GE wind
Image credit: Flickr

GE Research scientists, led by aerodynamics engineer Jing Li, have been granted access to the Summit supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee, to advance offshore wind energy technology by conducting “otherwise unfeasible” research at the facility.

Wind is expected to play an important part of the country’s projected wind energy sector, expected to provide 20% of all US energy needs within the next decade, according to a press release from the company.

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The special access, granted through the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) competitive ALCC (Advanced Scientific Computing Research Leadership Computing Challenge) programme with the goal of using supercomputer-driven simulations to conduct otherwise infeasible research that will lead to improved efficiencies in offshore wind energy production.

Caption: A video of a supercomputer simulation, showing instantaneous wind speed in a cross section involving three wind turbines operating in a line. These are the types of simulations that GE scientists will create to study the low-level coastal jets as part of the DOE’s ALCC program. Click here to see the full video clip.

Hosted by the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Summit supercomputing system is one of the world’s most powerful.  With the system power equivalent to 70 million iPhone 11s, Summit provides scientists with incredible computing power to test and solve challenges in energy, AI, human health and other research areas simply unknowable until now.

“The Summit supercomputer will allow our GE team to run computations that would be otherwise impossible,” said Li. “This research could dramatically accelerate offshore wind power as the future of clean energy and our path to a more sustainable, safe environment.”

As part of the project, the GE team will work closely with world-class research teams at NREL and ORNL to advance the ExaWind platform. One of the applications of the DOE’s Exascale Computing Project (ECP), ExaWind focuses on the development of computer software to simulate different wind farm and atmospheric flow physics. These simulations provide crucial insights for engineers and scientists to better understand wind dynamics and their impact on wind farms.

Li said, “Scientists at NREL and ORNL are part of a broader team that have built up a tremendous catalog of new software code and technical expertise with ExaWind, and we believe our project can discover critical new insights that support and validate this larger effort.”

Doug Kothe, Director of DOE’s Exascale Computing Project (ECP), said, “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. The ExaWind goal is to establish a virtual wind plant test bed that aids and accelerates the design and control of wind farms, informing our ability to predict the response of these farms to a given atmospheric condition. ECP is fortunate to have ExaWind in its portfolio of application projects, and fully supports its goals and aggressive development plans, which will not be easy to achieve. But these sort of stretch scientific goals are what ECP is about.”

The key focus of this supercomputing project will be to study coastal low-level jets, which produce a distinct wind velocity profile of potential importance to the design and operation of future wind turbines. Using the Summit supercomputer system, the GE team will run simulations to study and inform new ways of controlling and operating offshore turbines to best optimize wind production.

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

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