NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center Honored with 2013 Green Data Center of the Year Award

The NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center (NWSC) has been named the 2013 “‘Green’ Data Center of the Year” at the inaugural Datacenter Dynamics North American Awards.

The Vistor Center at NWSC. (©UCAR. Photo by Carlye Calvin)

The NWSC received top honors in a category that recognizes the reality of designing and operating data centers in the context of environmental scrutiny. The award was bestowed last week in a ceremony in San Francisco.

This award comes on the heels of the NWSC’s top honors for facility design from the Green Enterprise IT Awards from the Uptime Institute, showcasing cutting-edge data center projects that demonstrate energy and resource efficiency in a new, operational data center.

“We are gratified that our efforts to build and operate the most efficient and sustainable data center possible have been successful and that the NWSC is being recognized on its merits,” says Gary New, who manages the center for NCAR’s Computational and Information Systems Laboratory (CISL). “Nearly 10 years of planning and hard work went into making this success a reality.”

Located in Cheyenne, Wyoming, the facility must adapt to outside weather conditions that can change rapidly in the West. “The award recognizes the state-of-the-art design features our team built into NWSC that enable it to respond quickly and efficiently to changing conditions both inside and outside the facility,” says Al Kellie, director of NCAR’s CISL. “In this way, we can minimize the environmental impact of our scientific computing operations."

Construction of the NWSC was made possible by the sponsorship of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and a unique collaborative partnership between local, state, and federal government entities and private industry to provide project funding and governance. Partners include the State of Wyoming, the University of Wyoming, Cheyenne LEADS, the Wyoming Business Council, and Cheyenne Light, Fuel & Power. The NWSC is operated by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) on behalf of NSF, which sponsors NCAR, and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), which manages it.

The NWSC, which is home to one of the most powerful supercomputers dedicated to Earth system science, also achieved a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council last year. LEED certification depends on a number of sustainable criteria, such as energy efficiency, water conservation, and the use of recycled or locally sourced construction materials.

“The NWSC was designed and built to the highest standards in sustainability and efficiency,” says UCAR president Thomas Bogdan. “It is deeply gratifying that this approach is receiving national and international recognition.”

NWSC design highlights

Sustainable materials: During construction, more than 70 percent of construction waste was diverted from landfills and used for recycling. The building itself is made with more than 510 tons of recycled concrete, 60 tons of recycled wood, and 26 tons of recycled metal.

Water: The ultra-efficient cooling tower configuration, as well as use of native species for landscaping, enables water savings of up to 6 million gallons per year.

Infrastructure and Space Use: The center's efficient use of energy means that the mechanical and electrical systems, as well as its office space expend less than 10 percent of the total power consumption.

Heating: Waste heat from the supercomputer is captured and reused to heat the building and melt snow and ice on exterior walkways and loading docks.

Cooling: During design, project planners estimated that Wyoming’s cool, dry climate would allow natural cooling of the facility for 96 percent of the year. Early experience with the facility indicates that 98-99 percent is achievable.

Power: Renewable wind energy provides direct power to the facility, starting at 10 percent of supply with the ability to raise that percentage as conditions permit.

Flexibility and Longevity: The design of the NWSC includes “future proofing” to anticipate adaptation to evolving technologies and deployment of future supercomputing systems yet to be developed. The design is also highly modular, allowing critical power and cooling components to be provisioned only when needed. This enhanced flexibility helps minimize capital expenditures by providing only what is needed when it is needed.

Combining all of these factors, the NWSC not only minimizes the environmental footprint but also directs operating funds toward productive scientific work while reducing overhead expenses.

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