Supercomputer to shape US grid

The US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)  has been drafted in by the Department of Energy (DoE) for its supercomputing power, as part of project tackling the role of "big data" in the transformation of the country's grid.

The Peregrine supercomputer, which can perform a quadrillion calculations per second in modelling complex systems, is being looked to to optimise design and build-out of electricity networks, to absorb the rising levels of renewables-based power.

"As industry moves forward to integrate all these renewables, big data is a key piece of the puzzle," states Martha Symko-Davies, business development manager at NREL's Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF), which houses the supercomputer.

"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."

NREL computational science centre director Steve Hammond adds: "[The supercomputer] allows us to ask 'what if' questions, and to optimise how these systems are designed and deployed with much higher confidence in their efficiency and robustness."

In January, NREL set up a "virtual link" between ESIF, NREL's National Wind Technology Centre and a number of national labs and universities as the first hub in a network designed so that the organisations can "tap into other's resources and knowledge and not try to recreate it".

The Peregrine supercomputer, an innovative warm-water, liquid-cooled design hatched with Hewlett-Packard and Intel, was opened last September by US energy secretary Ernest Moniz, who said the ESIF would "be a major focus of DoE to help us transform the energy system to the one we need in 2030".