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DOE Awards $2.5 Million to Create New Cybersecurity Center To Protect Grids Integrated With Renewables, Microgrids

May 3, 2024
The DOE also awarded $15 million to establish six university-based centers to address a region’s unique cybersecurity and workforce training needs.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has selected a project led by Iowa State University engineers for a two-year, $2.5 million grant to create a new cybersecurity center based at Iowa State called CyDERMS, the Center for Cybersecurity and Resiliency of DERs and Microgrids-integrated Distribution Systems. 

The project partners will contribute $1 million in cost-share funding, including equipment and labor costs. Closing or isolating grid connections will help maintain service during cyberattacks or damaging storms.

Recently, the DOE announced $15 million in grants to establish six university-based centers to address a region’s unique cybersecurity and workforce training needs. The lead campuses for the other centers will be in Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Texas.

“This investment in university-based cybersecurity centers will enable us to simultaneously grow the U.S. cyber workforce and build the expertise we need to take on the evolving cyber threats to our nation’s energy systems,” said Puesh M. Kumar, the director of the DOE’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security and Emergency Response.

The center based at Iowa State will be led by Iowa State University’s Manimaran Govindarasu, who’s also the Murray J. and Ruth M. Harpole Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering and a contributor at the DOE’s Ames National Laboratory. Four other Iowa State researchers will also be affiliated with the center. 

Additionally, the center’s project team will include researchers from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, Michigan Technological University, GE Vernova, Argonne National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. 

The center’s industry advisory board includes representatives from the Central Iowa Power Cooperative, Xcel Energy, Hubbell, Hitachi Energy and MITRE.

According to Govindarasu, CyDERMS has two primary objectives:

  • Center researchers will protect power grids containing wind and solar farms and microgrids by developing robust computer algorithms and other tools to detect and mitigate cyberattacks and system faults in real time. The researchers will use artificial intelligence and machine learning tools to help detect grid problems and malicious activities.
  • They will strengthen the grid industry’s cybersecurity workforce by developing curricular modules, capstone design projects, cyber-defense competitions plus hands-on workshops for industry and utility employees, including in rural areas.

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