Skip to main content

Energy Systems Integration Newsletter May 2019

Video Highlights NREL's Cybersecurity Research, WindView Lets Industry Visualize Wind Power Forecasts, NREL Director Testifies Before Senate Committee

Text version

NREL’s Approach to Cyber: Intrinsic Security Design for Tomorrow’s Energy Systems

Renewable energy is causing one of the greatest grid transitions in history, which is ongoing with the new distributed technologies that are arriving at the grid edge. These internet-connected devices are potential inroads for cyber adversaries and need diligent focus to secure the evolving grid, which is a high priority for NREL’s cybersecurity team.

NREL’s cybersecurity research is proactively shaping energy systems to be intrinsically safe, so that new power systems are fundamentally designed with security, including within technologies where security hasn’t been embedded before. The unique testing environment at NREL makes this possible.

“We have the ability to explore any kind and number of vulnerabilities and threat actors in a very safe environment, one in which we control,” said Jonathan White, manager of the Cyber-Physical Systems Security group. “We can also use the same environment to explore new devices, new systems, new architectures, new control.”

Cybersecurity cuts across energy systems, and NREL is making sure systems can evolve with changing threats. NREL's cybersecurity resources and expertise are available to partners; learn more about our cybersecurity research.

Martin Keller Testifies Before Senate Committee

NREL Director Martin Keller appeared in Washington D.C. this month to testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on opportunities to advance renewable energy and energy efficiency efforts in the United States. Keller’s testimony specifically recognized the ESIF, praising the facility’s role in helping create the world’s largest solar-plus-storage facility on the island of Kauai.

In his opening statement, Keller highlighted the challenges facing the advancement of renewable energy technologies. With the global demand for renewable energy technology expected to double by 2050, Keller emphasized the need for research and development “on the most abundant, affordable, efficient, and sustainable energy resources and technologies possible.” The NREL efforts Keller highlighted in his opening statement included NREL’s work in cybersecurity, developments in solar technology and perovskites, development of wind turbine materials and manufacturing, and the development of fuel technologies from biomass.

Throughout the hearing, Keller answered questions regarding cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and grid control, and a recent agreement with ExxonMobil, among others. Referring to cybersecurity and threats to the future grid, Keller referred to the topic as one of the ones that “keeps [him] up at night.” He emphasized the need for continuous work in this field due to the never-ending evolution of the grid. Keller highlighted the development of artificial intelligence and autonomous grids to manage and control the grid of the future.

Having officially signed the agreement with ExxonMobil and the National Energy Technology Laboratory earlier in the day, Keller accentuated collaboration and scalability as the primary benefits of the agreement. He said collaboration allows for the promotion of new ideas, while the 10-year duration provides advancement of scalable solutions, from initial research to grid integration.

The hearing and Keller's testimony are available on the U.S. Senate Committee's website.

NREL Postdoc’s Research Featured on the Cover of April Issue of Nature Energy

April’s issue of Nature Energy featured a publication by NREL postdoc Elina Spyrou. Her study, titled “Planning power systems in fragile and conflict-affected states” appeared on the journal’s cover, underlining the importance and novelty of the research.

Elina and colleagues at Johns Hopkins University, the School of Mines, and the World Bank propose a power system planning framework for fragile and conflict-affected states that considers uncertainty and power system vulnerability to conflict. The framework simulates multiple ways in which conflict affects the power system such as the impact of conflict on fuel supply and transmission grid outages. The framework also adapts investments based on conflict history. The proposed framework was applied on a case study for South Sudan, and recommended alternative investments that result in a higher share of electricity demand being served when conflict occurs.

Elina is a postdoctoral researcher in the Power Systems Engineering center at NREL. Learn more about our work in power system planning.

NREL Delivers Industry-Shifting Software for Visualizing Wind Power Forecasts

Electric grid operators need the ability to plan generation to meet load, whichever way the wind blows. This means that they need access to real-time information—easily navigable and visually coherent—to truly build an intuition around wind power. They now have access to such information with WindView, a tool for visualizing wind power forecasts, created by NREL, Argonne National Laboratory, and the University of Texas at Dallas. Read more about this tool and the groundbreaking opportunities it offers.

NREL Partnerships Address Emerging Energy Challenges

Strategic partnerships at NREL are a key contributor to the lab’s success. "There's a mutually beneficial cycle," said NREL Technology Transfer Director Anne Miller. "We help companies have impact, but at the same time, we gain insight into real-world problems that they are grappling with."

To learn about some of the exciting partnerships happening at NREL, read the full story on NREL’s website.

Cybersecurity for New Power Systems—Two Conference Papers Reflect NREL Research in Distributed Energy Research Security

In energy systems, the number of access points for potential cyber threats is growing alongside new distributed energy resources (DER). Now with millions of DERs hitting the grid, power systems need new defenses to maintain reliable performance, and NREL is leading the push towards understanding these cybersecurity defenses. NREL's Danish Saleem, Adarsh Hasandka, and Maurice Martin co-authored two new papers that treat cybersecurity challenges of DERs, recently published in the 2019 IEEE Power and Energy Conference at Illinois.

One of the papers, Analysis of System and Interoperability Impact from Securing Communications for Distributed Energy Resources, discusses the communications needed by DERs, and their respective security requirements. Common security mechanisms for these communications are simulated on a 15-bus model of a distribution feeder. The results demonstrate how secure DER communications impact grid performance and will advance understanding of implementing those communications.

The other paper, titled Cryptography Considerations for Distributed Energy Resource Systems, reviews prominent applications of cryptography to DER systems. Cryptographic authentication and encryption are both powerful tools for protecting critical information passed along DER connections. This paper offers recommendations around applying cryptography to DER systems and demonstrates their system impact with two case studies.

Learn more about NREL's cybersecurity research.

NREL, ESIF Excel in International Organization for Standardization Audit

A recent International Organization for Standardization (ISO) audit of NREL commended the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF), finding no opportunities for improvement and no items of noncompliance. The ESIF was further recognized in four systems strengths: one in quality and three in health and safety.

“The outcome of the audit validates ESIF’s best-in-class facility mission,” said ESIF Research Operations Director Chad Blake. “The results really show that the ESIF is stakeholder driven, we are in-tune with our stakeholders, and we implement continuous improvement.”

NREL Talks Cyber for Renewables U.S. Department of Energy Cyber Conference

Over a thousand cybersecurity thought leaders arrived just a few miles from NREL's front door at the annual U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Cyber Conference in Denver, May 13-16, 2019. Technology vendors, researchers from across the national lab network, universities, and energy experts came together for presentations and discussions on this year's theme: "Powering Cybersecurity and Information Technology Innovation."

During opening panel sessions, NREL Director Martin Keller emphasized the importance of collaboration in building a more secure and resilient grid. Keller spoke on two of the panel sessions, "Future of the Grid" and "Working Together to Secure Our Critical Energy Infrastructure." Associate Laboratory Director Juan Torres was also on hand, serving as emcee during the Tuesday morning plenary sessions. Other speakers representing NREL included Manager of the Cyber-Physical Systems Security group Jonathan White, Cyber Physical Research Engineer Charisa Powell, Senior Cybersecurity Systems Researcher Maurice Martin, Senior Scientist Ryan King, and Chief Human Resources Officer Deb Doel-Hammond. A team of NREL energy systems integration experts also reviewed presentation abstracts to help plan the conference agenda.

Outside the conference, NREL hosted special guests from DOE, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and the Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, both at the ESIF and the National Wind Technology Center. Guests were able to view a demonstration of cybersecurity researchers' emulation of cyberattacks on a distribution system with virtual and real hardware-in-the-loop. The virtual cybersecurity research platform was also featured as a video at the NREL booth.

Learn more about NREL's work in cybersecurity.

NREL Partner Testimonial Video: Yun Lee

In this video, Panasonic Eco Solutions Director of U.S. Solar Yun Lee talks about the collaboration between NREL and Panasonic. Lee notes that no one entity has the capacity to do everything by itself, that’s why partnerships are so vital to success. Watch the video to learn more about Panasonic’s goals for future smart cities, and how partnering with NREL has been a uniquely resourceful and positive experience for them.

New Energy Systems Integration Publications: Three Topics in Variable Resource Uncertainties, Another in Building Markets Around Them

Adjustable and distributionally robust chance-constrained economic dispatch considering wind power uncertainty

As a variable resource, wind power is tough to plan around. This paper, published in Springer, Journal of Modern Power Systems and Clean Energy, proposes a model that works around the uncertainty to economically plan wind energy dispatch. Without knowing exactly how accurate a wind power forecast is, this model captures the primary nature of that uncertainty while leaving room for deviations. The model also grants system operators the ability to tradeoff between prioritizing economics or system security.

Irradiance Field Reconstruction From Partial Observability of Solar Radiation

To operate solar PV efficiently, we need measurements and models of solar irradiance; even sparse measurements help. In this paper, NREL's Andrey Bernstein and collaborators present a method for getting the most out of sparse irradiance measurements. Their method can accurately estimate solar irradiance from observing only 10% of the incoming radiation. The authors also present a validation of their model using real satellite data. Their paper was published in IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Letters.

A Posteriori Clear-Sky Identification Methods in Solar Irradiance Time Series: Review and Preliminary Validation

This paper reviews techniques to identify clear skies from solar irradiance data. Without cameras, we can only estimate cloud cover from data, and there is more than one method to do this. In this review, NREL’s Aron Habte and collaborators discuss the strengths and weaknesses of 21 different clear-sky identification techniques and conduct a preliminary study that evaluates them. Using 1.2 million observations from a sky camera, along with 1-min irradiance measurements, the authors report that two methods in particular are more robust and recommended. Their work published in Elsevier, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews.

NIST Transactive Energy Modeling and Simulation Challenge Phase II Final Report

Transactive energy (TE) is a new perspective toward energy exchange that accommodates a changing relationship between energy consumers and the grid. From 2015 through 2018, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) hosted a challenge for teams to model and simulate approaches to TE. This report summarizes the second phase of that challenge, which involved the teams collaboratively developing a TE problem scenario, a grid topology, and reporting metrics. The agreed-upon test scenario was a weather event that causes voltage regulation challenges on a high-PV grid; those challenges were then mitigated by TE-based market decisions. This report was published by NIST.