A $500,000 contribution from Duke Energy means Indiana’s Battery Innovation Center will be able to develop new protocols for protecting microgrids from cyberattacks. Security and energy accessibility are critical to providing safe and reliable power to consumers.

Cybersecurity stories are in the news every day, from compromised medical records to credit card information to election hacking. The Battery Innovation Center will use the Duke Energy contribution, in collaboration with the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor, to purchase cyber lab infrastructure for researching the best ways to protect microgrids, utilizing a system the BIC launched in 2015.

“The second-stage program we’re working on with these partners is to build additional infrastructure on top of the existing microgrid that was installed last year in part of that program,” explains BIC COO Ben Wrightsman. “So, we’re building on top of that, trying to set some additional hardware assets, working on security protocols and then also some associated security infrastructure.” He says this method is important because it will demonstrate how best to integrate new assets with existing ones.

Microgrids are much smaller versions of the large energy disbursement grids with which most consumers are familiar. Microgrids tend to be more efficient, smarter and more nimble while serving a geographically smaller area, such as a college campus or neighborhood. They also have broad applications in military and research scenarios.

Wrightsman says the collaboration among public and private sector partners involved in the initiative is key and has wide-ranging implications thanks to the resources available in Indiana.

"If you look at connections with technology in the state, we’ve had kind of a battery history here with some of the companies that exist and did exist. Also, you’re looking at the renewable sector, where we’ve got the electric buses in Indianapolis, we’ve got the large solar installations out at the airport, we’ve got almost 10 MW of solar that’s going in down here in southern Indiana with Duke and with Crane and with the state. So, again, they’re wanting to continue the trend of renewables and looking at how do those backbone and help partner with the balance of the existing grid today."

“Microgrids present unique security challenges that need specific tools to guard against threats,” says Duke Energy Senior Vice President Rob Caldwell. “The BIC is already well-known as a microgrid test facility.”

The BIC’s multi-million dollar research laboratory adjacent to Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane is designed for just such a project as the microgrid cybersecurity effort, one Wrightsman says matches the BIC mission perfectly.

“This just continues to show that, even though we’re fairly new, only less than five years old at this point, we’re truly an industry leader in the advanced energy space.”

The latest funding is in addition to an earlier $1 million Duke Energy grant to the BIC under the terms of a settlement agreement regarding the development of Duke’s Edwardsport plant.

COO Ben Wrightsman explains how participants in BIC education programs will be better informed on microgrid cybersecurity .

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