Professor Klaus Regenauer-Lieb and project officer Jacqui Cook on site in Perth

SKA supercomputer gets water-saving cooling system

Australia’s largest supercomputer will be cooled by groundwater as part of a project on using geothermal energy on a large scale.

The petascale Pawsey Centre supercomputer is under construction in Perth, Western Australia, to support the world’s largest-ever radio telescope (the Square Kilometre Array) and other high-end science.

The challenge of cooling it was one of the driving forces behind the project.

“The system works by pumping cool water from a depth of around 100 metres through an above-ground heat exchanger to cool the supercomputer, then reinjecting the water underground again,” said Steve Harvey, director of the CSIRO Geothermal Project.

With zero net use of groundwater, CSIRO estimates that the system will save around 38.5 million litres of water a year compared to using cooling towers.

As well as using a shallow geothermal solution to cool the supercomputer, the project team will investigate a potentially deeper geothermal energy resource beneath the site by drilling a 3km-deep exploration well later this year.

The US Geothermal Energy Association lists Perth as fifth in the top ten ‘geothermal cities’ of the world.

Uniquely, it was included for its plans to become the world’s first geothermally cooled city.

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