Met Office to run climate computers on sunshine

Monday 13th Aug 2012 by theWeather Club

Image: Viel Richardson

It is one of the ironies of modern climate science, that a discipline dedicated to predicting the effects of climate change with the aim of mitigating them is a not insignificant contributor to the problem. Studying the effects of too much energy use, has turned out to be a rather energy intensive business. Satellites, ocean buoys, research ships and weather balloons, all consume energy at some point of their lives. And then there are the computers - thousands and thousands of computers - each sucking up increasing amounts of energy as they get increasingly powerful. The UK Met Office has now decided to try and address the issue, by tackling their computers energy usage.

Work is underway to install a solar panel array at the Met Office which will generate enough energy to power one of the supercomputers they use for climate modelling The 1006 panel array will generate 221,000 kW hours of electricity per year, which is enough to power the equivalent of 67 houses. As well as paying for itself in around 6-7 years the array will reduce the Met Office carbon footprint by about 116 tonnes of C02 per year. Installed on the 150 metre long Energy Centre at the Met Office Exeter HQ, the system will be linked to a sophisticated Electricity Management System (EMS) enabling engineers to maintain up-to-the-minute monitoring of the panels' performance. Peter Clayton-White, the Building Services Engineer at the Met Office, said: “On a sunny day this array will generate enough energy to run one of our three supercomputers on sunshine, significantly reducing the carbon footprint of our energy supply. We hope to have a display in our reception so everyone can see how much energy the array is generating at any one time and how much is going to the supercomputer.”

Hopefully when fully operational the computer’s predictions will see enough future sunshine to meet its growing energy needs.