Psssst! Pass these substation security ideas along to NERC. (Right now.)

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With FERC’s order to NERC last week, NERC now has less than 90 days to deliver a new physical security standard. A short time and a big task. That's why I was pleased to get these ideas from Doug Houseman, Vice President of Technical Innovation at EnerNex. The next part is up to those of you who have NERC staffers in your rolodex. Send them these ideas. I think the suggestion to standardize on "modular" transformers is particularly timely. – Jesse Berst

 

By Doug Houseman

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I am not NERC, so my vote does not count.

 

But...

 

... I seldom sit back and relax when there is an important issue on the loose. Physical security of the grid is one such issue. I see the changes as coming in 3 phases:

1.     Immediate phase - things that can be done without disrupting the operation of the substation and do not require major capital expenses.

2.     Short-term phase – things that might cost significant amounts of capital and/or may need engineering changes

3.     Long-term phase – things that need to fundamentally change the way the grid is designed and implemented.

 

Here are some ideas for transmission substations for each phase.

 

Immediate substation security steps

The immediate phase starts with making the existing fences opaque, filling in the chain link fences with commercially available decorative strips, increasing the height of fences where needed and putting up visual barriers.

 

Next is the addition of deterrents to climbing over the fence or cutting through the fence. Warning signs, and barbed wire come to mind.

 

Next is to consider the addition of “dazzle” paint to the pads in the substation to make overhead photos harder to use to plot locations of key equipment. (Check out WWII ship paint schemes.) It's also important to restrict access to blueprints. And to remind people of the importance of not talking about the specifics of their stations.

 

Now add to that great cameras with thermal and night vision capability, gunshot cameras, and motion sensors. Then work out a deal with the local police to respond to calls and offer them use of the information from the gunshot cameras.

 

While there are lots of substations that would need this kind of work, this is the fastest, cheapest work that could be done and it would deter most of the people who might want to make a physical attack.