Grid Security Means More Than Cyber

Tuesday, August 23, 2016 10:20 am EDT



Rick Boyd, Vice President of Siemens Transformers

A century after they were introduced, the gray, unsung hero of the power network – the transformer – is finally getting its day. Unless you work for a utility company, you hardly ever notice them. But recognition from the U.S. Government by including plans to develop strategic reserves of spare large power transformers in last year’s transportation bill, demonstrates that these electrical devices are critical components in the wake of storms, natural disasters, and unintentional accidents that threaten to cause wide-spread electric power outages.

But are they bullet resistant? 

At Siemens, we’ve made cybersecurity part of our vision for digitalization and how we’ll transition to a smarter grid. But physical attacks are still a very real threat.

In April 2013, a power substation near San Jose, California was attacked, resulting in $15 million in damage, leaking oil, and a near catastrophic power outage, when an attacker fired over 100 rounds of .30-caliber ammunition at the site’s electric transformers.

This rifle assault was a wake-up call for the power industry. The good news is that utilities now can defend themselves against these types of attacks.

A Midwest utility will use Siemens bullet-resistant transformer technology as a preventative measure to protect critical power systems from physical threats. The technology employs special armor panels that are designed and tested to withstand ballistic threats.

The video below shows in great detail how technology can help protect a utility’s critical infrastructure. It’s a powerful visual that reinforces why we must continue as an industry, to focus on the importance of every type of threat, including the physical. Though they may often be overlooked, transformers are key to ensuring the health and resiliency of our power grid. 



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