Aug
27

P3 presented with annual awards from the Eaton Corporation

The Eaton Corporation announced today that it presented Power Protection Products, Inc. (P3) with two of its coveted manufacturers’ representative awards for the North American markets.

The Power Factor Representative of the Year


The Power Factor Representative of the Year was awarded to P3 based on a variety of factors that included sales goal obtainment, business development and contribution to the power factor correction product line. Richard Orman, Eaton’s National Sales Manager, commented, “P3 has done an outstanding job of combining sales, customer service and business development making a very successful year of growth for our product line.” P3 was chosen over a large group of manufacturer representative firms from across the Country.


Hybrid Representative of the Year


Also, on the same day, the Eaton Corporation announced that P3 has earned the Hybrid Representative of the Year Award. This annual award is given to the Manufacturers’ Representative firm that encompasses the best combination of sales obtainment, customer service and contribution to the development of the total Power Quality business.


“We are pleased and honored to receive the ‘Hybrid Rep of the Year Award’ from Eaton,” said Mark Cowart, Principal, at P3. “We have enjoyed our relationship with the Eaton team over the past several years and look forward to an even more successful future.”


P3 was established in 1996 and serves Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa with sales staff that combines experience and technical ability to provide its clients with a trusted advisor relationship. With over sixty years of combined power quality and critical facility experience, P3 has earned its reputation as one of the best in the business.


About Power Protection Products, Inc.


Power Protection Products, Inc. specializes in the sales, distribution and marketing of a variety of data center infrastructure, power quality and energy enhancing products and services including, surge protection, uninterruptible power supplies, harmonic conditioning and energy saving transformers and other data center power and cooling equipment. The Company also provides data center solutions, facility wide power quality studies, various conferences and seminars with respect to data center design, power quality and energy monitoring.


The Company is also the founder of Power Quality University which is a unique data center and power quality training and educational program. Educational programs are provided free to all interested parties.

Contact:
Brian Branigan
e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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27

New Microsoft Data Center taking shape in Iowa

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa —For commuters on Highway 5, it’s impossible to miss: A booming construction site on the southeast corner of West Des Moines.


Microsoft’s new high-tech data center is taking shape. The city and Microsoft are pumping millions of dollars into the area for development. Hundreds of workers are constructing the first two buildings of the four-phase project.


More than $1 million square feet of new buildings have a cost of $1.1 billion.


“This is the first type of project like this that Microsoft has ever done. It’s probably one of the largest data centers that anybody has ever done in the country,” said Clyde Evans, West Des Moines Economic Development director.


West Des Moines is investing $87 million in infrastructure around the data center, which is money city officials said will spur future developments.


“It probably opens up about another 800 to 1,000 acres that doesn’t presently have infrastructure,” Evans said.


Infrastructure improvements include paving rural roads like Pine Avenue.


That has an immediate impact on local commutes.


“Huge impact when they put in the new road. It takes about five to seven minutes off my route to work,” said Renee Soper, who lives near the site.
City officials said the first phase is slightly behind schedule due to inclement weather, but is slated to be complete by summer.


Microsoft has assured 84 full-time jobs with this project.

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27

Bracing for a big power grid attack: ‘One is too many’

About once every four days, part of the nation’s power grid — a system whose failure could leave millions in the dark — is struck by a cyber or physical attack, a USA TODAY analysis of federal energy records finds.

 

Although the repeated security breaches have never resulted in the type of cascading outage that swept across the Northeast in 2003, they have sharpened concerns about vulnerabilities in the electric system. A widespread outage lasting even a few days could disable devices ranging from ATMs to cellphones to traffic lights, and could threaten lives if heating, air conditioning and health care systems exhaust their backup power supplies.


Some experts and officials fear the rash of smaller-scale incidents may point to broader security problems, raising questions about what can be done to safeguard the electrical grid from an attack that could leave millions without power for days or weeks, with potentially devastating consequences.

“It’s one of those things: One is too many, so that’s why we have to pay attention,” said Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Cheryl LaFleur. “The threats continue to evolve, and we have to continue to evolve as well.”

 

Part of the nation’s power grid is struck by a cyber or physical attack nearly once every four days. Some experts fear the rash of smaller-scale incidents may point to broader security problems with potentially devastating consequences. 


An examination by USA TODAY in collaboration with more than 10 Gannett newspapers and TV stations across the country, and drawing on thousands of pages of government records, federal energy data and a survey of more than 50 electric utilities, finds:
• More often than once a week, the physical and computerized security mechanisms intended to protect Americans from widespread power outages are affected by attacks, with less severe cyberattacks happening even more often.
• Transformers and other critical equipment often sit in plain view, protected only by chain-link fencing and a few security cameras.
• Suspects have never been identified in connection with many of the 300-plus attacks on electrical infrastructure since 2011.
• An organization funded by the power industry writes and enforces the industry’s own guidelines for security, and decreased the number of security penalties it issued by 30% from 2013 to 2014, leading to questions about oversight.


Jon Wellinghoff, former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said the power grid is currently “too susceptible to a cascading outage” because of its reliance on a small number of critical substations and other physical equipment.


Because the nation’s electrical grid operates as an interdependent network, the failure of any one element requires energy to be drawn from other areas. If multiple parts fail at the same time, there is the potential for a cascading effect that could leave millions in the darks for days, weeks or longer.

“Those critical nodes can, in fact, be attacked in one way or another,” Wellinghoff said. “You have a very vulnerable system that will continue to be vulnerable until we figure out a way to break it out into more distributed systems.”


‘A GAME CHANGER’


Some of the worst fears of those in charge of the power grid’s security came true shortly before 1 a.m. on April 16, 2013, when unknown attackers unleashed a coordinated attack on Pacific Gas & Electric’s Metcalf substation in northern California.

The attackers severed six underground fiber-optic lines before firing more than 100 rounds of ammunition at the substation’s transformers, causing more than $15 million in damage.

The intentional act of sabotage, likely involving more than one gunman, was unlike any previous attack on the nation’s grid in its scale and sophistication.

Yet officers did not begin investigating the scene until hours after the shooting took place. Security footage from the shooting is grainy. The attackers were never caught.

Power was not lost, but the nature of the Metcalf attack sent shock waves through the industry.

“Shooting at substations, unfortunately, is not uncommon,” Sue Kelly, president and CEO of the American Public Power Association, an industry group, said of the incident at a Senate hearing last year. “But this incident demonstrated a level of sophistication not previously seen in our sector.”

At a California Public Utilities Commission meeting last year to review the incident, PG&E senior director of substations Ken Wells said the Metcalf attack was “a game changer.”

“No doubt about it, …this event caused us and the entire industry to take a new and closer look at our critical facilities and what we can do to protect them,” Wells said.

Following the attack, FERC directed the industry to write new rules for physical security.

The rules, finalized in November, require utilities to identify critical infrastructure that could be vulnerable to attack and come up with security plans. But the new policy drew concern because it does not give FERC authority to independently choose which facilities are critical, leaving the decisions in the hand of industry.

Wellinghoff said while he is glad the new policy is in place, the lack of authority for FERC “could be a loophole that could miss some aspects of the utility infrastructure that are critical.”

Also as a result of the Metcalf incident, PG&E said it would invest $100 million over three years on new security around many of its critical facilities, including better security cameras, fencing and lighting.

Yet records from hundreds of other attacks in recent years show similar weaknesses still exist at thousands of electric facilities across the country, allowing repeated breaches.

‘SO BADLY BROKEN’


Between 2011 and 2014, electric utilities reported 362 physical and cyberattacks that caused outages or other power disturbances to the U.S. Department of Energy. Of those, 14 were cyberattacks and the rest were physical in nature.


Among the incidents:
• In 2011, an intruder gained access to a critical hydro-electric converter station in Vermont by smashing a lock on a door.
• In 2013, a gunman fired multiple shots at a gas turbine power plant along the Missouri-Kansas border.
• Also in 2013, four bullets fired from a highway struck a power substation outside Colorado Springs, Colo​.

No suspects were apprehended in those three incidents. Federal data show such attacks are not rare within the sprawling, interdependent network of transformers, power lines and other equipment that makes up the electrical grid.

Often, such incidents are shrugged off by the local law police who initially investigate.

In March 2013, security officers at the Jacksonville Electric Authority in Florida noticed a man climbing a fence surrounding St. Johns River Power Park, which produces energy for 250,000 northern Florida households.

The man fled when approached, Jacksonville Electric Authority spokeswoman Gerri Boyce said, and was later observed trying to enter a second facility. He fled again and was never caught.

Nobody filed a police report, according to Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office documents.


SMALL COMMUNITIES AT RISK TOO


Federal records show it is not just large communities that are at risk of attack. Even small, rural utility companies have been subject to foul play.

After a 2011 cyberattack struck the Pedernales Electric Cooperative — a non-profit utility that serves about 200,000 customers across a vast agrarian region of Texas — the utility’s CEO, R.B. Sloan, shared his surprise with the utility’s board of directors.

“You would think if they really wanted to have an impact, they would go for something (else),” he said in a public meeting. Sloan said at the time that the utility filed reports with the Department of Energy and FBI, but he was concerned about the way they handled it.
“It’s obvious to us that some of the regulatory bodies are not well-equipped to accept these and follow up,” he said during the 2011 meeting. “I think this event has made that very apparent.”

Now an executive for a Georgia utility software company, Sloan declined to discuss the attack.

While the Department of Energy received only 14 reports of cyberattacks from utilities over the past four years, other reporting systems show rising cyberthreats.

The branch of the Department of Homeland Security that monitors cyberthreats received reports of 151 “cyber incidents” related to the energy industry in 2013 — up from 111 in 2012 and 31 in 2011. It is uncertain whether the increase is due to more incidents or an increase in reporting.

Scott Aaronson, senior director of national security for the Edison Electric Institute, a Washington, D.C., group representing electric utilities, said it’s difficult to draw trends from figures reported by utilities due to because of loose definitions of what constitutes a cyber incident.

“Whether it’s 13, dozens, thousands — it’s been more art than science to identify what an attack is,” he said. “There are probes that happen all the time. Adversaries are essentially looking for weaknesses in a network. I’ve heard people say millions (of attacks occur) a day.”

Aaronson noted that there has never been a successful attempt to cause a power outage through a cyberattack in the United States.

Nevertheless, the interconnected nature of the grid and its reliance on communications protocols that predate modern cybersecurity problems are considered cause for concern by security experts. A simulated cyberattack conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory in 2007 exploited a vulnerability at the facility by altering the timing of a diesel generator’s circuit breakers, causing thick smoke to rise from the plant.

To prevent such attacks, some critical elements of the electricity industry’s infrastructure are completely disconnected from the Internet to keep them insulated from adversaries. The power industry also employs stronger cyberdefense mechanisms than, for instance, the retail industry, which has suffered a string of high-profile cyber intrusions in recent years.

For some industry watchers, physical threats to the grid loom larger. But to experts and officials, each reported attack is worrisome.
Former energy security regulator Josh Axelrod, speaking at a 2013 security conference in Louisville, described a “seven bullets theory” of how a mass outage could be triggered by a physical attack targeting key pieces of equipment.

The Eastern power grid is highly interconnected and relies on rolling power between different utilities, he said, according to a video of the presentation.

“If you know where to disable certain transformers, you can cause enough frequency and voltage fluctuation in order to disable the grid and cause cascading outages,” said Axelrod, who now heads the power and utilities information security practice at Ernst & Young. “You can pick up a hunting rifle at your local sporting goods store … and go do what you need to do.”

Thomas Popik, president of the Foundation for Resilient Societies, a Nashua, N.H.-based advocacy group, argued the power industry is given too much leeway to control its own security rules.
“The system is so badly broken,” Popik said. “For physical protection, the standards are very weak.”


PENALTIES DECREASING


Under guidelines set by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, an industry-funded non-profit – the North American Electrical Reliability Corporation, or NERC — writes standards for the industry, which are then approved or disapproved by FERC, the federal agency that whichhas jurisdiction over the power grid.

In a 2012 report, the non-partisan Congressional Research Service called the regulatory arrangement unusual and said it “may potentially be a conflict of interest” for an industry to write its own rules.
Federal regulators also look to NERC for enforcement of those rules, which has decreased in recent years.

The number of enforcement actions taken by NERC against utilities for failing to follow critical infrastructure protection guidelines decreased 30% from 1,230 in 2013 to 860 in 2014.

After issuing more than $5 million in penalties for critical infrastructure violations in 2013, the organization’s figures show NERC issued less than $4 million in such penalties last year.
NERC president and CEO Gerry Cauley said decreasing fines point to increased compliance, rather than decreasing enforcement.

“Longer term, you expect people to get the message and make the adjustments to keep improving,” he said. “It’s not because we’re being nicer.”

NERC, along with industry funded groups like the Edison Electric Institute, have also fought legislation including the Grid Reliability and Infrastructure Defense Act, or GRID Act, that would eliminate the industry’s self-regulation. Congressional lobbying disclosure records show industry-funded groups spent millions lobbying about the GRID Act since 2010.

Cauley said the industry’s technical expertise is essential to ensuring reliability of the system, and legislation lessening the industry’s oversight role would be “detrimental.”

“The people who run and manage and design the system have to be at the table there to figure out how it should work,” he said. “We wouldn’t want to lose that. I think we would actually take a step backward if we did that.”

 

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27

Rising Power Quality Issues Spur Demand for Surge Protection Devices

The global market for Surge Protection Devices (SPDs) is forecast to reach US$2.4 billion by 2020, driven by the growing need to protect sensitive electronic equipment from power fluctuations.

global market share report

GIA has released a comprehensive global report on Surge Protection Devices (SPDs). The global market for Surge Protection Devices (SPDs) is forecast to reach US$2.4 billion by 2020, driven by the growing need to protect sensitive electronic equipment from power fluctuations.

Surge protection devices such as transient voltage surge suppressors and surge arrestors are growing in importance, given the billions of dollars of losses caused by voltage fluctuations and power line abnormalities. Widespread use of sophisticated electrical, electronic communication and data equipment is driving the importance of power management solutions including SPDs, in both developed and developing economies. Proliferation of home appliances, personal computers, heating and air conditioning equipment in residential homes, and installation of high-end industrial electronic equipment in manufacturing plants are driving growth in the market. Future growth in the market will continue to benefit from the increasing use of electronics in the rapidly growing world telecommunication industry.

The commercial end-use sector is expected to witness strong growth in the coming years. With nationwide alternate energy programs gaining popularity in Germany, China and other major economies, demand for surge protectors is expected to gain strength. Substitution of conventional coil and core street lamps with light emitting diodes for outdoor lighting is also opening up new growth avenues for SPD manufacturers. Miniaturization and clock speeds of microprocessors as dictated by Moore’s Law comes at a price, namely higher sensitivity of the chips to power transients, electromagnetic interference, radio frequency interference and electrical field transients. The increasing sensitivity of modern electronic devices to even split-second electricity fluctuations bodes well for sales of SPDs. The global market for SPDs is extremely competitive characterized by a high degree of fragmentation, and pricing pressures. The relatively commoditized SPD technology leaves very little scope for differentiation. Pure-play SPD manufacturers face stiff competition from large diversified electrical equipment makers.

As stated by the new market research report on Surge Protection Devices (SPDs), the United States represents the largest market worldwide. Developing countries are forecast to spearhead future growth in the market led by mounting issues related to stable power supply. Escalating demand for energy as a result of robust pace of economic development and industrialization, inefficient energy infrastructure and power shortages, are key reasons responsible for poor power quality in these countries. Asia-Pacific, led by China and India, is forecast to witness the strongest growth over the analysis period. Key factors driving growth in the region include the growing consumer appetite for expensive electronic devices, and migration of industries towards digitization and automation of production and business processes.

 

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Aug
27

Inside Google’s Huge Iowa Data Centers

Google Iowa Aerial Shot

Above: Google’s ‘Council Bluffs’ data center facilities in Iowa. Image Credit: Google


Google confirmed that it is investing an additional $1 billion in massive Iowa data centers into which it has already put $1.5 billion. Below is a video of the massive project:

The so-called “Council Bluffs” project, which began in 2009, is still under construction. Google is said to be asking the state of Iowa for $19.8 million in new tax incentives for the project, according to the Des Moines Register.


Google told VentureBeat that:
"In new video footage we’re sharing, you can see for the first time what our two Council Bluffs data center facilities look like on the inside and from the air — that’s hundreds of thousands of square feet of computing power to deliver your most important search results and your favorite videos, the instant you want them. It’s all managed by more than 300 employees and contractors hard at work across the two campuses.
Google’s data centers are some of the most efficient in the world, using 50 percent less energy than the typical data center. Google is the first major Internet services company to gain external certification of the high environmental, workplace safety, and energy management standards of its data centers. And as always, one of our highest priorities when building a new facility is finding renewable energy sources to power it. For Council Bluffs, we’ve secured 407 [megawatts] of wind power from local utility MidAmerican Energy and 114 MW of wind power from a facility in Story County, Iowa. Separately, we’ve invested $75 million in a 50 MW wind farm in Greene County, north of Des Moines."

Data centers like these are used by Google to serve search results, videos, Google Apps, and much more. It has data center facilities scattered throughout the United States, Asia, Europe, and South America.

For Google to invest ten-figure amounts in data centers isn’t surprising, of course. In 2014, according to GigaOm, the company spent as much as $11 billion on “real estate purchases, production equipment, and data center construction.”

And the Register wrote that data center construction in Iowa is on the rise. Microsoft is currently building two billion-dollar data centers in the area, the newspaper reported, and Facebook also has a center under construction there.

 

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