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Vilonia Denies Crypto Mining Plan, May Be Open to Quieter Options

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The Vilonia City Planning Commission rejected an effort to put a cryptocurrency mining operation in the Faulkner County city Thursday night, agreeing with citizens who feared that a noisy fan-cooled operation would disturb their peace and topple their property values.

The panel denied permission for ViloAR LLC to build a bitcoin mining operation in the city limits. ViloAr LLC is associated with another LLC that built a similar crypto mine near Greenbrier, drawing fierce opposition from neighbors and others.

Faulkner County Administrator Randy Higgins told Arkansas Business that he had gauged the noise from the fan-cooled operation in the Bono community at 65 to 70 decibels, loud enough to be heard inside a home less than a quarter-mile away.

That operation is owned by Newrays LLC, but the CEO, Ethan Wang, was also the point man for the Vilonia project.

While Vilonia city planners revoked ViloAR LLC’s permit permanently, they signaled they are open to considering other, quieter operations in the future.

Cameron Baker, owner of Cryptic Farms of Malvern, which has several cryptocurrency mines around the state, spoke at the commission meeting in favor of an advanced technology to cool the equipment that turns computing power and bulk electricity into bitcoins by completing complex mathematical calculations.

Baker, who is from Texas, was also speaking on behalf of the Arkansas Blockchain Council, a relatively new industry group that hopes to help cities vet potential cryptocurrency operations. Tom Harford, founder of the Blockchain Council, said Baker’s message was not about Cryptic Farms, which has locations in Malvern, Mountain Pine and Russellville.

“He was there on behalf of the council,” Harford told Arkansas Business on Friday. “His message was to provide accurate info and not to advocate for any particular mining company.”

“We’re just trying to open the state up so that these opportunities can happen,” Baker told the Planning Commission, according to a report by Arkansas Business news partner KTHV. “Whether or not that’s a good fit for you all and your town, that’s your decision to make.”

But he promoted an alternative to the noisy fans used to cool the hundreds or thousands of computer servers at the crypto mining centers: crypto immersion cooling.

“Essentially, the entire machine is dumped underneath non-electric fluid,” Baker said. “So there’s no fan spinning. So there’s literally no sound. So when I say I could put one of these right next to your bed, you’d never even know it as you’re sleeping at night.”

One member of the Blockchain Council, Immersion BTC of Jonesboro, specializes in the technology.

Vilonia’s city council enacted a noise ordinance this year that will require any crypto mine in town to keep noise below 60 decibels.

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