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Impacts

Read about the impacts of NREL's innovations in computational science.

Using Parallel Computing to Inform Grid Planning Decisions

2019

Challenge

With a growing amount energy on the grid coming from renewable energy sources, techniques that capture the intermittent nature of renewable energy must be used to inform the planning process. State-of-the-art electric grid capacity expansion models are memory and compute limited, making it harder to fully represent the impact of variable renewable generation and mitigation strategies via storage to enable an understanding of 100% penetration of renewables.

Achievement

Scalable Power System Economic Expansion and Dispatch (SPEED) is a capacity expansion model that takes advantage of the availability of a stochastic optimization framework and a mathematical isomorphic coincidence to unlock the power of HPC to address the above challenges using parallel computing. By considering a suite of operational scenarios within the optimization process, SPEED produces planning decisions informed by spatial and temporal variations in renewable energy resources. To ensure scalability, the model is constructed to leverage the horizontal decomposition technique progressive hedging, which enables the model to be solved via parallel computing.

Impact

Energy planners use capacity expansion models to inform power system infrastructure planning decisions to meet future electrical power demand on the grid economically and reliably. To meet these goals, such optimization models must consider the operational implications of the infrastructure built.

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New Simulation Framework Provides Path to the Modern Grid

2019

Challenge

The future electric grid will have a growing number of distributed energy resources (DERs) that have the potential to impact the reliability and resiliency of power, as well as the durability and longevity of the hardware that makes up the grid. Distributed energy resources (DERs) can impact the grid in varying ways and require careful control to balance the loads.

Achievement

NREL created ACES Cosim—a distributed and parallel agent-based framework for simulating advanced control architectures, associated devices, and simulated reality of interactive DERs using high-performance computing resources.

Impact

ACES Cosim makes a path to the modern grid, with multiple and varied DERs, more efficient and stable. Advanced control of DERs can enable the grid to both support higher penetrations of renewable energy by balancing controllable loads with noncontrollable loads, such as wind and PV generation, and reduce peak demand by shedding noncritical loads.

Data Center Dynamics Eco-Sustainability Award

2018

NREL's high-performance computing data center won the prestigious 2018 Data Center Dynamics Data Center Eco-Sustainability Award, bolstering the lab's status as a world leader in data center efficiency and sustainability. Referred to as the Oscars of the data center industry, the annual DCD Global Awards recognize the industry's top data center projects and people. NREL was honored for its showcase facility for data center sustainability that demonstrates best practices in energy efficiency, waste heat capture, and use of component-level warm-water liquid cooling.

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Visualization at NREL: Toward Exascale Wind Simulation

2018

Challenge

A key challenge to wide-scale deployment of wind energy in the utility grid without subsidies is predicting and minimizing plant-level energy losses—which are currently estimated to be 20% in relatively flat areas, and much higher in regions of complex terrain. Current HPC simulation tools and methods for modeling wind plant performance fall far short due to insufficient model fidelity and inadequate treatment of key phenomena, combined with a lack of computational power necessary to address the wide range of relevant length scales associated with wind plants.

Achievement

In the Exascale Predictive Wind Plant Flow Physics Modeling project, also referred to as ExaWind, NREL is leading the development of an exascale modeling and simulation capability (coupled fluid and structural mechanics) to understand the fundamental multiphysics, multiscale flow phenomena in large wind plants, including complex terrain. NREL and partners have created a new blade-resolved model of a large modern wind turbine, enabling scientists and engineers to begin understanding the complex flow physics in multi-turbine wind farms that will take advantage of future exascale modeling and simulation capability.

Impact

ExaWind will result in advancements in the development of a next-generation wind farm simulation capability and the understanding of how the capability can answer important science questions challenging the wind energy community. It will also ensure new wind farm simulation code scales well on today’s petascale systems and is well positioned to utilize first-generation U.S. exascale systems.

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Award-Winning Team Revolutionizes Data Center Water Savings with Thermosyphon System

2018

Challenge

High-performance computing systems like Eagle produce a lot of heat. NREL’s HPC data center cooling system was designed to be super effective in managing that heat—using evaporative towers that are more efficient and less expensive than energy-demanding chillers. However, the towers consumed approximately 2.5 million gallons of water annually to support cooling of the IT load—approaching an hourly average of 1 megawatt. NREL recognized the need to make the data center not just energy efficient, but water efficient, too. 

Achievement

NREL’s David Sickinger, Roy Fraley, and Kevin Regimbal, along with partners from Johnson Controls and Sandia National Laboratories, installed the thermosyphon hybrid cooling system on the roof of the Energy Systems Integration Facility. In combination with the existing evaporative towers, this advanced dry cooler that uses refrigerant in a passive cycle to dissipate heat—called a thermosyphon—forms an extremely water- and cost-efficient hybrid cooling system.

Impact

The system saved 1.16 million gallons of water in its first year of operation, cutting the data center’s onsite water usage in half while continuing to operate at optimal energy efficiency. The NREL team received 2018 U.S. Department of Energy Federal Energy and Water Management Awards for this outstanding achievement in energy and water efficiency and conservation.

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