The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.
Untitled Document

Smart Grid Initiatives Address Cyber Security, Renewable Energy Intermittency

Securitizing renewable energy networks from cyber-attacks is not complicated by their oft-cited operational headache of intermittency, but rather by their separation from a utility's control system, said smart grid executives at the Gridwise Global Forum in Washington, DC in early November. Though renewable intermittency adds to the challenge of stabilizing a grid, the forum revealed new evidence of real-world smart grid load shifting that continues to chip away at the tired argument that renewable energy cannot successfully integrate into a legacy grid.

“If renewables are owned by the utility, you’re probably ok, in terms of them being under the utility [security] umbrella.  If they are not part of the utility, then you could have a problem, you just don’t know,” said Ken Geisler, director of business strategy for Siemens Smart Grid Division.  “What extends the threat surface with renewables is that the utility doesn’t own it,” added Jeff Meyers, a smart grid strategy and development expert for Telvent Energy.  

With exceptions in Europe and isolated areas of the U.S., such as West Texas, the Pacific Northwest and parts of California, green energy grids don’t yet provide enough of a utility’s baseload power to be a prime target for an attack. 

But even before green grids could become a target for malefactors, the European Union is working to address potential problems in its Smart Grid Committee.  Laurent Schmitt, vice president of innovation and strategy for Paris-based Alstom’s Grid Automation & Smart Grid Solutions, is charged with defining and mapping cyber-security issues for the Committee. “Renewable nodes can be more vulnerable to the degree that the green energy grid is run by someone else.  European distribution networks are already exposed 10-20% to the intermittence of renewables…[and] what concerns the government is that…currently, renewables represent a node that, if attacked, could bring down the network.  The more renewables you have on the network, the bigger the potential impact, though it depends on the existing energy mix.”

Schmitt cited France’s EDF as a prime example of a utility whose renewable grid securitization is critical to protecting its entire electricity grid.  EDF generates 20% of its electricity from renewable sources with remaining power coming from nuclear.  “Nuclear can’t be dialed up for security reasons, so if [EDF] loses its 20%, they have a problem,” Schmitt said. 

Intermittency First, Then Security

As Edmund Schweitzer, president of Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories Inc., declared at the Forum’s “Guarding the Grid: Smart Grid and Grid Vulnerability” panel, in terms of security, the nut for renewables to crack remains grid stability.  “Is intermittency a cyber-security problem? No, but it is one regarding successful [grid] integration and stability and the ability to react,” he said.

Smart grid technology itself is often seen as a potential security problem because it opens utility grids to the Internet, so adding a third party-operated, variable renewable resource to a smart grid could potentially further complicate matters.  “Smart grid means more potential penetration points. The more complexity we introduce, in some senses, we’re making ourselves more vulnerable,” says Telvent’s Meyers.  In any case, say Meyers and Siemens’ Geisler, communication is critical to coordinating different types of generation to gain stability and reliability in baseload generation. 

Meyers says that means “installing some binary software or firmware, particularly to moving resources, such as turbines or fuel cells.”  Geisler adds that “the technology to do that is out there, there just isn’t anyone doing it much at this point.”  Specifically, says John Soyring, vice president of industry solutions at IBM Corp. in Austin, the industry needs “more dynamic load-shedding with a lower granularity to handle the intermittency of renewables.”

Load-shedding Could Be Key

Although utilities may not yet be doing a lot of real-time, dynamic and finely granular load management for renewable resources, they are doing more of it than ever before, particularly in areas where renewable resources make up sizable portions of the energy generation mixes.  These advances are the hallmark of a smart grid. 

Randy Berry, vice president of Kirkland, WA-based Power Systems Consultants Inc. said that Mason County Public Utility District 3 (PUD3), in a Bonneville Power Administration project, is testing GridMobility technology on about 100 residential water heaters in a smart grid project designed to manage the fluctuations of wind energy generation.

With GridMobility technology, PUD3 monitors water heater usage on the grid for the participating homes.  During heavy periods, they can shut down the water heater. Then during light times when wind energy is coming in, they turn it on. They use a formula that ensures the water heater never gets too little power to keep the water hot. If that happens, the consumer can flip a switch to override the system.  Allowing the utility to control the heater reduces its need to rely on hydropower to balance its load, providing more flexibility to use wind power.

The project began last fall and so far has been a success. Berry says that PUD3 has found that choreographing the duty cycle of water heaters created a 30% increase in efficiency, a 90% reduction in the peak energy used for water heating and a 78% increase in renewable energy used to heat water.

Austin Energy did some similar dynamic load shedding last summer, said Soyring, but at the level of one of the city’s approximately 30 sections of several thousand homes. “With more granularity, you can, for example, shut down the AC in a home for 15 minutes, which would have no real impact on the climate, and is non-invasive,” he said, noting that Austin Energy customers can already buy a thermostat that will do that.

 “Grids and operators are getting smarter, but we are also on the verge of consumers being able to do all of these things,” says PSC’s Berry.  “Like, why can’t I charge my iPhone only when the wind blows?”

Marsha Johnston is a DC-based freelance journalist, specializing in renewable energy, wildlife/wild space conservation and sustainable development issues. She can be found at StewardingtheWild.

Untitled Document

RELATED ARTICLES

Suntech Parent Company Buys Majority Share of US-based Suniva

Ehren Goossens Shunfeng International Clean Energy Ltd., the Hong Kong-based solar company controlled by billionaire Zheng Jianming,...

Sunrise in Pakistan as the Country Delves into Solar PV

Robert Harker Pakistan has joined the list of countries that are exploring solar power as a means to bridge critical energy generat...

Global Renewable Energy Roundup: China, Kenya, Turkey, India Seeking More Renewables

Bloomberg News Editors China is being encouraged by three industry groups to double the nation’s solar-power goal for 2020 to make up for sh...

PRESS RELEASES

Array Technologies’ DuraTrack HZ v3 Continues to (R)evolutionize at SPI

Array Technologies, Inc. (ATI) prepares to showcase its recently launched tracking syst...

Appalachian's Energy Center assists counties with landfill gas to energy projects

The Appalachian Energy Center at Appalachian State University recently completed a proj...

Early Bird Registration Deadline for GRC Annual Meeting is This Week

The deadline for early-bird rates for registration for the biggest annual geothermal ev...

Redesigned HydroWorld.com Video Gallery

Hydropower news and information, and interesting promotional announcements are now avai...

FEATURED BLOGS

Transitioning to Net-Zero Living

Judith and Jeffrey adore living in Belfast, Maine – a quaint harbor town of Belfast, Maine. They previously res...

The True Cost of Electric Vehicles in Australia

In order to avoid increased congestion, further greenhouse warming and lessen Australia’s reliance on imported ...

The Coming Multi-trillion Dollar Energy Investment Drive

In coming years, a multi-trillion dollar low-emission energy investment drive will get underway. Three catalysts wil...

The Perfect Elevator Pitch

The elevator pitch is a concise statement that grabs attention and communicates value, ideally leading to a next step...

FINANCIAL NEWS

CURRENT MAGAZINE ISSUE

Volume 18, Issue 4
1507REW_C11

STAY CONNECTED

To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:

SOCIAL ACTIVITY

Tweet the Editors! @jennrunyon

FEATURED PARTNERS



EVENTS

Doing Business in South Africa – in partnership with GWEC, the Glob...

Wind Energy in South Africa has been expanding dramatically, growing fro...

Intersolar North America 2016

Exhibition: July 12 - 14, 2016; Conference: July 11 - 13, 2016 Intersola...

Intersolar Europe 2016

Exhibition: June 22-24, 2016; Conference: June 21-22, 2016 Intersolar Eu...

COMPANY BLOGS

Pushing Beyond The Cushion

Efficiency projects are all too often viewed as “optional” o...

Less Is More

When you’re giving a presentation, one of the easiest things to do...

Captivology

One of the biggest challenges we face as efficiency sales professionals ...

NEWSLETTERS

Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now  

 

FEATURED PARTNERS