Blockchain Firm Caught in Territory Dispute in Western Sahara

November 9, 2018 / by Angel Reyes

Concerns over energy consumption for maintaining large blockchain networks like Bitcoin has long been a concern for miners and consumers alike. Fortunately, many blockchain projects go hand-in-hand with renewable energy initiatives.

Bitcoin production consumes 73 terawatt hours (TWh) per year compared to gold’s 150 TWh consumption according to Digiconomist. Although the value of Bitcoin produced pales in comparison, solutions are actively being sought out to solve the energy consumption issue.

To escape the legacy electric grid system, Soluna Technologies has embarked upon building a wind-powered blockchain computing company in Dakhla, Western Sahara. Aiming at a total capacity of 900 megawatts by completion, the facility would span over 37,000 acres and cost between $1.4 and $2.5 billion USD.

The site began construction in 2009, funded by AM Wind, a Moroccan renewable energy company which has since been acquired by Soluna Technologies with the backing of New York-based equity firm, Brookstone Brothers.

Territory Conflict

A blockade for this particular project comes from the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), whose have been demanding recognition of independence in the Moroccan region. They argue that they have rights to the land in question and the licence issued was given without authority.

Morocco’s claim to the Western Sahara region is not recognized by the United Nations or European Court of Justice. This disputed region “is situated on land under foreign military occupation. Any agreement that Brookstone has signed with the Moroccan government for that particular area is thus null and void,” said Sara Eyckmans, Western Sahara Resource Watch’s (WSRW) coordinator of international organizations.

Soluna attempts to rectify the dispute by promising to allocate 1% of revenue to local community schools. Additionally, they argue that they are bringing jobs and education to the area, which would benefit communities, regardless of country affiliation.

This does not, however, give them claim to disputed lands, especially with reports of human rights violations across the region. The firm has been urged to reconsider the project many times due to the disputed area. The future remains uncertain for the project, but that does not hinder the initiative to bring renewable energies to the industry.