The University of Arkansas announced Thursday (April 16) distinguished professor Alan Mantooth has received $3.6 million from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office to advance technologies that integrate solar power systems to the national power grid.
Mantooth and engineering researchers at the UA’s National Center for Reliable Electric Power Transmission will lead a multi-institutional research group that will develop systems to protect solar technologies from cyberattack.
“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, distinguished professor of electrical engineering and principal investigator for the project. “Our group is nicely qualified to address these problems. We’re already developing systems to protect the power grid from cyberattack, and this work will be a logical extension of that effort.”
Mantooth will lead a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory and General Electric. Two Arkansas companies, Ozarks Electric Cooperative and Today’s Power Inc. (TPI), will also contribute to the project.
The research will focus on developing cybersecurity systems for photovoltaic energy technology and devices, especially solar photovoltaic inverters, the power electric devices that link solar power arrays to the grid. Researchers will address issues such as supply-chain security, real-time instruction detection methods, identifying and mitigating vulnerable spots, control system security and safety protocols.
The project, Multilevel Cybersecurity for Photovoltaic Systems, is part of the Solar Energy Technologies Office Fiscal Year 2019 funding program, an effort to invest in new projects that will lower solar electricity costs, while working to increase solar manufacturing, reduce red tape and make solar systems more resilient to cyberattack, according to a news release. The project will help to improve the ability of grid operators to integrate greater amounts of solar generation onto the grid in a cost-effective, secure, resilient and reliable manner, the release shows.
Mantooth is the executive director of the National Center for Reliable Electric Power Transmission (NCREPT), the highest-powered power-electronics test facility at any U.S. university. He is also executive director of the Cybersecurity Center for Secure Evolvable Energy Delivery Systems, a consortium of university and industry partners focused on protecting the U.S. power grid from cyberattacks. The center receives money from the Department of Energy and the Department of Homeland Security. Its researchers have developed several detection and mitigation algorithms for the electric grid sector and power electrics-based methods, including control boards and power routers along with software modules that control these systems.
Other contributors to the project include: Jia Di, professor of computer science and computer engineering; Qinghua Li, associate professor of computer science and computer engineering; Chris Farnell, managing director and test engineer for NCREPT; and several students.
Mantooth also is an Arkansas Research Alliance fellow and the Twenty-First Century Research Leadership Chair in the College of Engineering.