Cybersecurity for solar energy systems integrated to smart grids

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September 21, 2022




Cybersecurity for solar energy systems integrated to smart grids

Solar energy systems are vulnerable to cyber-attacks and physical attacks. These attacks could disable the grid, causing widespread power outages. There are multiple ways to protect solar energy systems from external attacks. One way is to physically secure the systems. The systems should be given protection from the weather and other physical damages. Second way is to ensure that only authorized personnel can access them. This can be done by using encryption and other security measures to protect the data transmitted between the systems and the grid. Solar energy technologies use devices like solar photovoltaic inverters. These inverters connect to the internet and are at higher risk relative to stand-alone devices. To prevent, detect, and respond to unauthorized access or attack, these devices must have strong cybersecurity measures in place. Despite ongoing efforts to secure solar energy technologies, they remain vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

Building resilient systems

To ensure the security of solar systems, it is important to follow guidelines and recommended practices. The SunSpec / Sandia DER Cybersecurity Work Group is a public-private partnership that is developing a set of standards that will ensure the optimal cybersecurity of distributed energy resources (DERs), such as solar panels and batteries. The group is led by the SunSpec Alliance, a nonprofit organization that develops standards for the solar power industry, and Sandia National Laboratories, a research laboratory operated by the US Department of Energy. The workgroup is composed of experts from the solar power industry, electric utilities, academia, and government. The workgroup has released a draft of its standards, which are currently under review by the US Department of Energy. The group is also working on a set of best practices for the cybersecurity of DERs. The SunSpec / Sandia DER Cybersecurity Work Group is an essential step for ensuring the safety and security of the electric grid.

In a joint effort, UL (Underwriters Laboratories) and NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) have developed recommendations for cybersecurity testing of distributed energy resources (DERs) and inverter-based resources. These recommendations help ensure the safety and security of these systems as they become more prevalent in the energy landscape. It includes suggestions for establishing policies and procedures, designing security controls, and conducting risk assessments. By implementing the recommendations, organizations can also provide a more secure and reliable energy supply.

Some of the guidelines and recommendations that can help in protecting solar energy systems from cyber-attacks include:

  • Securing physical access to the system
  • Implementing strong authentication and authorization controls
  • Encrypting all data transmitted between the system and its components
  • Monitoring the system for unusual activity
  • Updating the system regularly with the latest security patches

These guidelines and recommendations will ensure that the solar energy systems continue to operate safely and securely.

Increased participation from all stakeholders

Customers and operators play a key role in the cybersecurity of solar energy systems. They can help in identifying and reporting potential security risks and vulnerabilities and provide feedback on security measures that have been put in place. In addition, customers can also help in raising awareness of cybersecurity issues among the public.

Schneider Electric offers products and services for homes, businesses, and industries of all sizes. Schneider Electric’s Insight is an energy management software application that allows users to monitor, control, and report on the performance of their solar and storage systems. This energy management software complies with international cybersecurity standards. The Insight mobile app is a wonderful way for users to connect to their energy systems and monitor performance. The app is available for both iOS and Android devices, and it is very user-friendly. With the app, users can see how much energy their system is producing, how much money they are saving, and how their system is performing over time. The app also allows users to control their system, set up alerts, and report any issues. If there is a cyber threat, the software application will immediately secure and protect all sensitive data.

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is working to strengthen the solar industry’s resilience to cybersecurity threats. SEIA is working with government and industry partners to identify and address potential cybersecurity threats and to develop best practices for protecting solar systems from external attacks. SEIA is also working to raise awareness of the importance of cybersecurity in the solar industry and to encourage solar companies to take steps to protect their systems and data. SEIA recently launched a cybersecurity education campaign, called “Cyber Ready Solar,” to help solar companies and installers prepare for the potential threats posed by cyberattacks. The campaign provides resources and training to help solar companies identify and mitigate cybersecurity risks.

The CIGAR project (Cybersecurity via Inverter-Grid Automatic Reconfiguration) is a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) effort that uses inverters to automatically reconfigure the grid in the event of a cyberattack. The goal of the CIGAR project is to develop a system that can automatically detect and respond to a cyberattack on the grid. The system uses inverters to reconfigure the grid to isolate the affected area and prevent the attack’s spread.

Public-private partnerships can collaborate with companies to identify vulnerabilities and develop scalable solutions that ensure the energy grid is secure. The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Cyber Testing for Resilient Industrial Control Systems (CyTRICS) is one such partnership between multiple national labs and private businesses. The program will test solar energy systems specifically for their vulnerability to cyberattacks.

The future of solar energy cybersecurity

The future of solar energy cybersecurity will involve more collaborations between public and private sector entities, and more international partnerships. The development of modern technologies and standards will be very critical. The industry collaborations will allow for the sharing of information and technologies, and the development of best practices which will in turn protect future solar energy systems and smart grids from cyber-attacks leading to a secure and safe green energy future.

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