Campus News

Engineer helps protect solar panels from cyberattack

WenZhan Song, professor in the College of Engineering, discussed the recent publication of research with TechXplore. The research team developed a sensor system that can monitor solar panels in real time, specifically the electronic components. This means they could see if anything was being altered within the system.

“A growing concern is that hackers may exploit the converters that connect solar farms with the power grid,” explained Song. “In modern grid-connected solar farms, power electronics converters can be remotely controlled, but this internet connection also expands the potential for cyberattacks.”

Converters work by changing the type of electricity the solar panels create into electricity that can be used by the power grid, and they are expected to be an instrumental part in 80% of all power by 2030, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

While the researchers don’t believe a cyberattack has been attempted before, their system would take a sample of the electrical waveforms and run diagnostic tests to see if normal conditions have been altered.

“At your home, the power meter typically takes a reading once every 15 minutes,” said Song. “Our system is taking 10,000 samples every second.”

Using their system, the researchers have filed for a U.S. patent, hoping to share their technology with manufacturing systems, office buildings and homes.