NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center

University Corporation for Atmospheric Research

Cheyenne, Wyoming

To assist researchers with critical tasks such as visualizing the planet’s future climate and calculating the paths of hurricanes, the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) needed to install some of the world’s most powerful supercomputers at an NCAR site. Having outgrown computing resources at NCAR’s Mesa Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, a decision was made to build the new NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputer Center (NWSC) in Cheyenne. The resulting $70-million, 153,000 SF facility can accommodate supercomputing systems with power densities up to 1,000 watts/SF. Even with that much power consumption, the LEED-Gold-certified NWSC is on track to be one of the top 1% most efficient data centers worldwide with a projected Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) ratio of just 1.08. (This means that more than 90% of energy for the entire complex is being used for computing.)

The design team applied a flexible, modular approach to enable the NWSC to house multiple generations of supercomputer-class systems. At initial buildout, the facility includes two side-by-side 12,000 SF raised-floor modules to support installation of the first round of supercomputing equipment modules. The facility also houses a data storage facility, a visitor center, administrative space, and a utility plant.

To help achieve this impressive level of efficiency, RMH engineers harnessed the cool, dry climate of Cheyenne by using evaporative cooling towers to efficiently deliver sufficient cooling capacity directly to NCAR’s liquid-cooled supercomputing equipment for 96% of the year. A 150’ x 8’ ultra-low-energy fan wall delivers cooling to air-cooled computing equipment on the data center floor. Waste heat from the supercomputer is captured and reused to heat administrative areas of the building and to melt snow and ice on exterior walkways and loading docks. A chilled-beam system—a method for delivering heating and cooling to a space with very little wasted energy—provides efficient, effective cooling in the administrative areas. A host of ultra-efficient water-conserving technologies facilitate savings of up to six million gallons of water per year.


ASHRAE Technology Award, First Place, Rocky Mountain Chapter and Region IX in the New Industrial Facility Category (2013)
DatacenterDynamics, North American Awards, ‘Green’ Data Center. Learn more about the award. (2013)
Uptime Institute, Green Enterprise IT Awards, Facility Design Implementation. Learn more about the award. (2013)
Engineering News-Record/ENR Mountain States, Best 2012 Projects, Best Green Project. Learn more about the award. (2012)


Certified LEED-NC Gold