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back to article Spotty solar power management platform could crash the grid

Criminals could potentially cause black-outs and mess with power grid configurations by exploiting flaws in a popular solar panel management system used by thousands of homes and businesses. Details of how the attacks could be executed were kept under wraps while solar panel monitoring kit vendor Solar-Log distributed a patch …

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monetise

". . . bad guys can try to monetise it via blackmail," Goreychik said."

Or even sell software to protect against it.

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566 terawatts a day?

Correction needed, I think - Website says 5.66TWh per day, which is an extremely different thing. "terawatts per day" doesn't even make any sense, a Watt is a per time unit.

It's also interesting that website says instantaneous output is around 7GW, from 230000 installations. That's about THREE nuclear reactors.

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Holmes

Re: 566 terawatts a day?

Hence why I'm not convinced solar power is EVER going to be a useful source of energy.

I'm not surprised most SCADA systems are entirely unprotected. In the past they've been isolated system requiring physical access to an industrial plant to tamper with. Tamperproofing was pretty much a non-issue. Now that they are moving into the private home and are becoming connected and networked, security is going to be more of an issue

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Re: 566 terawatts a day?

"It's also interesting that website says instantaneous output is around 7GW, from 230000 installations. That's about THREE nuclear reactors."

Given the dismal load factor of solar (globally perhaps 20%, in the UK 10%) that's hardly a valid comparison.

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Re: 566 terawatts a day?

Solar is a great idea, most roofs are empty with nothing on them, and could easily be built from solar materials, cover every roof in the UK and you would generate all the power we need... BUT the critical thing is cost, secondly the look...

they are ugly things and the prettier solar 'tiles' cost way more...

also if your roof is not south facing, don't even bother.. although they will try to sell you them anyway.. I had 2 people quote me for solar panels, promising masses of savings... then i had a chat with a local independent installer, who told me how terrible it would be and its not worth doing...

The only way solar will be worth doing, is when houses have it built in when they are built, so it looks right..

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Re: 566 terawatts a day?

"Solar is a great idea, most roofs are empty with nothing on them, and could easily be built from solar materials, cover every roof in the UK and you would generate all the power we need..."

You believe that cobblers? In winter there's a factor of 4x between expected average summer and winter daily output. In both situations there's a good twelve hours of darkness with no output at all, and no way of storing the output for protracted periods. Factor in the high cost of small solar (£2.5k/kW) and solar rated capacity is as expensive as nuclear, with only a fifth of the same output, delivered mainly when you need power least. Add in any form of power storage to the solar costs, and it makes nuclear look like an Aldi special buy.

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Re: 566 terawatts a day?

"Solar is a great idea, most roofs are empty with nothing on them, and could easily be built from solar materials, cover every roof in the UK and you would generate all the power we need..."

Lets take this an item at a time:

"Most roofs are empty" - For most roofs, this is a good thing. Most roof structures weren't designed to take the weight of the roof, plus solar panels - let alone the occasional high winds that hit.

"Could easily be built from solar materials" - Given the high price of housing already, unless you can make these "solar materials" as cheap as existing roof materials, not likely. On the flip side, better than putting a roof on a new property then lobbing panels on top. Subsidy is a bad idea in any context - using tax payers money to hide the sins of a questionable idea....

"Cover every roof in the UK and you would generate all the power we need" - except we wouldn't due to the number of south facing roof tops (as you rightly point out), and that UK weather isn't constantly good enough to generate that much juice all the time - particularly in the winter when it's needed most.

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Re: 566 terawatts a day?

But water heating makes more sense in Europe than Subsidizing Solar voltaic.

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Re: 566 terawatts a day?

"But water heating makes more sense in Europe than Subsidizing Solar voltaic."

As somebody not very keen on most "renewables" I've got to concede this. Where you've got sunshine and no gas (much of southern europe) solar thermal is a no brainer - it works, it is storable, and it is cheap.

Problem in northern Europe is that nerks of government and civil service can't conceive of anything happening without their say so and subsidy. In the UK, having made a pig's ear of solar PV, they've now added solar thermal to the list of permissible subsidised technologies, for an unbelievable generous 19.2p/kWh. By 2018 there will be no form of power generation NOT getting some form of DECC & OFGEM approved subsidy, excepting the older nuclear fleet.

From an overall efficiency point of view the whole solar PV thing across Europe has been a disaster. Instead of choosing solar PV over solar thermal, they should have required industry to laminate the PV panels onto flat plate thermal collectors with insulated backs, and then mandated only combined panels to be installed in domestic situations. In volume would have been not much more expensive, the water heating would have kept PV panel temperatures a little bit lower and thus more efficient, and you'd collect far more of the incident insolation,and even store the heat beyond sundown in the hot water tank. Admittedly still expensive, still useless in winter, but probably three times as efficient as typical solar PV panels.

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Re: 566 terawatts a day?

>the whole solar PV thing across Europe has been a disaster

It has not been a disaster - it has been a great success, ask Ms Merkel's election team.

It's the best way of keeping both middle class home owners (or at least those with a south facing roof), farmers and greens happy. While getting the poor to pay for it, without seeming to raise taxes.

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IFTFY

Criminals could potentially cause black-outs and mess with power grid configurations by exploiting flaws in government lobbying methods.

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Anonymous Coward

Reporting and Monitoring via the Internet

How about putting the devices behind an encrypted firewalled connection?

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Re: Reporting and Monitoring via the Internet

I wouldn't worry. The thesis of the article (or at least the title) that this could destabilise the grid and bring it down is rubbish.

Renewables (and most forms of micro-generation) operate as negative demand. When they are producing the wick gets turned down on some more flexible asset (usually gas turbines, sometimes hydro), and the system operator monitors the performance of the grid rather than individual plant. Loss of management information from solar assets might mess up the statistics, but since solar can't be despatched it doesn't really make any difference to how the grid is run.

Because of its widely distributed nature, and inherent vulnerability to fluctuations even a collective take-down of all UK solar would have minimal effect. The grid is run on the basis that one or two major plant could come off load at any time without warning (this is why reserve capacity is important). Loss of all solar be lead to some brown outs or a few moments of power loss, but not a risk you don't already have eg from high winds bringing down power lines, fire in a fuel hopper at a coal or biomass plant, safety interruption at a nuclear plant etc. An incidental impact of the expansion of renewables is that the grid is more capable of managing supply demand balance, eg through frequency response, short term operational reserve and other mechanisms.

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Reporting

When solar power is fed to the grid, the producer gets paid for it. That means that it is measured by a calibrated device like a electricity meter and not some random log device.

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Re: Reporting

Thats not true. They dont measure it. They assume you pump back a half or quarter (cant remember off the top of my head) of what you generate (which they do measure)

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Anonymous Coward

I think I'm safe

My grid-synchronous inverter has an RS232 port for reading telemetry data, but the (modified by me, Open Source) app doing the reading isn't Internet facing. It does an rsync push (secured with ssh keys, not passwords) to an Internet facing server to publish the results; using an unholy mix of awk, Gnuplot and PHP.

By the way, I earned 86.7 p today just sitting on my backside and letting the Sun shine.

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Want to hold the world to ransom?

Fiddle with a few terawatts (terra watts?) of solar PV? Meh.

To get real hostage action, threaten to crash the Sun! That will get you some attention!

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