The Bismarck City Commission has amended its zoning rules to allow for standalone data centers for cryptocurrency mining and other applications amid growing interest by developers.
The commission voted 4-0 Tuesday to approve the measure, which places conditions on where data centers could go. They could be placed only in heavy industrial zones or light industrial zones, and the latter would require a public hearing.
Data centers would have to be built inside structures that comply with the building and fire codes. They also would have to demonstrate through communication with a local utility that they will have adequate access to electricity to operate.
Data centers typically require a significant amount of power, and they can generate a lot of heat. Fans are often used for cooling, and they can be noisy.
The city already has a noise ordinance in place. A data center developer “would have to do the work up front to make sure they can meet the ordinance,” Senior City Planner Daniel Nairn told the commission.
He said he has heard data center developers are interested in placing facilities in the community for cryptocurrency mining, cloud computing and artificial intelligence applications. No specific plans proposed by any developers were mentioned at Tuesday’s meeting.
Cryptocurrency mining involves facilitating transactions of digital currency, which are recorded in ledgers known as blockchains. Computers lend processing power to validate those transactions, and they are rewarded with more cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin.
Data center developers are eyeing North Dakota in part because of its cold winters, which helps to keep the facilities from becoming too hot. Recent projects have been constructed in Jamestown and Williston.