Accelerating Clean Energy Technologies through HPC


Global need for energy along with growing concern for the environment has been generating great clean energy ideas, from carbon sequestration and fusion, to flywheels, hydrogen powered vehicles and new ways to tap renewable sources such as wind and solar. The drawback is that it takes a long time to translate a good idea into a widely used technology. As much progress as we’ve made on carbon capture, for example, we are unlikely to see many carbon capture plants before another two to three decades. We simply cannot wait 30 years. We need to accelerate the development and deployment of new clean energy technologies.

High-performance computing (HPC) offers a way to quickly develop and test new ideas and designs, and reduce risks and costs associated with prototyping. Growing recognition of the role HPC can play in technology innovation is leading to the formation of new business models for R&D that bring together the science and technology capabilities of national labs with industry’s entrepreneurial know-how and academia’s new ideas and talent. The U.S. Department of Energy and National Nuclear Security Administration are strongly encouraging these partnerships as a way of strengthening national security, boosting America’s economic competitiveness and addressing such global challenges as climate change.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), along with other national labs, is taking a lead role in this effort to fast track clean energy technologies. LLNL energy initiatives that leverage HPC are varied and include: carbon sequestration; fusion as an energy source; wind energy; ways to more effectively integrate renewables onto the energy grid; designing new or retrofitting existing buildings and communities to be energy efficient; and reducing the aerodynamic drag on large vehicles such as tractor trailers.

LLNL recently solicited and selected project ideas from industry for clean energy through a new program called hpc4energy, an incubator for hatching new energy technologies using supercomputers. The hpc4energy incubator emerged from a May, 2011 National Summit on Advancing Clean Energy Technologies held in Washington D.C., sponsored by the Howard Baker Forum, the Bipartisan Policy Center, LLNL, and other partners who focused on exploring how HPC can catalyze rapid advancement of U.S. clean energy technologies.


Energy is a global problem that will require global solutions. We need to broaden international collaboration to find innovative technologies and methodologies that address energy challenges. The global HPC community can and should serve as a galvanizing force for broadened collaboration. We are all in this together. ISC’12 is an opportunity for further dialog and to lay the groundwork for expanded cooperation. I am honored to be leading the ISC’12 Energy and HPC session on Wednesday, June 20, 2012, from 11:30 AM – 1:00 PM. Featured speakers will include Julio Friedmann, of LLNL, Frank Behrendt of the Berlin Institute of Technology and Wei Ge of China’s Academy of Sciences Institute for Process Engineering. Through such sessions we hope to show the important role HPC can play in addressing urgent global energy security challenges.



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