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INESC TEC and INEGI want to reduce the carbon footprint of the Deucalion supercomputer

31 May 2021
Supercomputers are computers with enormous data processing capacity, capable of performing millions of billions of calculations per second and solving complex problems in areas such as engineering and science. This complex hardware, however, requires special cooling systems and installations, and consumes huge amounts of electrical energy.

To make this equipment more sustainable, a consortium between INESC TEC and INEGI created the Sustainable HPC - Highly Sustainable Computing project, which aims to develop an energy management solution that promotes the decarbonisation of the machine's operation, including energy efficiency measures. This solution will provide a greener operation for advanced computing facilities and data centers of the future.

The Deucalion supercomputer, to be installed at the Minho Advanced Computing Center, will be the 'living laboratory' for testing different energy conversion and storage technologies and new developments in the management system to be carried out by the team of researchers. In addition to technical feasibility, economic feasibility and the impact of available technological alternatives will also be analyzed.

Reduction of energy consumption by 60% and 30% of costs are two objectives of the Sustainable HPC project

Luis Seca, responsible for the project at INESC TEC and a senior researcher at the Energy Systems Center, explains that "this machine, with a powerful calculation power and that will be at the service of the entire scientific community, has a very relevant electrical consumption, above 1MW when operating at full capacity, so it only made sense to work to ensure that the carbon footprint is reduced to the maximum. ”

"It would not make sense to create a large self-consumption facility in a country that is on a route to decarbonize its electroproducer system. It's only natural to use the availability of the grid whenever the electricity it transmits is from renewable sources", adds the researcher.

Ana Magalhães, responsible for the project at INEGI, says that the Institute's team is developing "an innovative cooling solution that, by itself, may result in a reduction of more than 60% in electricity consumption, when compared to a conventional solution. ”.

The recovery and reuse of residual heat is also one of the solutions under study, reveals Ana Magalhães, in the form of reusing the heat generated by the hardware for the "air conditioning of the building itself and even neighboring buildings, contributing to reduce costs by up to 30%”.

The operation of this supercomputer will be predominantly based on electricity from renewable sources, exploiting the endogenous capacity resulting from the installation of photovoltaic solar panels and wind turbines, storage in second-life Redox and Lithium Vanadium batteries (from electric vehicles) and also the grid electricity when its electricity is from renewable sources, which will result in "a reduction in CO2 emissions of around 680 tonnes per year".

The Sustainable HPC - Highly Sustainable Performance Computing project has a global budget of 7.3 million euros, financed by the Fundo de Apoio à Inovação (FAI) at 3.2 million euros and the Fundo de Eficiência Energética (FEE) at 4.1 million euros.

FAI is a fund set up by ADENE, to finance the national scientific system in the fields of innovation and technological development in the areas of renewable energies and energy efficiency. The objective of the FEE is to support programs and actions that support the measures provided for in the National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency (PNAEE), thus constituting itself as the specific instrument for financing the programs and measures provided for in all its lines of performance.

Photo @ UT Austin Portugal

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