BRYAN, Tex (KBTX) - "The whole energy and power system is undergoing a revolution, in many ways," said PR Kumar, the chair of Computer Engineering at Texas A&M University. "While this technology is fantastic, it also gives you attack opportunities."
Professor Kumar and his colleague, Le Xie, are studying how we get power and protect its fragile network. Malware and ransomware are being used to steal data or even shut down power systems
"People are trying to hack into these systems all the time," said Gary Miller, general manager of Bryan Texas Utilities. He says infrastructure renewal, along with sturdy software and research, is key in keeping the grid up and running.
"We have a robust cyber-security program at the city of Bryan and BTU. All of our software is protected as best we know how," Miller said.
Professor Le says Texas A&M is poised to lead the field of cyber-security in the future.
"Texas A&M, from a historical perspective, has housed one of the largest energy power programs in North America." Le said. "We have in this department alone a dozen or so professors working in this general area of power energy systems."
While the experts work on keeping our grid safe from intruders, Le says there's something that's a bigger worry for us, everyday consumers.
You may remember a day in early August where ERCOT asked the state of Texas to conserve as much energy as possible in the afternoon.
"74 gigawatts," Le said. "imagine the largest nuclear power plant (about 1 gigawatt). Demand two weeks ago was about 74 of those power plants working together at the same time."
Le says a typical summer day has our homes demanding half the entire demand for power. Half of that? You guessed it. Air conditioning. As the Brazos Valley grows, how do we stay cool in the future?
BTU thinks they have the answer.
"In the near future I think solar will expand considerably," Miller said. "in fact, BTU has very recently entered into a large solar purchasing agreement from a solar farm in North Texas that will serve a considerable amount of our electrical needs."
Many would be pleased to hear this news, especially from an environmental perspective. Miller says while that's a bonus, it's actually going to be cheaper for you and me.
"It was the most economically beneficial for us."
While solar and wind are emerging energy sources in the state of Texas, fossil fuels and natural gas are still 60% of our energy source, and experts agree that it will still be needed for the foreseeable future.