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NREL, Sandia, and Johnson Controls See Significant Water Savings for HPC Cooling

NREL partnered with Sandia National Laboratories and Johnson Controls to install the company’s BlueStream Hybrid Cooling System (HCS) at the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF), saving hundreds of thousands of gallons of water at the ESIF since August, 2016.

Image of thermosyphon upstream of ESIF's cooling towers.

Photo by Dennis Schroeder

As part of the Bluestream HCS, Johnson Controls modeled the installation of a thermosyphon—an advanced, low pressure drop, dry cooler that uses refrigerant in a passive cycle to dissipate heat—upstream of the ESIF’s evaporative cooling towers. The team found that the system would cut the annual water use for cooling by 56% without any negative impacts on the HPC data center’s efficiency. Such savings, and advanced capabilities of the thermosyphon, will gain increasing prominence as the world moves towards exascale computers that will be 1,000 times the performance capability of today’s supercomputers. The expected high energy consumption of an exascale computer will require both energy-smart and water-smart cooling solutions.