Tenacious SPIDERS To Keep Webs Intact

February 16, 2012
By Beverly Schaeffer

Much like the three propeller blades on a wind turbine, three U.S. government agencies are spinning together a program to produce a microgrid that will provide power that is independent of external sources. The departments of Defense, Energy, and Homeland Security want to enable military bases and other installations to continue operations in the event of power failure due to enemy actions or other events. A key element of this microgrid is network security, and it must be able to continue functions even in the face of cybermarauders, who could bring down an entire system. Requirements would call for providing secure network control that could interoperate with the public power grid but still remain immune to cyber threats that menace the larger network. In his article "Military Energy Enters SPIDERS Web" in this issue of SIGNAL Magazine, Robert K. Ackerman discusses how this power grid effort already is underway with the Defense Department's Smart Power Infrastructure Demonstration for Energy Reliability and Security (SPIDERS) joint capability technology demonstration. The initial location is at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Oahu, Hawaii, with later phases that will evaluate progressively sophisticated systems at other bases. In what Melanie Johnson, an electrical engineer with the Army Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Laboratory describes as the crawl, walk and run phases, this first location is categorized as the "crawl" phase in the system's template for bringing microgrid technology to U.S. military installations. The "walk" phase will take place at Fort Carson, Colorado; the "run" phase will occur at Camp Smith, Hawaii, where the entire installation will be placed on the microgrid. SPIDERS' primary objectives are to protect task-critical assets from power loss due to cyber attack; integrate renewable and other distributed generational electricity to power task-critical assets in times of emergency; sustain critical operations during prolonged power outages; and manage electrical power consumption to reduce petroleum demand and carbon footprint. So far, according to Dr. George Ka'iliwai III, director of resources and assessment (J-8), U.S. Pacific Command, efforts are maturing in key areas, and most of the experiments on the cyber side have generated positive results. Johnson believes that successful SPIDERS development could be exploited by any physical campus or community that seeks to enhance its energy security. Any site that experiences power quality issues from a larger grid could find a SPIDERS approach useful, especially if it employs a range of different power generation assets. The main objective is to enable various locations and organizations to continue operations in the aftermath of attacks or other disasters. Is this a realistic goal in the long run, given the progress thus far? Share you opinions, ideas and suggestions here.

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