NREL ‘Eagle’ Supercomputer to Advance Energy Tech R&D

By Tiffany Trader

August 14, 2018

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has contracted with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) for a new 8-petaflops (peak) supercomputer that will be used to advance early-stage R&D on energy technologies spanning multiple DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) programs.

Artist conceptual rendering from Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Image courtesy of NREL.

The new system, Eagle, is on its way to NREL’s Energy System Integration Facility (ESIF) datacenter in Golden, Colorado, this summer, where it will provide 3.5 times the peak performance of Peregrine, NREL’s existing flagship machine, a 2.26-petaflops HP Apollo 8000 system, installed in 2013. Like Peregrine, which it will presumably replace, Eagle will have the designation of world’s largest high-performance computing system dedicated to renewable energy and energy efficiency research. The new system is expected to start full production use beginning in January 2019.

NREL’s liquid-cooled Peregrine HP computer turns five this year. A mix of Ivy Bridge, Sandy Bridge and Haswell cores provide about 1.68 peak petaflops, with Intel Xeon Phi coprocessors supplying an additional 582 peak teraflops.

Based on the HPE SGI 8600 platform, Eagle comprises 2,114 Intel dual-socket Skylake nodes, for a total 76,104 cores and 296 terabytes (TB) of total memory. The system is interconnected with Mellanox EDR InfiniBand fabric and includes 14 petabytes of high-speed data storage. HPE is also supplying a warm liquid cooling system, capable of capturing 97 percent of waste heat that can be put to use in surrounding office space and labs.

On hand for the announcement, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and Senator Cory Gardner toured the NREL campus and spoke at an employee all-hands meeting.

“NREL’s new high performance computing system pushes the frontiers of science and innovation,” said Secretary Perry in a statement. “Eagle’s advanced capabilities will enable researchers and industry to solve our nation’s most pressing energy challenges and help ensure our global leadership in supercomputing for years to come.”

The additional compute power will be applied to accelerating energy research in a number of fields to advance EERE programs. Focus areas identified by the partners include vehicle technology, wind power, and data sciences. Additional details below:

Vehicle Technologies – Early-stage, high-risk research to develop new innovations in electrification, including advanced battery technologies; advanced combustion engines and fuels, including co-optimized systems; advanced materials for lighter-weight vehicle structures and better powertrains; and energy efficient mobility technologies and systems, including connected and automated vehicles as well as innovations in connected infrastructure for significant systems-level energy efficiency improvement.

Wind Energy – R&D to analyze wind technology subsystem challenges; fundamental systems-level interactions influenced by atmospheric conditions, variable terrain, and machine-to-machine wake interactions; and long-term issues related to reliably integrating increasing amounts of wind power on the electric grid.

Advanced Analytics and Data Sciences – R&D to develop novel methods, data analytics, tools, and approaches that can be applied to multiple temporal and spatial scales (e.g., small, distributed systems to large-scale, bulk systems), domains (e.g., electricity, thermal energy, fuels, water, waste, communications), or economic sectors, and used to effectively communicate and inform energy decisions.

The dollar value of the NREL contract was not disclosed, but in February HPE revealed it would supply the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) with seven HPE SGI 8600 systems as part of a $57 million award. HPE has also been tapped to provide Sandia National Laboratories and the DOE the world’s largest Arm supercomputer with a planned peak capacity of 2.3 petaflops.

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