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back to article Australian supercomputer to use geothermal cooling

As Australia’s Square Kilometer Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) telescope takes shape, CSIRO has begun drilling in an unusual approach to cooling supercomputers. The petascale powerhouse needed by ASKAP is being built in water-short Perth, so instead of sucking nearly 40 million litres of water from the city’s supply, CSIRO plans a …

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WTF?

Geothermal for cooling?

I used to work in the geothermal industry where we concentrated on finding and exploiting geothermal reservoirs for heating (e.g. district heating) or for steam to drive turbines for power generation.

Real WTF to hear that they were using hot water for cooling.

Looking at the CSIRO diagrams, looks like the HPC tie in is a bit tenuous -i.e they were wanting to build an experimental geothermal plant and the supercomputer could use some other energy produced.

The geothermal fluid is contained in a closed cycle system, so they are not using the fluid directly to cool, and they pump the actual cooling fluid through a cooling tower to sink the temperature, so really not exploiting the geothermal system other than (I presume) as an energy source.

Given that this is Perth, don't know why they don't just suck cold water from the sea for a heat interchanger. Provide baseline power to the area from the geothermal plant running a turbine or stirling style heat engine, rather than dumping the heat into the atmosphere.

That or locate the supercomputer somewhere else. South coast of NZ would be my pick - lots of cheap hydro with vast amounts of cool water around Manapouri

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Bronze badge

Re: Geothermal for cooling?

There is a large building down the road from me which has been successfully using geothermal for air-conditioning for years. It's the Geoscience Australia headquarters: http://www.ga.gov.au/about-us/our-facilities/our-building.html

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Silver badge

Re: Geothermal for cooling?

I was surprised to read about 'water-short Perth'. As you indicate, they have a vast and effectively unlimited supply of water nearby.

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Silver badge

Re: Geothermal for cooling?

"Its original was to seek out hot aquifers from 3 km down, and use the heat to power the coolers.

What’s being implemented now is considerably simpler. The water to cool the Pawsey machine will be drawn from an aquifer 100 meters below the surface"

That bit from the article explains it. They were going to tap deep, hot reservoirs to power AC, but found a large reservoir of water only 100 meters down, which if I recall correctly, at the depth, the temperature normally sits at about 13-14 degrees C.

So the plan now is, pump up cool water from 100 meters down, use it to cool equipment, then pump the warmed water back down to dissipate the heat into the rock.

Basically, they lucked out and found a cheaper, easier way to do it.

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IT Angle

Re: Geothermal for cooling?

That building has "... a ground loop system of 350 pipes to use the Earth as a heat sink or heat source".

That sounds like a ground source heat pump (http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/Generating-energy/Choosing-a-renewable-technology/Ground-source-heat-pumps)

Storing heat underground is not what I would describe as geothermal (in which the heat is not created above ground), but then my experience is with high pressure and temperature systems generating MW not trying to cool buildings/computers with that.

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Silver badge
Headmaster

Re: Geothermal for cooling?

As they are Australians, I guess they "got lucky" . I think "lucking out", in the UK and Australia, is ending up out of luck. Although I think the USage is becoming more common here amongst the young ones.

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Re: Geothermal for cooling?

Well, the Pawsey setup is in Bentley, which is a good 15km from the coast and up what passes locally for a hill. Not exactly a cheap location to pipe salt water back and forth to, especially when you have an aquifer 100m away.

Perth also has the advantage that it is convenient to the main Telstra PITC site up at Lansdale, so they have decent cable & satellite links. Manapouri may have power, but the South Island of NZ is rather a backwater in terms of comms links. Also, the output from Manapouri is dedicated to the aluminium smelter in Bluff, and I think you'd find getting more hydro generation approved would be ... challenging.

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Australian supercomputer to use geothermal cooling

Misleading title, IMO. Should read:

Australian supercomputer to use geothermal plant to run cooling

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