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Line Roald
May 29, 2024

Roald is part of a major NSF-funded project to decarbonize computing

Written By: Staff

Line Roald, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is part of a National Science Foundation-funded project to develop a new branch of computer science called computational decarbonization. The goal of the project is to apply data-driven approaches to automate decarbonization across the electrical grid, the built environment, transportation and even computing itself.

The $12 million, five-year project, called Computational Decarbonization of Societal Infrastructures at Mesoscales (CoDec), is led by the University of Massachusetts Amherst and includes contributions from researchers at the University of Chicago, Carnegie Mellon University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California Los Angeles.

It is one of three Expeditions in Computing projects chosen by the National Science Foundation in May 2024. The projects were selected for their potential to revolutionize computing and make significant impacts in reducing the carbon footprint of the lifecycle of computers. Projects funded by Expeditions are characterized by their ambition and potential for transformation, leveraging advances in computing and cyberinfrastructure to accelerate discovery and innovation across various domains of science and engineering.

CoDec aims to use computer science tools to automate, coordinate and maximize carbon efficiency based on time and location for four domains of infrastructure: computing, electricity, buildings and transportation. The project will then create software interfaces to optimize most carbon-intensive activities with the greenest energy possible. “The crux of this project is to reduce the carbon footprint of societal infrastructure,” says project principal investigator Prashant Shenoy, a professor and associate dean of the Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

“The different infrastructures we’re looking at in this project all have different dimensions of flexibility in terms of time and space,” says David Irwin, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst involved in CoDec. “For example, the heating in a building can’t be shifted in space—the building can’t move. However, computing is uniquely flexible across time, space and performance. You can move running a computing job or serving a web page from New York to California. And you can do it very quickly. But all of these infrastructure systems have some flexibility that we’ll be looking to exploit.”

Roald’s research is tackling one of the more complicated pieces of infrastructure. “My specific role is as an expert on the decarbonization of the electric power grid, which is both an infrastructure that provides energy and clean energy for computing and an infrastructure that needs computational methods to become more efficient and cleaner,” she says.

The researchers plan to use a sense-optimize-reduce framework for the project. First, they will use sensing methods to define the carbon footprint across various infrastructures. Then, they plan to design algorithms, AI and other computational methods to optimize a system’s carbon efficiency based on where and when the green energy is available. Finally, in the reduce phase, they will build the software that interfaces with the four domains so that these optimization strategies can be implemented in the real world.

Parts of this press release were originally published by the University of Massachusetts Amherst.