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

DoE-funded project to develop new tools for a reliable, efficient smart grid

The Department of Energy has announced that an Illinois-led smart grid project is among 66 transformational energy proposals to receive a total of $130 million through the DoE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (APRA-E) “OPEN 2012” program.

In a press release, ARPA-E stated that selected projects “have the potential to produce game-changing breakthroughs in energy technology, form the foundation for entirely new industries, and have large commercial impacts.”

The Illinois-led project, “Cyber Modeling and Analysis for a Smart Grid,” will develop grid modeling, monitoring and analysis tools to increase the resiliency and reliability of the grid during cyber attacks. Led by principal investigator Rakesh Bobba, a research assistant professor in the Information Trust Institute, the team will combine electrical infrastructure modeling with cyber analysis to examine the impact of failures and malicious threats to grid infrastructure. These tools and analysis could lead to a more reliable power infrastructure.

“There is an increasing recognition that we need to ramp up cyber-security efforts across all sectors,” Bobba said of the grant, which totals $1.5 million over three years. “It is especially true for our power infrastructure, which is vital to our safety and economic security. As we see an ever growing number of cyber threats, this work is an important step in ensuring that our power stays on.”

Power grids rely on cyber technology in day-to-day operations; in fact, cyber networks are as critical to reliable functioning of power systems as transmission lines, generators and other infrastructure. A computer system failure was one cause of the August 2003 blackout that affected more than 50 million people in much of the Northeast, Midwest and parts of Canada, and cost an estimated $6 billion.

However, today’s solutions often analyze the power network in isolation from the cyber network. Bobba’s team, which also includes researchers from the University of Miami and PowerWorld Corporation, will extend power systems analysis to include cyber infrastructure. The team aims to develop a novel security-oriented contingency analysis tool that takes into account the state of both the cyber infrastructure and electrical system. The technology could play an important role in preventing widespread outages that may be induced by cyber-attacks.

Bobba’s project was chosen from among thousands of concept papers. The selected projects encompass 11 technology areas in 24 states; of the 66 chosen projects, nearly half will be led by universities. Other Illinois investigators include Robin Berthier, a research scientist in the Information Trust Institute; David Nicol, professor of electrical and computer engineering; William H. Sanders, professor of electrical and computer engineering; and Peter Sauer, professor of electrical and computer engineering.