Combating cyber-intrusion on solar farms

A sensor system that helps monitor a critical electrical component of solar farms for signs of cyber-intrusion in real time has been developed.

Cyberattacks are almost everywhere. With even solar farms in the US also prone to come under cyberattacks, scientists are fast devising ways to safeguard solar installations from unwanted interferences of the mischievous kind.

Going by a new research done at the University of Georgia, a novel approach toward protecting solar farms from cyberattacks is being undertaken of late. This involves a sensor system that helps monitor a critical electrical component of solar farms for signs of cyber-intrusion in real time.

The study, which has been published in IEEE Transactions on Smart Grid, the novel approach comes from a team in UGA’s College of Engineering. According to a report that quoted the researchers, there is an increasing concern over hackers trying to get into converters that connect solar farms with the power grid.

Cyber-intrusion on solar installations a matter of concern

Though modern grid-connected solar farms have the feature of having power electronics converters that can be remotely controlled, the fact that the internet connection used holds much potential for cyberattacks becomes a matter of concern.

It has been known that power electronics use semiconductor switching devices to control and convert electrical power flow from one form to another. This is a technology that has changed the manner in which streamlining of manufacturing processes, increasing product efficiencies and improving the delivery of reliable power from utilities have been done.

With cyber threats looming large, researchers have come forward with a system that can gauge anomalies in a power electronic converter’s operations in real-time using a voltage sensor and a current sensor. By deploying deep learning methods, it becomes able for the system to distinguish between normal conditions, open-circuit faults, short-circuit faults and cyberattacks.

Safeguarding against cyberattacks

This is the first time such an attempt is being made to safeguard against cyberattacks. The report said that a small, passive sensor device connected to the power converter collects data on electrical waveforms and feeds the information to a computer monitor. In case an attack seeps through a firewall or security software, the sensors would detect unusual activity in the electrical current of the power electronics device.

Also, the system will be able to run diagnostic tests to determine what type of problem has occurred. The system is equipped to take reading of 10,000 samples every second. The new system can also identify new types of cyberattacks that haven’t been programmed into deep learning algorithms, it said. A US patent application has been filed for the system.

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