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Dispersive Networks: Connecting Renewable Energy Assets on a Growing Scale in California

By Special Guest
Shrey Fadia

When it comes to connecting assets securely, there are few applications more challenging than the energy grid, especially as the grid continues to evolve with new sources of energy coming online, including renewable and sustainable wind, water, solar and more.

Given our dependence on energy to power nearly every moment of our lives, whether we are connecting with our smart phones, or in our smart cars and smart homes, working in smart factories and living in smart cities, we cannot risk attacks that can cut off electricity as part of terrorist and ransomware plots.

We have so much to gain with cleaner sources of power, and the orchestration of that through interconnected providers that building out critical infrastructure that is both reliable and secure is worth doing.

Today, Dispersive Networks, whose software-define, programmable networking technology has already been connecting much of the California Independent System Operator (Cal-ISO) for the last nearly two years, announced it was selected by the Yuba Water Agency (YWA), which owns and operates the fifth-tallest dam in the U.S., to connect its renewable energy assets to the Independent System Operator in California.

YWA joins Humboldt Redwood Company and Greenleaf Power LLC as the third renewable energy generator to make the move to Dispersive’s CI-SDN since the regional grid operator approved it as an option less than two years ago.

The YWA is a public agency that serves the people of Yuba County, California. The agency's primary missions are flood risk reduction, water supply reliability, fish habitat protection and enhancement, hydroelectric generation, and recreation at New Bullards Bar. It owns and operates facilities with a capacity of storing approximately one million acre-feet of water and generating nearly 400 megawatts of hydropower.

Dispersive is providing a fully managed SaaS connectivity solution based on its Critical Infrastructure Software-Defined Network (CI-SDN). The company is using mission-critical programmable networking to provide ultra-secure, real-time and high-performance data transport between Yuba and the Regional ISO.

The solution securely transports SCADA data to the California grid. YWA benefits from ultra-secure data transport between its energy assets with the flexibility and cost-efficiency of SDN. Dispersive Networks' carrier-grade programmable networking splits session-layer IP traffic into independent encrypted streams that automatically change keys and paths. This mitigates the threat of network eavesdropping, data intercept and denial-of-service attacks.

Dispersive's CI-SDN was used to replace a T-1 line connection, which was both unreliable and inefficient. CI-SDN enables resource owners to connect to the grid over a range of connection types, including private circuits, wireless, and broadband to the internet, with a 100% software-defined network. Programmable networking enhances resiliency by virtualizing any combination of connections as one logical pipe.

"Renewables are transforming the energy sector and at the same time driving the need for new networking models," said Edward J. Wood, President and CEO, Dispersive Networks. "Our programmable networking offers new levels of security, reliability and performance as new types of assets add more complexity to the grid and create new cybersecurity challenges.  Our work with YWA demonstrates the value that secure, real-time connectivity can deliver for energy businesses of all kinds and shows how networking can be a driver for optimizing the energy grid."  

"The legacy approach to networking was directly impacting our bottom line and could not deliver the uptime we required," said David DeVore, Information Systems Manager at YWA.  "We needed a new approach that better matched our needs and could evolve with our operations. Dispersive was able to offer us a radically different managed network solution that ensures both security and mission-critical availability."

The deployment was implemented in partnership with Pacific Power Engineers (PPE).

PPE works with government, utilities, military, and private enterprises. Their skilled engineers and technicians offer a range of services in protection relays, arc flash, CAISO revenue metering, project management, and more.

Christian Arechavaleta, Systems Integration Engineer at Pacific Power Engineers, said, "Since Dispersive™ CI-SDN requires only a standard broadband connection to the Internet, it's much easier and less expensive to install than a T-1 line. The network can be deployed in days rather than weeks, enabling utilities and renewable energy facilities to generate electricity – and income – much faster."

The California Independent System Operator is a non-profit Independent System Operator serving California. It oversees the operation of California's bulk electric power system, transmission lines, and electricity market generated and transmitted by its member utilities.




Edited by Ken Briodagh
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