Information Trust Institute block of abstract images
Information Trust Institute block of abstract images

Valdes receives two grants to improve resiliency in energy systems

Our nation’s resiliency against attacks and other threats on our critical infrastructure relies on the strength of many systems, including our complex power grid. Alfonso Valdes, managing director of smart grid technologies in the Information Trust Institute at the Coordinated Science Lab, received two grants totaling $1.7 million to address the resiliency in multi-layered microgrid networks and high-voltage direct current electric power transmission systems.

By improving the resiliency of such systems, they will be able to recover more quickly in the event of a disruption.

Alfonso Valdes
Alfonso Valdes
“Modern smart grid systems are being adopted throughout the industrialized world, and offer the potential for energy technology in the developing world to leapfrog ahead,” said Valdes. “But smart grids rely on extensive cyber infrastructure for measurement and control, previously done on specialized equipment but increasingly done using general-purpose computers and networking standards.”

The first grant, titled “Multi-layered Resilient Microgrid Networks,” will focus on the safe and reliable operation of microgrid networks, which are typically community-scale electrical systems that include distributed energy resources (such as solar, storage, and small generators), intelligent controllable loads, and a single point of interconnection to a larger utility. Microgrids can operate connected to or islanded from the utility.

The microgrid with its measurement and control infrastructure is a cyber-physical system. The team will develop measurement, control, and detection strategies to protect the networks in case of adverse events such as severe weather or a cyber adversary.

The second grant, “Cyber Attack Resilient HVDC System,” will address resiliency of high-voltage direct current (HVDC) systems.

HVDC systems are advantageous in transferring large amounts of electric power over long distances. They enable connection between two large alternating current (AC) systems without requiring synchronization, which makes the coupling easier. AC systems provide the type of electricity most commonly used in residences and business.

Valdes and his team are studying the potential cyber-physical threats that could affect the safe dispatch of power across an HVDC connection between two AC systems.

“This involves checking the validity of the control and dispatch commands with respect to impact on stability, and using techniques such as a high-speed look ahead simulation to ensure that a questionable command will not place the system in an unsafe state,” said Valdes.

For both of these projects, Valdes, along with ITI researchers Matthew Backes, Max Liu, Ken Keefe, and Zbigniew Kalbarczyk, partnered with ABB US Corporate Research, a leading global manufacturer of industrial control equipment. These projects are part of the Department of Energy “Industry Call” portfolio that teams industry prime contractors, in this case ABB, with academic partners.

“The Information Trust Institute has been leading research in cyber security and resiliency of energy delivery systems for over 10 years,” said Valdes. “We will continually find ways to protect our infrastructure as the technology and types of threats and vulnerabilities continue to develop.”