Contributed by Guohui Yuan, Systems Integration Program Manager, U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office

Solar generation could provide nearly half of the nation’s electricity supply by 2050. Those solar power plants, including the power electronic devices that communicate with utility control and automation systems.  For they could pose significant cybersecurity challenges to power system operation. It’s time that the solar industry becomes fully integrated in the cybersecurity planning.  As well as the incident response processes of the power sector. To enable that integration, the U.S. Department of Energy is working to increase cyber resilience of solar technologies.  All through research and development (R&D).  In addition and by establishing standards and best practices.  However, the solar industry must also increase its cybersecurity awareness and maturity.

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Cybersecurity is a top priority

Unlike enterprise information technology (IT) systems, the electric power grid is a cyber-physical system that is governed by laws of physics. Generation, transmission, and distribution equipment are operation technologies (OT) that control the power flows on the grid. Any changes in system operation resulting from intentional manipulation through IT and communication networks, like cyberattacks, can cause OT equipment damage and/or safety and health hazards. Sophisticated attackers may have the ability to manipulate groups of physical equipment, creating abnormal power flow in a large area and causing regional instabilities and major disruptions.

Utility companies and bulk power system operators have made cybersecurity one of their top priorities. Today, large-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) systems must meet the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) Critical Infrastructure Protection standards before they can operate. However, smaller PV systems and other distributed energy resources (DERs) – their numbers are in the millions today and increasing rapidly – are not currently required to follow cybersecurity standards.

Source: Renewable Energy World

Contributed by Guohui Yuan, Systems Integration Program Manager, U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office