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Boise State, Idaho Power Develop Weather and Water Supply Modeling

By: Cienna Madrid   Published 7:23 am / March 10, 2017

Photo of a dam from aboveThe recent collaboration between Boise State University and technical staff at Idaho Power Company on Boise State’s newest computing cluster, R2, enhances both partners’ ability to forecast weather and water supply.

Idaho Power’s Atmospheric Sciences group’s access to R2 allows them to use sophisticated models to forecast weather and water supply throughout the interior Pacific Northwest region. Idaho Power is a national leader in its utilization of hydropower as compared to other sources of energy. As such, the company’s ability to accurately predict how much precipitation falls in Idaho’s mountains and when that water ultimately arrives at Idaho Power’s turbines is extremely important.

Boise State’s Lab for Ecohydrology and Alternative Futuring (LEAF), led by professor Lejo Flores in geosciences, uses these same models to advance scientific understanding of how water is distributed in Idaho in space and time, and how that “water budget” is affected by factors like climate variation and change, as well as land cover and land use change.

Flores’ research group is pleased to have the opportunity to team up with Idaho Power’s experts, who also are collaborating on other existing projects with LEAF.

“It really provides us an opportunity to ensure that our research is quickly translated into knowledge and information that can help the operations of one of Idaho’s largest and most important companies,” Flores said. “It also gives our student-researchers a chance to understand how their knowledge and skills are important outside of academia and can impact the private sector.”

Shaun Parkinson, Idaho Power’s water resource leader, also is looking forward to sharing high-performance computing equipment.

“Teaming with a local research group that is focused on climate, hydrologic processes and water supplies allows Idaho Power to test and evaluate the benefits of using emerging science and analytical methods to guide the planning and operation of our hydro system, the renewable resources within our system, and operate and evaluate our cloud seeding efforts within the Snake Basin,” Parkinson said.

Idaho Power’s investment in Boise State’s cluster supported approximately $100,000 of specialized high-performance computing equipment. In particular, the equipment includes five graphic processing units (GPUs), which provide dual Nvidia Tesla P100 GPU accelerators and have expanded the computational power of R2 significantly.

This five-year equipment sharing arrangement between Idaho Power and Boise State gives Idaho Power’s Atmospheric Sciences group priority use of the computing equipment. Because of the scheduling system implemented by Boise State’s Research Computing Department, the cluster is also available to Boise State researchers.