‘The separation of functions’: Kontron Solar on its launch at Intersolar 2024, and cybersecurity challenges for solar

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“It’s like computing in the 80s; sometimes the internet came about and, with a time lapse, that’s what’s happening here,” said Dr Johannes Fues. Image: Kontron Solar.

Austrian technology firm Kontron has launched a subsidiary for the solar sector, as it looks to improve cybersecurity performance across the solar industry.

The new entity, Kontron Solar, follows Kontron’s takeover of fellow German company KATEK and solar electronics brand Steca, and the companies will operate under the new branding.

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“It’s like computing in the 80s, and then the internet came about. With a time lapse, that’s what’s happening again here,” Dr Johannes Fues, head of green tech at Kontron, told PV Tech this morning, about the growing availability of data and interconnection in the PV sector. “This is an area where we believe this connection with Kontron is going to bring us a huge jump ahead.”

“It’s at the point where, for the first time, devices are connected,” he continued, noting how connectivity has changed in the solar sector. “You move into that new arena, and if you go generation by generation, the inverters are connected [then] the wall boxes are connected.”

Fues described the collaboration with Kontron, and the launch of Kontron Solar, as a “conceptual beauty,” while Dr Peter Grabs, director of innovation and research and development at Kontron Solar, said that the new company would better be able to separate the need for users to access information, and the need for hostile actors to be denied access.

“It’s about the separation of functions,” said Grabs. “There is a physical separation from the customer function, so we can always see if it’s a trustworthy request. [We’re trying to provide] data security, inverter security, [and at the] last stage the grid security and safety.”

Earlier this year, PVcase’s David Trainavicius told PV Tech Premium that the solar sector faces a “data risk,” with regard to a growing abundance of data pertaining to PV management, but a potential lack of accuracy and quality of this data. Managing cybersecurity risks is a similar area in the solar sector, with more interconnected and smart devices offering opportunities for inefficiencies and security breaches.

Grabs also noted that the relatively homogenous nature of legislation in Europe, with the EU able to provide regulatory oversight for the PV space, making it easier to develop products, such as Kontron Solar’s inverters, that are compliant with cybersecurity requirements.

“A lot is happening on the legislation side in Europe,” said Grabs. “These are general directives, so they’re not inverter specific, but there are a lot of requirements that are applicable for us. We are quite happy to see there’s nothing [new] there for the hardware side [as] the hardware side has a lot more questions than the software side.”

The company’s electric vehicle (EV) chargers will be part of the new brand, and are indicative of a growing interest in providing a range of power and electronics services for companies in the solar sector, following Goldman Sachs’ renewable subsidy raising US$325 million in finance earlier this year, to develop projects including EV charging and batteries.

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