1 of 2 | A team consisting of experts from multiple institutions developed new software to respond to a variety of grid failures using the Frontier supercomputer this spring. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 7 (UPI) -- The world's first exascale supercomputer may be able to help avoid major disruptions to the nation's power grid, researchers say.
A team consisting of experts from multiple institutions developed new software to respond to a variety of grid failures using the Frontier supercomputer at Tennessee's Oak Ridge National Laboratory this spring. The team was assembled at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., for the Exascale Computing Project's ExaSGD project.
The software, called HiOp, ran the largest simulation of its kind to optimize the power grid's response to failures from weather events, natural disasters and attacks. In a 20-minute process, it was able to help researchers identify safe and cost-effective power grid setpoints for 100,000 grid failures.
A power grid setpoint refers to multiple measures of grid performance of conditions such as voltage, frequency and the active level of power.
"Because the list of potential power grid failures is large, this problem is very computationally demanding," Cosmin Petra, researcher for LLNL, said in a statement. "The goal of this project was to show that the exascale computers are capable of exhaustively solving this problem in a manner that is consistent with current practices that power grid operators have."
The challenges of keeping the grid running effectively are compounded by adapting to new energy sources and the risks of future natural disasters as a result of climate change. Currently a human operator is required to respond to grid failures.
When a failure happens, operators attempt to determine the first plans of action to get back up and running within the first 30 minutes to avoid blackouts and widespread outages.
"This computational problem may become even more relevant in the future, in the context of extreme climate events," Petra said. "We could use the software stack that ran on Frontier to minimize disruptions caused by hurricanes or wildfires, or to engineer the grid to be more resilient in the longer run under such scenarios, just to give an example."
"It is a massive jump in terms of computational power," he added.
An exascale supercomputer is a massive computing system capable of executing billions of calculations per second. It is up to 20 times faster than other supercomputers, according to the Department of Energy.