Summit supercomputer to advance research on wind power for renewable energy

With the help of the US Department of Energy-housed Summit supercomputer, GE Research is hoping to improve efficiencies in offshore wind energy production.

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Scientists from GE are looking into the potential of offshore wind power to support renewable energy, using one of the world's fastest supercomputers to help it progress research.

The researchers have been granted access to the IBM Summit supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee through the US Department of Energy's (DOE) Advanced Scientific Computing Research Leadership Computing Challenge (ALCC) program.

The team plans on using supercomputer-driven simulations to conduct what project lead GE Research aerodynamics engineer Jing Li said would otherwise be infeasible research that will lead to improved efficiencies in offshore wind energy production.

"The Summit supercomputer will allow our GE team to run computations that would be otherwise impossible," Li said.

"This research could dramatically accelerate offshore wind power as the future of clean energy and our path to a more sustainable, safe environment."

GE said the main focus of the project will be to study coastal low-level jets, which it said produce a distinct wind velocity profile of potential importance to the design and operation of future wind turbines.

Using Summit, the GE team will run simulations to study and inform new ways of controlling and operating offshore turbines to best optimise wind production.

"We're now able to study wind patterns that span hundreds of meters in height across tens of kilometres of territory down to the resolution of airflow over individual turbine blades," Li added. "You simply couldn't gather and run experiments on this volume and complexity of data without a supercomputer. These simulations allow us to characterise and understand poorly understood phenomena like coastal low-level jets in ways previously not possible." 

GE said the researchers will work closely with teams at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and ORNL to advance the ExaWind platform, which focuses on the development of computer software to simulate different wind farm and atmospheric flow physics.

The simulations, GE said, will allow the researchers to better understand wind dynamics and their impact on wind farms.

ExaWind is one of the applications of the DOE's Exascale Computing Project (ECP).

According to the director of DOE's Exascale Computing Project (ECP), Doug Kothe, the goal is to establish a virtual wind plant test bed that aids and accelerates the design and control of wind farms to inform the researcher's ability to predict the response of the farms to a given atmospheric condition.

"ExaWind's development efforts are building progressively from predictive petascale simulations of a single turbine to a multi-turbine array of turbines in complex terrain," Kothe added.

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