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Bitcoin 'power to data' project unveiled at idle North Bay power plant

Construction to be complete by December; company expects to hire 30 employees to start
20211025 bitcoin power plant north bay
City officials, along with Validus Power and Hut 8 officials turn shovels on the new power to data facility. (Photo by Chris Dawson/BayToday)

The North Bay Power Plant on Highway 11 North, which was mothballed in 2017, will be back in operation, powering up a unique bitcoin mining data centre to be built on the site.

Validus Power Corp, which purchased the plant, is working alongside Hut 8 to create and power up the new facility which had its groundbreaking on Oct. 25.

"We have had these mothballed facilities, which are incredibly well constructed, that have been sitting closed. What a better opportunity to start them back up and employ the people that used to be here – no one knows how to run it better than them. We have brought most of them all back and the better question is why not do it," said Todd Shortt, president of Validus Power.

Shortt said this is the first of many power to data sites that Validus plans to develop over the next two years.

Jaime Leverton, CEO of Hut 8 Mining is collaborating with Validus to utilize their power which will be a blend of byproduct steam, hydrogen and natural gas along with a secondary geothermal system that ties in the data centre facility.

"We have a number of members of our management coming to North Bay next week to start interviewing; obviously, we need the rest of the crew here with the site still under construction. We have a ton of equipment already being delivered to the site, and more will be coming on a regular basis as we get things up and running, but the next step is to find local talent," said Leverton.

Hut 8 is one of North America's largest innovation-focused digital asset miners, which originally started in 2018 in Alberta. 

Leverton said they will be looking to hire at least 30 employees to start as they hope to have the construction complete by the middle of December. She hopes the new development will bring even more jobs to the area.

"Any time you get innovation and new tech into a new city it brings energy and it attracts other developments so I think it is a great opportunity for North Bay to set up and really expand on its vision of a technology hub being located here," she said. 

She said those 30 high-skilled jobs will be for positions such as engineers, facility operators, power plant technicians, and data centre technicians. 

Mayor Al McDonald believes this redevelopment will be a boost to the economy. 

"When we talk about growing our city, we have to convey that development and investment are welcome. These individuals have to have confidence that they are making these massive investments in our city, and that they will get a return on them. Today's announcement shows there is confidence in North Bay," said McDonald.

Shortt adds that Validus is planning to invest over $100 million over the next two years to support this effort and will be opening three power-to-data sites in northern Ontario – including one in Kapuskasing – in the coming months. 

Shortt and Leverton hope this positions northern Ontario as an up and coming technological innovation hub.

– BayToday