Published: Sept. 18, 2020
Poster with graphic diagram of systems security and date, time

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Increasing penetration of renewable energy, energy storage, controllable loads and electrified transportation on the electric grid are causing a generational change in how the grid is designed and operated. Electric inverters, critical to enabling this transformation, utilize a level of communication and control not previously required. While enabling grid control through communications, these changes are exponentially increasing the cyber vulnerability surface. NREL’s Cyber-Physical Systems Security Group is developing environments that combine emulated communication and power systems with real-physical grid devices to construct virtual grids, utilities, cites or regions to study threats, vulnerabilities, mitigations, analyses and visualizations. An overview will be provided of how this environment, NREL’s Energy Systems Integration Facility and Flatirons Campus are being interconnected to develop these environments to support future grid cybersecurity research and development efforts.


Jonathan White, Ph.D., is the manager for the Secure Cyber-Energy Systems group within the Energy Security and Resilience Center at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. NREL’s Energy Security and Resilience Center focuses on the identification and mitigation of cyber and physical threats to today’s power grid while providing pathways to a more intrinsically secure and resilient future grid. White leads a team of 22 researchers and analysts who specialize in cybersecurity vulnerability analysis, encryption technologies for distributed energy resources, and advanced modeling, emulation, and visualization tools to evaluate the security of power-communications networks. 

Prior to joining NREL, White spent over a decade performing research in wind turbine physical damage monitoring and wind plant control systems at Sandia National Laboratories. He was the chief engineer for the Department of Energy’s first research multi-turbine wind plant, the Scaled Wind Farm Technology Facility (SWiFT), where he oversaw numerous teams performing wind blade validation, data analysis, wind plant control, and wind plant reliability. During this time, White led a joint Sandia-NREL multi-million dollar effort to forensically identify natural and cyber-physical vulnerabilities after a wind turbine catastrophically failed at the facility. The effort led to the most extensive cyber-physical assessment and consequence-driven mitigation study to date by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind Energy Technologies Office on wind energy systems. 

White earned his doctorate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from Purdue University, and he earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from The Ohio State University.