23,000.
Profitability for Bitcoin mining sank to multi-month lows in July, according to data by crypto tracking website Bitinfocharts.com.
What Is Bitcoin Mining?
Bitcoin mining is the process by which Bitcoin is verified and recorded on the blockchain.
Bitcoin miners use powerful computers to complete complex mathematical functions called hashes. The processing power required to mine Bitcoin is extremely high, but Bitcoin miners receive 6.25 BTC in reward, roughly $143,000, for mining each block of transactions in the blockchain.
While anyone can technically mine Bitcoins, most Bitcoin mining is done by companies running large-scale commercial mining setups featuring data centers with specialized servers.
These mining farms are often built near affordable energy sources, such as hydroelectric dams, oil and gas wells or solar energy farms.
How Has Bitcoin Mining Profitability Changed Over Time?
Aspects of the Bitcoin mining business are similar to mining physical assets, like gold or silver. The higher asset prices rise, the more profitable mining becomes and the less efficient miners need to be to make money.
However, Chris Kline, co-founder and chief operating officer of Bitcoin IRA, notes that there are several factors to consider when it comes to Bitcoin mining profitability other than the price of Bitcoin itself.
“Alongside price, crypto mining profitability can be determined by a few different factors, notably rising electricity rates and increasing gas and energy prices, coupled with rising transactional prices,” Kline says.
Bitcoin mining requires nearly 139 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity per year, which is more than the annual energy consumption of Norway.
The more expensive that electricity gets, the fewer profits miners can make. Rising oil and natural gas prices have increased U.S. electricity prices by about 12.6% on average in the past year.
Despite the pressures of rising electricity prices and falling Bitcoin prices, there are at least a couple of trends that are moving in the right direction for Bitcoin miners.
Bitcoin Mining Equipment
The price of Bitcoin mining equipment is a major factor in profitability. The prices of top and mid-tier application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) miners, the specialized chips made for Bitcoin mining, are reportedly down roughly 70% from their all-time highs in 2022 when units sold for around $10,000 to $18,000.
“GPU costs are rapidly decreasing, which translates to higher mining profitability,” Kline says.
In addition, Andy Long, CEO of cryptocurrency miner White Rock Management, says lower Bitcoin prices result in less efficient miners shutting down operations as they start to lose money. On the flip side, fewer total miners mean more efficient miners begin to earn more Bitcoin as prices fall.
“The genius of the system is the difficulty mechanism automatically keeps block production running, with a new block every 10 minutes on average. So at lower prices, some miners will throw in the towel. But there will always be efficient miners with high-performance equipment that will keep securing the network,” Long says.
Bitcoin Network Hashrate
To mine Bitcoins, all the computers connected to the Bitcoin network are making millions of attempts at completing hashes every second of the day. A hashrate measures how many calculations can be performed per second, and this measurement can be by the billions, trillions, quadrillions, and even quintillions. One terahash, for instance, equals 1 trillion hashes per second.
The profitability of Bitcoin mining is quantified as hashprice, measured in dollars per terahash (TH) per second in the last 24 hours. If you string that all together, the acronym for that measurement is USD/TH per second per day.
The calculation of hashprice includes variables such as network difficulty, Bitcoin’s price, Bitcoin’s block subsidy and transaction fees.
Bitcoin’s profitability peaked at around $3.39/TH per second during the crypto market boom in December 2017.
Bitcoin’s hashprice was as high as $0.412/TH per second in late October 2021. Today, it’s down to just $0.104/TH per second.
While the profitability of Bitcoin mining has dropped, total mining activity remains near all-time highs.
The network’s hashrate is currently around 202.3 million TH per second, up from 72.9 million TH per second a year ago and 6.5 million TH per second in early August 2017.
Bitcoin Mining Companies
As the profitability of Bitcoin mining dropped in 2022, top crypto miners’ share prices have also fallen. Fortunately, Canaccord Genuity analyst Joseph Vafi says the most efficient Bitcoin miners are still turning a significant profit on their rigs.
“Most of the leading mining companies in our coverage have a relatively new fleet which can remain profitable at a much lower BTC price than current levels, as evidenced by a breakeven price of $7,000 to $9,000 for a majority of them for incremental hashrate output,” Vafi says.
Vafi’s top Bitcoin mining stock picks include Argo Blockchain (ARBK), HIVE Blockchain Technologies (HIVE), Hut 8 Mining (HUT) and Iris Energy (IREN).
“Overall, despite the sharp pullback in BTC spot price, the mining model remains highly profitable for most of the leading miners,” Vafi says.
Canaccord Genuity has “outperform” ratings for each of the four mining stocks mentioned.
Other large public Bitcoin miners include Marathon Digital (MARA), Riot Blockchain (RIOT), Canaan (CAN), and Bitfarms (BITF).
There are several variables involved in calculating Bitcoin mining profitability.
While many of those variables have taken a turn for the worse during 2022’s crypto winter, the downturn has helped purge the market of the least efficient miners and allowed the leaders of the pack to increase their market share in anticipation of what they hope will be the next cyclical upswing in crypto prices and crypto mining profitability in coming years.
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