Grab a pencil and write the number 150.
Then add 12 zeros. As in trillions.
That’s how many calculations per second the University of Wyoming’s Mount Moran supercomputer can use to crunch problems like how life forms evolve, modeling the Snowy Range’s water circulatory system and how electrical transmission line capacity is affected by to what region electricity is sent.
That research, being conducted for the U.S. Department of Energy, has more than 530 million pieces of information stemming from hourly readings for five years from about 180 electrical production sites in the Rocky Mountain Power area.
Feel intimidated? Don’t. In 2014, the fastest supercomputers in the world still took more than 40 minutes to simulate one second’s activity in a human brain.
Still, supercomputers are downright handy when munching mountains of data, like the U.S. Department of Energy project. That research is a collaboration among Roger Coupal in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, faculty members in the College of Engineering and Robert Godby in the College of Business.
They are studying all electricity production outlets and sources – wind, solar, coal, hydro – and then predicting what happens to prices, costs and production when transmission capacity is increased in a certain direction, to Denver and the Front Range, for example.
The team’s faithful, fast desktop computer took up to five days to chug through the program and, if there were an error, the team had to run the entire program again, which could take another five days.