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U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office Selects GridBright, Inc., to Lead the Effort to Integrate Solar Energy Into Utility Control Rooms Securely

Project supported by an ecosystem of utility, research, and technology collaborators, including San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and Oracle

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) announced the award of GridBright’s project “PIVA: Photovoltaic (PV) Integration using Virtual Airgap” as part of their Fiscal Year 2021 Systems Integration and Hardware Incubator Funding Program. Virtual airgap technology is a cloud-based platform for integrating behind-the-meter (BTM) assets that securely emulate traditional physical airgaps in protecting mission-critical systems.

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“GridBright specializes in secure and sustainable grid integration,” said GridBright CEO Ali Vojdani. “The virtual air gap concept we have been incubating is critical to providing the industry a robust, scalable, resilient, and cyber-secure distributed energy resource (DER) integration solution.”

In its evaluation of GridBright’s proposal, the SETO reviewers noted that the project “addresses a real concern from utilities and other consumers of DER data about cybersecurity from cloud-based approaches…the virtual air gap approach has value to many BTM applications and perhaps even other approaches that allow cloud-based/aggregator solutions to tie into utility control rooms.”

GridBright will lead a team of partners, including SDG&E, as the host utility and DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), in the three-year project.

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“As an energy company that aims to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045, SDG&E is excited to be the host utility for this important project,” said Tyson Swetek, director of Electric Distribution Operations at SDG&E. “This work will help advance DER integration into utility operations, which is key to creating a more sustainable future.”

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“NREL will leverage its Advanced Distribution Management Systems testbed platform and hardware-in-the-loop capabilities to demonstrate this novel integration approach and assist utilities that have had to develop creative methods to incorporate behind-the-meter devices,” said NREL senior researcher and project lead Ismael Mendoza.

Oracle will be providing key technology elements for the solution, including Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) and Oracle Utilities Live Energy Connect offerings. These technologies will be used to demonstrate how to safely connect higher penetrations of customer-owned Distributed Energy Resources into utility critical operational systems by first validating and securing the data.

“Increasing the use of DERs is a critical step in reaching a clean energy future, yet the security of connecting devices at the edge of the grid has remained a concern,” said Brad Williams, vice president of industry strategy for Oracle Energy and Water. “Oracle is delighted to participate in this project that will demonstrate how utilities can leverage a scalable and secure path to integrate DERs into their critical utility operations systems. We hope that the results will foster broader cost-effective regional clean energy policies moving forward.

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