DOE may stockpile large transformers to thwart grid threats
- The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is considering stockpiling transformers to guard against widespread blackouts and potential threats to the nation's electric grid, E&E Publishing reports.
- The study is being conducted by DOE's Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability.
- Attacks on a relatively limited number of substations could cause widespread blackouts, according to a leaked federal report from last year. DOE is seeking to secure the grid against possible solar storms, cyber intrusions and physical damage.
The Department of Energy has been quietly studying the potential need to stockpile transformers in case damage to the nation's power grid causes widespread blackouts, according to E&E. Last year, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) determined that damage to nine critical substations could potentially bring large swaths of the nation's electricity system to a halt.
Possible threats include physical terrorist attacks on substations, cyber attacks capable of doing physical harm, or large solar storms capable of adding current to the grid. The underlying problem is that the U.S. grid has a limited number of spare large transformers, which are increasingly they are supplied by overseas manufacturers.
A DOE report last year found "key industry sources have identified the limited availability of spare [large power transformers] as a potential issue for critical infrastructure resilience in the United States, and both the public and private sectors have been undertaking a variety of efforts to address this concern."
The DOE's Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, the agency tackling the transformer study, last week announced up to $27 million in funding for academic collaborations that will develop and transition advanced cybersecurity technologies to the energy sector.
Follow Robert Walton on Twitter