Posted on: December 2, 2016

In late August, 2016, a new kind of advanced computing system called Hikari (Japanese word for “light”) came online at TACC. What is truly unique about Hikari is that it runs on solar power and high voltage direct current. It is the first microgrid that supports a supercomputer in the United States. Launched by New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (Japan), NTT FACILITIES, INC. and The University of Texas at Austin, the Hikari system is predicted to save 15 percent of energy compared with conventional systems.

Solar panels that shade a TACC parking lot by day provide nearly all of Hikari’s power up to 208 kilowatts, switching back to conventional AC power from the utility grid at night.

James Stark, Director of Engineering and Construction at the Electronic Environments Corporation (EEC), a Division of NTT FACILITIES, INC. observes that it is the computers themselves – the supercomputer, the blade servers, cooling units, and lighting – that are really designed to run on DC voltage. He considers Hikari’s ability to supply 380 volts DC to Hikari instead of having an AC supply with conversion steps, the “the largest technical innovation” of the project. He also said that one of the main focuses of the project is to make data centers sustainable, eventually going beyond Hikari’s solar power to include wind and hydrogen fuel cells.

When the Tohoku earthquake happened on March 11, 2011 another NTT FACILITIES, INC. project called the Sendai Microgrid, continued to supply power and heat to hospitals and nursing home residents despite blackouts from the catastrophic damage of the earthquake. Hayashi said the “microgrid power supply system activated very well after the earthquake,” showing it is a very reliable and sustainable energy system.

When it reaches full production in 2017, one of the first major uses of Hikari at UT Austin will be to assist medical researchers in making progress in the treatment of diseases like cancer and disorders like autism.

For more information, go to the TACC website.