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The role of AI in security for power plants

The role of AI in security for power plants
Before analyzing the specific role of AI in security, it would be prudent to consider the specific safety needs that renewable energy power plants warrant. As with fossil fuel power plants, it would be important to note that any form of disruption to the functioning of a renewable energy power plant could end up becoming a costly affair. 

According to Andrea Sorri, Director of Business Development for Government, City Surveillance and Critical Infrastructures at Axis Communications, there is a development and switch to remote monitoring systems, as security teams cannot always be on hand or cannot physically cover the sheer size and remote location of renewable energy plants. As a result, renewable energy plants can use remote monitoring systems to maintain an effective and complete security surveillance solution, eliminating the costs associated with constant patrols. 

“More analytics applications are being used in cameras and sensors to help detect any unusual actions, such as perimeter breaches,” Sorri said. “In these instances, pre-defined areas are set up within a camera’s field of view. Once an object breaches this pre-defined line, an alert will be sent to the security teams monitoring the cameras who will be able to assess the situation and act accordingly.”

Analytics can also tackle a major issue for renewable energy plants — energy efficiency, Sorri explained further. It is important to note that renewable energy plants need to project a clean energy image to avoid getting a bad reputation. By making it so that security systems only turn on — and use power — once there is a potential threat, energy consumption is cut down. 

Larsh Johnson, Chief Technology Officer at Stem, further indicated that AI-driven energy storage can immediately improve the security and reliability of onsite and offsite renewable energy projects. “The company’s AI software captures and transmits data to our intelligence center on a one-second basis from every site, storing terabytes of data in Stem’s cloud and feeding our machine learning. Customers and grid operators can monitor real-time energy optimization through our software to assist their energy management techniques. In fact, a number of customers have relayed that our AI and monitoring software helped them identify equipment failures in their solar PV system — weeks ahead of discovering the failure in their monthly energy bill,” Johnson said.

Major security solutions in place

Trending solutions in security for renewable energy plants are low energy usage sensors or cameras. According to Sorri, renewable energy plants have been created and engineered to increase green and clean energy. As a result, they want to use cameras and security equipment that reflects this. 

Thermal cameras can offer this solution. They do not need constant lighting to help detect suspicious activity as they are built to detect thermal radiation, even in the dead of night. This helps renewable energy plants save on power and electricity and can, instead, enable them to focus on delivering clean, renewable energy to their customers.

“Similarly, by using radar technology, which, like a bat, uses radio waves to detect an object, resources can be saved,” Sorri added. “When the waves hit an object, the signal is reflected back to the radar device, where it will be detected by a receiver, giving information such as size, location, and speed of movement. Should something be detected that could be a potential threat, it triggers an automatic response to activate recording technology. As there is no way for an intruder to camouflage themselves in this instance, this system uses significantly fewer resources than having 24/7 surveillance running, without compromising security.”

He further added that remote monitoring has been increasingly used by renewable energy plants. Technologies, such as access control, are used to help secure facilities from outside threats. Here, access is only granted to someone who has been given permission, for example, has a key card, a digit code or a pre-sent QR code. This enables renewable energy plants to save money on security teams who don’t have to keep guarding each access point. 

Additionally, renewable energy plants are turning to remote monitoring for security in hard to access places. For example, off-shore wind farms may not always be able to have security teams patrolling the perimeter, especially during rough weather. It is therefore important to have security systems that maintain maximum security even when there is no physical human presence. In doing so, renewable energy plants can invest in long-term surveillance cameras and technologies that match their needs and have various embedded analytics.

Cyberattacks on the Rise

When talking about security, cyberattacks are important issues to take note of, as with IoT and interconnected security systems, there may be back channels that are vulnerable to cybersecurity threats. Power plants must ensure that any device that has a connection to the internet has adequate cybersecurity protocols associated with it.

“Some of the systems in power plants have moving parts or parts that, when working and turned on, can provide vast amounts of heat,” Sorri said. “By having thermal cameras, security teams can spot or be alerted to any unusual activity within the plant. Visual feedback throughout a power plant will help security teams and systems determine where, if any, there are issues.”

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