Smart Grid Center awarded grant from Department of Energy to detect timing signal intrusions on nation’s power grid

smart grid

The Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station’s (TEES) Smart Grid Center has received a new grant from the Department of Energy (DOE) that will further the center’s mission to strengthen and protect the nation’s power grid. The grant is one of 12 given to projects across the United States as part of $34 million in federal funding through the DOE’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability’s Cybersecurity of Energy Delivery Systems (CEDS) program. The goal is to develop the next generation of cybersecurity solutions, and enhance the reliability and resilience of the nation’s critical energy infrastructure.

The $4.4 million project is “Timing Intrusion Management Ensuring Resiliency (TIMER),” and the research group, led by Smart Grid Center Director Dr. Mladen Kezunovic, will address vulnerability concerns in the synchrophasor systems of the electrical grid.

The synchrophasor systems are the new technology for power systems monitoring, control and protection that has been recommended for installation after the major Northeast blackout that occurred in the United States in 2003. This technology relies on the use of precise time synchronization of the sampling of power system waveforms, and as such is vulnerable to any timing issues that may result from the system being compromised by attacks or design errors. The TIMER project will focus on detection of deterioration of the quality of the timing precision requirements.

Texas A&M’s specific objective on the project is to develop timing intrusion modules (TIMs) to detect inaccurate timing signals from the Global Positioning System (GPS) of satellites and whether or not those inaccuracies are being intentionally introduced into the system. By detecting the timing intrusions, the synchrophasor systems will be kept operationally robust, which will contribute to the improved monitoring, control and protection. If such detection is not available, the synchrophasor systems can experience erroneous control actions, which in turn can lead to the damage or a major blackout in the power system

“Securing the nation’s power supply is a critical component of modernizing the power grid,” said Kezunovic. “Part of the Smart Grid Center’s mission is to foster collaboration among researchers from different disciplines. With this project, we have brought together an outstanding team of experts in power systems, computer science, communication, cybersecurity and synchrophasor applications to solve this problem.”

Kezunovic will serve as project director and principal investigator of the project. The interdisciplinary team includes co-PIs Dr. Jyh-Charn (Steven) Liu, professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, and Dr. Alex Sprintson, associate professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Texas A&M University; Michael Mylrea, Jeff Dagle, Paul Skare, Chris Bonebrake and Dr. Mark Rice, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory-PNNL; Dr. Milorad Papic, Idaho Power Company-IPC; and Dr. Manu Parashar, Alstom/General Electric Grid Solutions-Alstom/GE Grid Solutions.