Next-gen Engineering Algorithms Help Protect Evolving Smart Grid
The physical infrastructure of the U.S. electric grid is aging, overburdened and vulnerable to natural hazards.
That’s not the bad news.
The bad news is that efforts to solve these issues have opened the door to new vulnerabilities.
New approaches that transform how energy is produced, delivered and consumed have created increased reliance on complex data flows, interconnected systems and sophisticated technologies — i.e., the new smart grid.
But with smarter systems come equally smart hackers.
Cyberattacks can come in many forms, all with the real risk of physical harm to the system. This was demonstrated in the 2007 Aurora project, where a staged cyberattack revealed critical vulnerabilities in the power grid.
To stay one step ahead of cyberattacks, engineers and scientists funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) are exploring innovative new ways to operate and secure the grid, using the tools of game and control theory.
Control at the periphery
The smart grid is evolving to look like a vast ant colony, with each node of the grid collecting and acting on its own measured data. While inconsequential in isolation, those individual actions can result in collective behavior that has profound effects on the power grid as a whole.
Smart meters, smart appliances, electric vehicles and the increasing number of devices connected through the Internet of Things offer users and grid operators new opportunities to control the usage of power at a scale never seen before.
“Essential to the reliable operation of the grid is the need to balance supply and demand on a sub-second timescale,” says Eilyan Bitar, a Cornell University engineer who designs algorithms for control of large-scale systems. “Traditionally, we schedule supply to follow demand. There is, however, a considerable flexibility in demand that remains largely untapped. So, why not tailor demand to follow supply?”