Q: How much power does the production of Bitcoin cost the planet?
A: In my HashFlare Scenario I did some calculation to figure out how much it would cost to mine Bitcoin. I used the example of the fastest commercially available mining machine, the Antminer S9 which consumes 1600W. Right now there are about 12,000 full nodes in the Bitcoin network. So that multiplies out to about 19.2MW for the current usage of the mining network, not counting the cost of electricity of the networking hardware. So add a megawatt or so for that and you have about 20.2MW. This is a lot of energy but not much at all for any global system.
Your average household eats 10kW. And your average Texas wind turbine generates 6MW. So basically you could power the Bitcoin network of miners with four wind turbines.
To give some perspective, in 2014 Google’s data centers used 260MW. One nuclear power plant produces 1GW. All of the data centers on the planet use 1.1 to 1.5% of all global electricity.
So to answer your question, if you took the current Bitcoin network and expanded it tenfold, it still wouldn’t use as much energy as Google used 3 years ago. If you expanded it 40 times, you could handle its energy use with one nuclear power plant. Or if you liked you could use solar. The US currently generates 47GW of solar power. So basically 2% of US solar power could power a Bitcoin network 40 times as large as today’s.