President’s Council Urges Solar & Microgrid Use For Energy Security

on December 21, 2018

CleantechnicaRooftop solar communities may soon become the latest line of cybersecurity defense for America’s vulnerable electric utility industry, providing emergency power for local consumers while supporting the grid in the event of an attack-based outage. Indeed, a key recommendation in a recent President’s National Advisory Infrastructure Council report on cybersecurity and the grid is that solar and other renewable energy-based microgrids be developed for emergency preparedness.

At the same time that solar microgrids can provide refuge from electric grid hacking, the microgrids themselves need to implement security protocols to avoid the same sort of hacking, some experts point out.

In a draft version of the NAIC report, “Surviving a Catastrophic Power Outage,” released in December, one recommendation is to “Support demonstrations of community enclaves design approaches, which may range from traditional hardening of infrastructure to microgrids that combine distributed energy resources, energy storage, and innovative consumer technologies.”

The NAIC report suggests that this can be achieved by “Deliver(ing) peer-reviewed results and lessons learned from demonstrations to provide utilities and communities with effective approaches to design, manage, operate, and fund microgrid and energy resilience capabilities.”

Some funding for such activity has already taken place. New Orleans, for example, won a grant from from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development for $141 million in unused Hurricane Sandy recovery funds “to undertake the highest priority upgrades and implement advanced microgrid pilot projects in critical sections of the city.”

Rooftop solar and larger solar arrays are vulnerable to hacking through the inverter, which often has a web link to the equipment manufacturer, which provides a monitoring service to the customer, if not a link to a community solar or community aggregation operation center. This was recently highlighted in a November report by Ridge Global, a consulting firm founded by former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.

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