Most supercomputers are used in top-secret military bases to perform top-secret functions critical to the success of top-secret stuff. Sandia National Laboratories has built a new supercomputer for a more common, everyday purpose: to determine the most efficient methods of harvesting sun, wind, and other forms of renewable energy.
The supercomputer, named Red Mesa, is the result of collaborative efforts between Sandia and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). “The work for the first time brings defense-scale computing to bear on alternative energy projects that otherwise could take months or even years to complete if researchers had to rely on more limited computing resources or on physical testing,” according to Sandia. Red Mesa is powerful enough on its own and has already been used to solve a corn-stalk-to-energy problem in a mere six weeks — a problem that would normally have taken six months.
When combined with Sandia’s other supercomputer, Red Sky, Red Mesa reaches an astonishing 500 teraflops, anointing it the 10th fastest computer in the world. Red Mesa’s innovations include the Glacier Door, which allows air leaving the span of supercomputer cabinets to be cooler than when it came in; and a tighter electrical power distribution systems that makes for easier installation and removal of wiring.