Modernizing the Energy Grid with HPC

By Tiffany Trader

July 8, 2014

HPC and its twin big data are playing an increasing role in transforming the energy industry and the nation’s electrical grid and nowhere is this more apparent than at the Energy Department’s Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF). Located on the campus of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado, the ESIF’s HPC datacenter is sorting through large and complex datasets to facilitate the development of clean energy technologies and grid integration.

“As industry moves forward to integrate all these renewables, big data is a key piece of the puzzle,” says ESIF Business Development Manager Martha Symko-Davies in a recent feature piece on the NREL website. “The links between modeling and simulation, hardware, and good, bad, and aggregated data—all parts of the whole puzzle—are captured at the ESIF through big data.”

The ESIF’s Peregrine supercomputer is key to making sense of all this data. The warm-water, liquid-cooled supercomputer was designed in collaboration with HP and Intel to support the large-scale modeling and simulation of material properties, processes and fully integrated systems. Dedicated by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz in September 2013, Peregrine is capable of more than a quadrillion calculations per second.

“Peregrine provides much-needed computational capability to model complex systems such as the grid, to allow us to ask ‘what if’ questions, and to optimize how these systems are designed and deployed with much higher confidence in their efficiency and robustness,” adds NREL Computational Science Center Director Steve Hammond.

The goal of this ambitious undertaking is to modernize the nation’s electrical grid – boosting reliability and performance, while minimizing cost and environmental impacts.

At ESIF’s dedication, Moniz said it would be instrumental to helping the DOE “elevate energy systems integration” in order to “transform the energy system to the one we need in 2030.”

According to the article, ESIF is getting ready to begin commercial-scale research and development and testing. A key part of this goal has been setting up a virtual link from the ESIF to NREL’s National Wind Technology Center and other national labs and universities to facilitate the sharing of data, resources and knowledge. This emphasis on teamwork and collaboration optimizes data collection efforts and helps avoid redundancy.

At ESIF, collaboration and commercialization efforts go hand-in-hand. “When industry and NREL work closely together, great things happen,” states NREL Associate Laboratory Director for Innovation, Partnering, and Outreach Bill Farris. “The abilities of the ESIF allow manufacturers, industry, and the clean energy sector to bring new ideas to market.”

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