CSIRO Groundwater Cooling Project, Kensington, Perth.
Cooling supercomputers using geothermal energy
CSIRO has developed a geothermal solution for cooling the Pawsey Centre supercomputer in Perth. This innovative project is the first of its kind in Australia, and is expected to save more than 38 million litres of water every year.
17 August 2010 | Updated 19 December 2013
Anyone who has sat with a laptop on their knees will know that computers generate lots of heat.
The aim of CSIRO’s Groundwater Cooling Project is to provide an innovative, sustainable cooling solution for one of the largest computers in the southern hemisphere.
Rather than being cooled using conventional cooling towers, the new A$80 million Pawsey Centre supercomputer in Perth is being cooled by using a geothermal solution known as groundwater cooling.
The system will save more than 38 million litres of water every year, and has the potential to revolutionise the way we cool our buildings.
How it works
Water of different temperatures can be extracted from underground layers of rock formations known as aquifers, and used for various thermal purposes.
While the harnessing of geothermal energy from deeper high-temperature aquifers is a well-known procedure, cooler underground water found closer to the surface can also provide useful thermal capacity.
CSIRO’s groundwater cooling system involves pumping cool water from a shallow aquifer beneath the Australian Resources Research Centre (ARRC) in Kensington, Perth, through an above-ground heat exchanger to cool the supercomputer, before reinjecting the water underground again.
Advantages for business
Overall water savings are estimated to be 38.5 million litres of water every year when compared with using conventional cooling towers - that’s enough to fill 15 Olympic sized swimming pools.
It is also enough to satisfy the annual drinking water requirements of the entire City of South Perth population, where the project is taking place.
If deployed more widely the groundwater cooling technology has the potential to replace cooling towers in buildings right across Perth, including major facilities such as hospitals and industrial operations.
This would result in significant cost savings and reduced environmental footprint for businesses.
The challenge of cooling the new petascale computing system - which will provide expertise to support the world’s largest-ever radio telescope (the Square Kilometre Array) and other high-end science - was one of the driving forces behind the CSIRO Geothermal Project.
A key focus for the project is educational and research benefits of the groundwater cooling system.
This includes an interactive website with the live and historical operational data available to researchers, students and the general public.
The data includes flow rates, temperature, pH levels and more from monitoring injection and extraction wells and monitoring wells.
Access the data or to learn more about the CSIRO Groundwater Cooling Project [external link].