platinum certification—making it the only high-performing computing data
center in the world with that sustainability rating. “Those goals combined made
the project pretty complex.”
Everything from skylights in the laboratories to white ceilings and low cubicle
walls helps the facility—part of the DoE’s NREL—use natural light to minimize
energy consumption. While the average commercial building uses about 90,000
BTU per square foot per year, ESIF clocks in at less than 25,000 BTU.
The project team’s eye toward energy extended to the facility’s supercomputer, Peregrine, which is capable of crunching mind-boggling amounts of
energy data into actionable insights and analysis.
“The researchers are using the supercomputer as a modeling tool,” says Mr.
Graham. “They can simulate the grid on it, and they can actually do modeling
that saves them years of R&D.”
NREL scientists studying how the wake from one wind turbine affects another
wind turbine downstream can now use the supercomputer to generate images in a
visualization laboratory. Rather than raw data, the supercomputer shows the wake
as colorful streams coming off the wind turbine propellers. It looks like the tail of
a comet or a shooting star. Then the scientists can even don 3-D glasses, enabling
them to walk through the image, immersing themselves in the rendered data.
To ensure Peregrine was as powerful as possible, the project team delayed
procurement until the last possible moment, hoping to capture the latest processor technology available.
“What you can plan on up front in the industry isn’t the same as what you
can get when the time comes to install equipment, so we wanted to account for
that,” Dr. Detamore says.
The project proposal initially required 200 teraFLOPS of computing capability. By using a phased procurement plan, the team managed to quintuple the
processing power to 1 petaFLOPS, which means the computer can perform
more than 1 quadrillion calculations per second. And it uses less than one megawatt of power continuously.
NREL senior scientist Kenny Gruchalla
examines the velocity field from a
wind turbine simulation at the Insight
Collaboration Laboratory at ESIF in
Peregrine, the supercomputer at ESIF in