Apr 17, 2020

University of Arkansas: cybersecurity for solar

Solar
Renewable Energy
Utilities
Technology
William Girling
2 min
The University of Arkansas (UoA) has announced that its engineering researchers are currently developing digital defences for solar power units
The Unive...

The University of Arkansas (UoA) has announced that its engineering researchers are currently developing digital defences for solar power units.

Having received funding of US$3.6mn from the US Solar Energy Technologies Office, Alan Mantooth, distinguished professor and electrical engineering faculty director, will be leading a multi-institution team in its efforts to protect grid-connected solar technologies from cyberattacks. 

“As U.S. energy policy shifts toward more diverse sources, particularly solar, the Energy Department understands the critical importance of protecting these systems and technologies,” said Mantooth.

“We’re already developing systems to protect the power grid from cyberattack, and this work will be a logical extension of that effort.”

Protecting a valuable source of energy

Although it has been slower to gain momentum than other regions, such as Europe, solar power in the US is gaining significant traction and the UoA’s research will be critical to ensuring that it is implemented safely. 

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The primary dangers for solar PVs (photovoltaic panels) connected to a power grid are ‘inverters’ - a type of electrical converter which turns the panel’s DC output into a utility-friendly AC output. 

“They are the heart of the PV system,” Mantooth said in an article with PV Magazine.

“Inverters are one of the main connected devices and so if a hacker could take control; inverters would be a primary target because they are accessible and because they perform many smart functions to maintain stability and efficiency.”

By hacking into the PVs’ inverters, perpetrators could shut down the network, overload the batteries or destabilise the grid. 

Leading the research

The project which Mantooth is spearheading will include other institutions and companies across the US, including the University of Georgia, the University of Illinois and Ozarks Electric Cooperative

In addition to stepping-up solar PV protection, the team hopes to improve issues relating to supply chain security, develop real-time threat detection and identify digital defence weak spots. 

For more information on energy digital topics - please take a look at the latest edition of Energy Digital Magazine.

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Apr 23, 2021

Drax advances biomass strategy with Pinnacle acquisition

Drax
Biomass
Sustainability
BECCS
Dominic Ellis
2 min
Drax is advancing biomass following Pinnacle acquisition it reported in a trading update

Drax' recently completed acquisition of Pinnacle more than doubles its sustainable biomass production capacity and significantly reduces its cost of production, it reported in a trading update.

The Group’s enlarged supply chain will have access to 4.9 million tonnes of operational capacity from 2022. Of this total, 2.9 million tonnes are available for Drax’s self-supply requirements in 2022, which will rise to 3.4 million tonnes in 2027.

The £424 million acquisition of the Canadian biomass pellet producer supports Drax' ambition to be carbon negative by 2030, using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and will make a "significant contribution" in the UK cutting emissions by 78% by 2035 (click here).

Drax CEO Will Gardiner said its Q1 performance had been "robust", supported by the sale of Drax Generation Enterprise, which holds four CCGT power stations, to VPI Generation.

This summer Drax will undertake maintenance on its CfD(2) biomass unit, including a high-pressure turbine upgrade to reduce maintenance costs and improve thermal efficiency, contributing to lower generation costs for Drax Power Station.

In March, Drax secured Capacity Market agreements for its hydro and pumped storage assets worth around £10 million for delivery October 2024-September 2025.

The limitations on BECCS are not technology but supply, with every gigatonne of CO2 stored per year requiring approximately 30-40 million hectares of BECCS feedstock, according to the Global CCS Institute. Nonetheless, BECCS should be seen as an essential complement to the required, wide-scale deployment of CCS to meet climate change targets, it concludes.

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