“Big data” is playing an increasingly big role in the renewable energy industry and the transformation of the nation’s electrical grid
“Big data” is playing an increasingly big role in the renewable energy industry and the transformation of the nation’s electrical grid, and no single entity provides a better tool for such data than the Energy Department’s Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) located on the campus of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Imagined by NREL leaders who foresaw the possibilities for high performance computing (HPC), the ESIF’s HPC data center is fulfilling the goal of handling large and complex datasets that exceed traditional database processes.
“As industry moves forward to integrate all these renewables, big data is a key piece of the puzzle,” ESIF Business Development Manager Martha Symko-Davies said. “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.” That’s why the ESIF’s Peregrine supercomputer, dedicated by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz in September 2013, is so important; it can do more than a quadrillion calculations per second as part of the world’s most energy-efficient HPC data center.
“Peregrine provides much-needed computational capability to model complex systems such as the grid, to allow us to ask ‘what if’ questions, and to optimize how these systems are designed and deployed with much higher confidence in their efficiency and robustness,” NREL Computational Science Center Director Steve Hammond said.
Increasingly, those “what ifs” involve the challenge of delivering distributed energy to the grid when the sun shines and the wind blows, while making it even more reliable than when the grid was a one-way delivery system of fossil-fuel-based energy. “By focusing on the integration and optimization of energy systems across the energy infrastructure, we can better understand and make use of potential co-benefits that increase reliability and performance, reduce cost, and minimize environmental impacts,” NREL Director of Energy Systems Integration (ESI) Ben Kroposki said.