Greenidge Generation’s earnings surged last year thanks to its impeccably-timed move into Bitcoin mining, and prospects for even greater cryptocurrency profits look bright — at least for the near term.
Company owners are seizing the moment to harness market enthusiasm by offering a plan to sell stock to the public while aggressively expanding its red-hot business.
They’ve told potential investors they intend to quadruple Bitcoin mining in Dresden by the end of next year — requiring energy consumption for mining to grow from the current 19 megawatts to 85 megawatts — as part of a grand plan to boost mining 25-fold by 2025 at various sites to be names later.
In service to that dizzying goal, Greenidge officials are waging a public relations battle locally to secure the necessary permits. They have stressed the benefits that can flow to the Yates County community in jobs and taxes, while downplaying environmental consequences.
That raises questions about how much of the expected Bitcoin windfall will be shared with the local community or used to address perceived gaps in how it treats Seneca Lake water and wine country air.
While company officials claim they are under no legal obligation to spread the wealth, there are early signs benefits may trickle down to Yates County, the Town of Torrey and the Penn Yan School District — if not to those seeking environmental fixes.
Greenidge was required to pay the county, town and schools only $145,703 last year under a conservative 2016 PILOT (payment-in-lieu of taxes) agreement with the Yates County Industrial Development Agency that didn’t anticipate the Bitcoin earnings bonanza.
But company officials said they kicked in an additional $129,496 this winter to reflect stellar 2020 performance.
Even those combined payments of $275,199 were far less than the $995,269 paid to the same local entities in 2011 by the plant’s previous owner, AES Greenidge. But it’s a big improvement over the 2012-2016 years when the coal-burning plant sat idle after AES Greenidge filed for bankruptcy.
After being sold for scrap in 2012, the plant was resold in 2014 to Atlas Holdings, a Connecticut private equity group. It has been on a steeply rising trajectory ever since.
Between 2014 and 2016, Atlas took pains to minimize both its local tax burden and its environmental expense. The company and its executives contributed well over $100,000 to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s reelection campaign and paid a lobbying firm more than $500,000 to help secure lenient state environmental permits and favorable local PILOTs.
In late 2015 the Cuomo Administration awarded Atlas a $2 million state grant that was sufficient to cover not only the company’s Cuomo campaign contributions and the lobbying fees, but also a decade of required local PILOT…