Wind research demands supercomputer processing power

Friday 20 Apr 18
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by Tom Nervil

Contact

Peter Hauge Madsen
Head of Department
DTU Wind Energy
+45 46 77 50 01

Facts

DTU Wind Energy is investing DKK 10 million in a new HPC system, while DTU IT Service (AIT) is investing DKK 7-7.5 million, and DTU Mechanical Engineering is investing DKK 2.5-3 million. 

Developments show that the future lies in optimizing the very last decimal places, and that far more complex calculations are required to achieve reliable knowledge about wind conditions. DTU Wind Energy is therefore bringing in a new supercomputer to ensure its research remains at the cutting edge.

A high-performance DKK 20 million computer will soon become part of tomorrow’s infrastructure at DTU Wind Energy. And high performance is exactly what is required when researchers in the coming years need to make faster and more complex calculations of the wind’s movements than those being carried out today.

“Denmark and DTU lead the way within wind energy because we’ve always been involved in driving developments,” says Head of Department Peter Hauge Madsen. “And we intend to continue in this role,” he says resolutely. 

Increased competition
In recent years, China has positioned itself at the top of the list of countries with supercomputers, just as China also generates most wind energy.

“There probably isn’t a direct connection, but it’s clear that investing in research and infrastructure is paramount if we want to stay on top. The new supercomputer is part of this strategy,” says Peter Hauge Madsen.

DTU already has a supercomputer for wind calculations. It has stood at Risø since 2014, and back then was no. 80 on the GREEN TOP 500 list of the world’s biggest ‘green’ computers (theoretical performance vs effective power consumption). But as we all know, developments in computer technology are moving forward at a staggering pace, and the cost of powering the current computer accounts for a significant chunk of its total costs. In the intervening period, high-performance computer suppliers have been able to significantly increase the performance per watt, so there are good reasons for replacing the existing machine.

More calculation power needed
DTU researchers are already engaged in projects which are so computer-demanding that they cannot be completed on the current supercomputer.

“In one project, which involves mapping wind conditions in Europe, we want to link mesoscale and microscale models. The calculation capacity here is of the order of 100 million CPU hours. However, this is twice as much as the annual capacity of our present system,” says Dalibor Cavar, Senior Researcher at DTU Wind Energy.

The present high-performance supercomputer system is made up of 320 machines with 20 cores in each, i.e. 6,400 CPU core processors linked together in a single network.  It is unclear how big the new supercomputer will be, as a so-called beauty contest is taking place, with DTU asking suppliers how much processing capacity they can deliver for a total tender amount of approx. DKK 20 million. A number of bids have already been received, and negotiations have started with potential suppliers.