GE plans to use the world’s second-fastest supercomputer to drive offshore wind development in the United States. IBM’s Summit supercomputer at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory will enable GE to simulate airflow in a way the company has never seen before. Ultimately, the study could affect the design, control and operation of future wind turbines. It also aims to boost wind power on the east coast of the United States by giving researchers a better grasp of the available wind resources in the Atlantic Ocean. According to GE, summit will run simulations that fill some of the gaps in historical data.
According to the American Wind Energy Association, offshore wind power is likely to provide almost twice as much electricity as the United States currently uses. But researchers need more information to build stronger, more efficient offshore wind turbines. That’s what Summit does. According to the Top 500 supercomputer speed ranking, the Summit supercomputer is currently ranked as the world’s second fastest supercomputer, after Japan’s Fugaku.
GE’s research, which will be conducted in the next year in collaboration with the Department of Energy’s Exascale computing program, would be almost impossible without Summit. This is because their research often has to be a trade-off between resolution and scale. They can usually study how air moves on a single rotor blade at high resolution, or they can study a large wind farm, in which case hyperscale computations should allow them to simulate the flow physics of the entire wind farm at a resolution of sufficient height to study the rotation of a single turbine blade.
The team will focus on coastal low-altitude jets. Unlike the wind patterns that are commonly considered in conventional wind turbine designs, these airflows increase in speed as height increases. Coastal low-altitude jets are “atypical” because wind speeds can quickly rise to a certain altitude and then suddenly drop. These wind patterns are often less common, but they occur more frequently on the East Coast of the United States, which is why researchers want to better understand how they affect turbine performance.
On the east coast of the United States, there is a growing demand for offshore wind energy. The first offshore wind farm in the United States was built off the coast of Rhode Island in 2016. A series of wind farms on the East Coast are set to go live in the next few years, the largest of which is expected to be built off the coast of New Jersey in 2024, with an investment of $1.6 billion.