Protesters push against Compute North in Greenville

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – For the second time in a week, protesters gathered outside the Greenville City Hall on Thursday calling for city officials to “say no to crypto.”

The protests continued as the City Council was supposed to discuss Compute North in Thursday’s meeting that was canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.

“We’ve seen a huge surge in COVID-19 cases and out of an … overabundance of caution, we want to make sure that we didn’t put anybody at risk and that we wanted to be a safe meeting and be able to prevent any other future delays,” Greenville Mayor P.J. Connelly said.

One of the agenda items included Compute North, a company based in Minnesota looking to expand its operations to North Carolina, including Greenville. The company’s work involves cryptocurrency and owns and operates data processing centers in Texas, South Dakota and Nebraska, according to its website.

The company wants to open a data center facility in the eastern part of the state, according to the Greenville ENC Alliance, who requested a text amendment to allow for the opportunity.

The City of Greenville’s Planning and Zoning Commission approved the text amendment request in December.

“The approval from the Planning and Zoning Commission amends Title 9, Chapter 4 of the City Code to establish “modular data processing facility” and “data processing center” as two separate uses, associated standards and zoning districts,” Greenville ENC Alliance said.

The City Council will meet on Jan. 24 via Zoom to vote.

Some Pitt County residents were upset in October when the company was looking at the Belvoir area, saying it would bring noise but after plans to build there were scrapped, protesters added Compute North hasn’t been transparent.

Marginalized community fears impact of proposed crypto mining facility

“The thing that Compute North does not want to talk about is their power use and that’s my concern,” Kip Sloan said. “The electrical use is still there. There’s no way this is not a waste of electricity.”

Chad Carwein, sustainability manager for ECU, echoed consumption concerns.

“We’re still largely dependent on fossil fuels that cause polluting greenhouse gas emissions, and my understanding is that when this company fires up its servers on day one, they will instantly become the largest consumer of energy of GUC by a factor of 10,” Carwein said. “That’s bigger than ECU, that’s bigger than Vidant, that’s bigger than any other industry in this community.”

The Greenville ENC Alliance said if the amendment is approved later this month, Compute North would look at developing its first data center infrastructure project on the east coast in Greenville. They said there are no facilities owned by Compute North in Greenville at this time.

“They’ll be bringing 15-20 jobs if we’re able to do this in this first data center,” board chairman Tom Kulikowski said. “The economic impact for the area would be the addition of another 30+ jobs, so the total economic impact is an excess of 5 million dollars annually.”

Compute North is one of ten public hearings the City Council had on the agenda for Thursday but the City Council will see all of those in two weeks, according to Connelly.

“We’re listening to every side of the story,” Connelly said. “I think as elected officials it’s important that you listen to everyone’s perspective. Those that are out there protesting today are also our constituents, and it’s very important to listen to their words and be able to understand what their, what issues are rising and their hesitation for towards us moving forward with potentially making a change.”

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