Stuxnet news and opinions: end September

Recent background articles on Stuxnet are provided here on http://www.iainsider.com for your own review.

Stuxnet worm causes worldwide alarm: by Joseph Menn and Mary Watkins: FT (UK) 23 September.

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/cbf707d2-c737-11df-aeb1-00144feab49a.html

Virus Bulletin: Last-minute paper: An indepth look into Stuxnet. (Liam O’Murchu, Symantec)

http://www.virusbtn.com/conference/vb2010/abstracts/LastMinute7.xml

Kaspersky Lab provides its insights on Stuxnet worm. 24 Sept.

http://www.kaspersky.com/news?id=207576183

Langner commentary. 27 Sept

http://www.langner.com/en/

Stuxnet worm ‘targeted high value Iranian assets’. BBC 23 Sept.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-11388018

Bruce Schneier on security. Sept 22

http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2010/09/the_stuxnet_wor.html

Wary of naked force, Israel eyes cyberwar on Iran. 7th July

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3742960,00.html

Stuxnet: Targeting Iranian enrichment centrifuges in Natanz? 22 Sept.

http://frank.geekheim.de/?p=1189

Serious nuclear accident may lay behind Iranian nuke chief’s mystery resignation. 17 July

http://wikileaks.org/wiki/Serious_nuclear_accident_may_lay_behind_Iranian_nuke_chief’s_mystery_resignation

The Amazing Mr Stuxnet: Eric Byres, Sept 23.

http://www.tofinosecurity.com/blog/amazing-mr-stuxnet

Stuxnet worm hits Iranian nuclear plant staff computers. BBC 26 Sept

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-11414483

Pentagon silent on Iranian Nuke virus: Fox news 27 Sept.

http://liveshots.blogs.foxnews.com/2010/09/27/pentagon-silent-on-iranian-nuke-virus/

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Stuxnet malware worse than expected!

The lead article from the INSIDER for September 2010 published this review of the situation with the Stuxnet worm. To get this information as soon as it is published, subscribe to the INSIDER, via http://www.iainsider.co.uk

After the Stuxnet worm, all industrial control systems, PLCs and RTUs with embedded systems now have to be regarded as at risk. So says Walt Sikora of Industrial Defender Inc (ID) – but then he would say that, wouldn’t he, as vice president of security solutions at Industrial Defender? However a recent webcast by Sikora presents an excellent outline of the capabilities of the Stuxnet worm as known at present, and gives a timeline presenting the events of the past two months, as evidence for his assertion that “This is a very sophisticated, very scary piece of malware.” In his webcast, first presented on 19 August, Sikora explains that the malware attacks the control system, and can insert itself into the internal communications to the PLC, being dubbed the first rootkit for a PLC device. While the Siemens PCS7 is the target in this instance, the Stuxnet worm is not the result of a bored schoolboy prankster – it is described as a sophisticated cyber-war weapon, with a payload targeted at a specific industrial control system. The conclusion is that control systems are to be the targets for future worms: despite any future fast response from Microsoft, Siemens and AV suppliers, their actions can only slam doors shut after an attack has been successful.

Stuxnet time-line

The time-line for this story started over a year ago, when apparently the Stuxnet virus was launched. It was then discovered first June 17 by a Belarus AV development company, VirusBlockAda. July 15 Frank Boldewin, a security researcher, decrypted the worm and found it targeted Siemens WinCC and PCS7 control systems. July 22 Siemens posted a tool to identify and repair systems, followed by similar actions from AV vendors. July 27 ID hosted their first panel discussion in a webcast, hosted in order to disseminate all available knowledge about the worm. Aug 2 Microsoft issued the emergency patch. While Microsoft has acted very promptly, demonstrating their commitment to support of the industrial control systems sector by issuing an emergency patch for .lnk files on the software systems that they regard as current operating systems, older systems such as Windows 2000, NT, or XP service pack 1/2, are no longer supported, and not included. Plus inevitably it will take time, resources and commitment by operators to test, approve and install this patch on even the new systems where it is needed. August 6 however, in Sikora’s words: “Symantec found that the malware itself, the payload, was worse than what we even thought…the worm itself had the capability of being controlled from a computer outside, it would allow the attacker to take control and write values to the control system itself, and that is very very scary. All automation control systems are at risk today.”

The August 6 posting on the Symantec website by Nicolas Falliere, a senior software engineer, explains that “Stuxnet isn’t just a rootkit that hides itself on Windows, but is the first publicly known rootkit that is able to hide injected code located on a PLC.”

Beware of sleeping code blocks

Falliere continues with an unattributed example of the effects of these hidden, sleeping code blocks. He explains that by writing code to the PLC, the Stuxnet malware can potentially control or alter how the system operates. A previous historic example includes a reported case of stolen code that impacted a pipeline. Code was secretly ‘Trojanized’ to function properly, and only some time after installation, instruct the host system to increase the pipeline’s pressure beyond its capacity. This, [he asserts] resulted in a three kiloton explosion, about 1/5 the size of the Hiroshima bomb. Thus, in addition to cleaning up the Stuxnet malware, administrators with machines infected with Stuxnet need to audit for unexpected code in their PLC devices.  Falliere adds “We are still examining some of the code blocks to determine exactly what they do and will have more information soon on how Stuxnet impacts real-world industrial control systems.”

HIPS protection against Stuxnet

In the ID webcast Sikora continues with a demonstration of the Stuxnet, and then goes on to show that the new Industrial Defender HIPS [Host Intrusion Prevention System – see side panel] would stop the Stuxnet worm penetrating a protected system. HIPS is therefore offered as a valid method for in-depth protection of industrial control systems against such malware. This is a part of the ‘Defense in Depth’ strategy promoted by Industrial Defender. HIPS only allows good executables, from a “whitelist” of programmes allowed to run. It uses intrusion prevention and access management, and has no regular scanning issues, such as the scans used by AV software that tie up a computer or system for extended timescales. Sikora claims that HIPS would have prevented the Stuxnet worm accessing the known infected control systems.

Geographic spread of Stuxnet

Separately a white paper on the ID website gives further background, which also shows the major infection levels by the Stuxnet worm. On July 15 Kaspersky Labs in Russia, the AV vendor, reported 5000 compromised machines. By July 23 there were 45,000 infected machines reported, with main concentrations, according to Kaspersky, in India, Indonesia and Iran. The population infected in the USA is not known (as Kaspersky does not have much market penetration there, and other data is not available). Symantec data summarises that the major infections are in SE Asia, and that 48% of hits reported have been on Windows XP SP2 systems, for which there is no official Microsoft emergency patch.

Industrial Defender has also announced Compliance Manager, a security process automation and information management system that enables control system managers in the utility, chemical, oil, gas, water and transportation industries to cost-effectively implement and sustain best practices that assure system security, availability and compliance to corporate and industry security standards.

“Utilities are being overwhelmed by the amount of information, events and tasks that they need to manage as they continue to enhance their critical system security processes”, said Brian M. Ahern, president and ceo of Industrial Defender.

“Industrial Defender’s Compliance Manager automates data collection and analysis tasks that would otherwise require extensive manual operations, while providing the tools needed to improve system integrity and meet the extensive compliance auditing requirements of NERC CIP cyber security standards.”

Compliance Manager and the associated Industrial Defender sensor and collector technologies are specifically built to operate with both mission critical automation systems (e.g., SCADA, EMS/DMS, DCS/PCS) and industrial end-point devices without impacting system performance and availability. It automates the collection, retention, analysis and reporting of a comprehensive set of system and security management information. It consolidates and analyzes device inventories, event logs, system configurations, software/patch status and user accounts, as well as archives of log and configuration files for automation control applications, operating systems, firewalls, network devices and end-point industrial devices.

INSIDER contents for September 2010

The September issue of the INSIDER has the following stories.

Stuxnet malware worse than expected, hides injected code on a PLC: all automation control systems at risk!

After the Stuxnet worm, all industrial control systems, PLCs and RTUs with embedded systems now have to be regarded as at risk. So says Walt Sikora of Industrial Defender Inc (ID) – but then he would say that, wouldn’t he, as vice president of security solutions at Industrial Defender? However a recent webcast by Sikora presents an excellent outline of the capabilities of the Stuxnet worm as known at present, and gives a timeline presenting the events of the past two months, as evidence for his assertion that “This is a very sophisticated, very scary piece of malware.” This was backed up by Nicolas Falliere of Symantec, who commented that “Stuxnet isn’t just a ootkit that hides itself on Windows, but is the first publicly known rootkit that is able to hide injected code located on a PLC.” He explains that by writing code to the PLC, the Stuxnet malware can potentially control or alter how the system operates. A previous historic example includes a reported case of stolen code that impacted a pipeline. Code was secretly ‘Trojanized’ to function properly, and only some time after installation, instruct the host system to increase the pipeline’s pressure beyond its capacity, resulting in an explosion. To read the full story take out a subscription to Industrial Automation INSIDER, see www.iainsider.co.uk

HIPS protection against Stuxnet
Sikora demonstrated how the Industrial Defender Host Intrusion Prevention System (HIPS), a whitelist-based technology, would stop the Stuxnet worm penetrating a protected system. HIPS is therefore offered as a valid method for in-depth protection of industrial control systems against such malware. It uses intrusion prevention and access management, and has no regular scanning issues, such as the scans used by AV software that tie up a computer or system for extended timescales.

To read the full story take out a subscription to Industrial Automation INSIDER, see www.iainsider.co.uk.

Workstations now have Achilles certification
Invensys Operations Management (IOM) has announced that Foxboro I/A Series distributed control system operator workstations have passed the Achilles Cyber Security Certification test, performed by Wurldtech Security Technologies. The I/A Series Model P92 workstations are the first host-based devices (HBD) to achieve this globally recognized benchmark for communications security and robustness.

To read the full story take out a subscription to Industrial Automation INSIDER, see www.iainsider.co.uk

Perstorp installs CHARMS on Emerson DeltaV v11
Emerson Process Management will install the latest version 11 of the DeltaV process automation system for Perstorp, in Sweden, to replace and upgrade the existing distributed control system, an Emerson RS3, installed in 1984 to control the chemical batch process making pentaerythritol (penta), an additive in paint and lubricants. DeltaV v11 has I/O on Demand functionality, including ‘Electronic Marshalling’ to help minimise installation time and costly plant downtime during the upgrade, a critical factor for Perstorp in making the upgrade.

To read the full story take out a subscription to Industrial Automation INSIDER, see www.iainsider.co.uk

Show-piece UK dairy processing installation

Siemens and Tetra Pak CPS have supplied a major part of the plant and automation control systems for a modern teaching dairy at Reaseheath College in Cheshire, one of the UK’s premier agricultural training establishments. The Siemens SCE programme allows educational establishments to purchase Siemens equipment at significantly reduced prices, so that students can gain hands on experience and get to grips with control and process instrumentation equipment.

To read the full story take out a subscription to Industrial Automation INSIDER, see www.iainsider.co.uk

Pharma Suite 2.1 offers electronic batch records
FactoryTalk Pharma Suite applications now incorporate electronic batch recording (EBR) capabilities, being tailored to meet the needs of pharmaceutical and biotech manufacturers. The new EBR capability is said to enable users to address exceptions and process deviations in real-time, reducing wasted time, money and materials. “Pharma Suite 2.1 is the next logical step to break the old ‘paper-on-glass’ paradigm,” said Martin Dittmer, FactoryTalk Pharma Suite product manager, Rockwell Automation.

To read the full story take out a subscription to Industrial Automation INSIDER see www.iainsider.co.uk

Burkert expand into systems engineering
The Burkert Group have acquired BBS Systems AG of Switzerland, a developer and supplier of products and process engineering for hygienic applications in the biopharma, food and dairy business area.

Burkert have shown off their systems capability in a recently completed project on a new plant and wastewater treatment facility for Mersen in Holytown, Scotland, a manufacturer of carbon-based thermal insulation materials. Total project value was not specified, but this was not a bad result, based on an original request to quote for some level and flow transmitters!

To read the full story take out a subscription to Industrial Automation INSIDER, see www.iainsider.co.uk

PIMS designed for UK pharmaceutical plant
Industrial Technology Systems (ITS) has been awarded a project to implement a Plant Information Management System (PIMS) at the Brunner Mond Northwich site, in Cheshire, UK, a business originally part of the ICI Group. Brunner Mond needed a reliable, robust Management Information System to link to their Emerson DeltaV process automation system, and replace the current Prism information system.

To read the full story take out a subscription to Industrial Automation INSIDER, see www.iainsider.co.uk

Petrochemicals and wind power suffer with tariffs
Protectionist tariffs are threatening the Gulf petrochemical industry, where recent multi-billion dollar investments in chemical plants have been based on target markets in Asia. The problem is not just about basic chemicals: look at the so-called emerging high tech products – like wind turbines and solar cells. Meanwhile Harting took resolute action against a Chinese company that had copied some of its electrical connector products, despite these being covered by Chinese registered patents.

To read the full story take out a subscription to Industrial Automation INSIDER see www.iainsider.co.uk

UK Robots grow in Food and Pharmaceuticals
BARA, the British Automation and Robotics Association, reports that in the first two quarters of 2010 UK robot sales have grown substantially, by 55% on 2009 figures, the first growth since 2006. There are two large growth areas: food and drink (a 172% growth since 2006); and pharmaceutical, medical and healthcare (194% growth since 2006).

To read the full story take out a subscription to Industrial Automation INSIDER, see www.iainsider.co.uk

The INSIDER website, iainsider.co.uk

For a period in September, the website http://www.iainsider.co.uk, the long established website for the Industrial Automation INSIDER, will be only partially working, with the sample copy of the INSIDER not available: this is during a necessary transfer between ISPs. The main pages, and the email addresses and services associated with this website remain active.

The summary of the topics covered in the August issue of the INSIDER is as follows:

“Zero day” attack on Siemens control system software shows alarming new level of malware sophistication.

Last month’s cyber attack on Siemens SCADA systems and DCSs has reopened the question of how responsibility for ensuring the security of automation systems in general and those controlling potentially hazardous industrial processes and critical infrastructure in particular should be shared between users and vendors and, indeed, vendors’ suppliers.
Few people in the automation industry, and precious few more in the user community, can now be unaware of the bare bones of what has now become known as the ‘Stuxnet’ affair. According to Siemens it was on July 14th last that the company was notified of a security breach within Windows which could potentially affect its Simatic WinCC SCADA software and the PCS7 DCS which uses WinCC as its HMI. Among the first to identify the threat was Byres Security chief technology officer Eric Byres who confirmed that what Siemens and its users were experiencing was “a zero-day exploit against all versions of Windows including Windows XP SP3, Windows Server 2003 SP 2, Windows Vista SP1 and SP2, Windows Server 2008 and Windows 7.” To read the full story, take out a subscription to the Industrial Automation Insider.

Small control systems for SCADA from Honeywell

New features announced for the Honeywell 900 Control Station touch screen operator interface, part of the HC900 Control System used in industrial facilities to control standalone processes and SCADA applications, are said to allow engineers to configure the system and operators to monitor their processes more efficiently, and to reduce data entry error. “Many plants today need smaller and contained control systems for standalone or SCADA applications where a distributed control system would be overkill for these applications,” said Henri Tausch, vp and general manager of the Honeywell Field Solutions business: “Additionally, more of our customers need to handle batch applications that don’t require complex recipe or procedure management. The enhancements we’ve made to the HC900 Control System will make it easier for those plants to deploy the solution they need to meet these challenges in a more efficient manner.” To read the full story, take out a subscription to the Industrial Automation Insider.

Opportunities in green energy on-  and off-shore

GE subsidiary Bently Nevada sees a major opportunity in providing condition monitoring systems for the large population of wind turbines that are coming off warranty in the next five years, added to the anticipated installed-base growth of over 475%. Many companies are adopting condition-based maintenance (CBM) strategies to decrease down time, reduce cost, and improve reliability. CBM in wind turbines, like in combustion and steam turbines and generators, is the process of monitoring the condition of machinery, scheduling maintenance, and avoiding failures. This solution already has over 700 units in the order and installation process. The Bently Nevada Advanced Distributed Architecture Platform Technology (ADAPT.wind) enables operators to understand the condition of the asset without having to physically examine the machinery. By utilizing the intelligence of the system, operators can understand the severity of a defect, make corrections, and continue to generate revenue if the defect is insignificant. ADAPT.wind CBM also allows operators to plan for maintenance, coordinate outages for closely clustered units, and proactively monitor units with anomalies, instead of running to failure or tripping the unit on an anomaly. Being able to understand the condition and health of the wind farm’s machinery, an operator can consolidate maintenance for one time and schedule one crane, realizing hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings. To read the full story, take out a subscription to the Industrial Automation Insider.

Shell floating LNG facility chooses Emerson as MAC

Emerson Process Management has been appointed by Technip Samsung Consortium to serve as Main Automation Contractor for the Shell “Prelude” project, which will potentially be the world’s first Floating LNG (liquefied natural gas) production facility development, and is the first project award for Emerson resulting from the Global Framework Agreement announced in February. To read the full story, take out a subscription to the Industrial Automation Insider.

BP Gulf costs compared to Exxon and Buncefield

The effects of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig accident and the oil pollution resulting across the Gulf of Mexico over the last four months will have consequences that will last for many years, for the region, for BP and for the technology and operational standards for the whole oil industry. This was the effect of the Exxon Valdez accident in Prince William Sound, in Alaska, back in March 1989: first, the legislation resulting led to the requirement for double hulled tankers; second, Exxon spent $2.2Bn on clean up operations over the period 1989-1992, but even twenty years on the environmental effects are still felt; third, while stepping up to take responsibility initially, and being ordered to pay out $287m in actual damages in 1994, Exxon fought all through the US courts against the punitive damages of $5Bn (equivalent to a year’s profit) also awarded against them – eventually winning a reduction in these to a sum of $500m for “compensatory” damages, in 2008.  To read the full story, take out a subscription to the Industrial Automation Insider.

Honeywell keeps MatrikonOPC separate

Sean Leonard, vp of MatrikonOPC, has published a statement confirming that MatrikonOPC will run as an independent business within Honeywell, retaining the independent MatrikonOPC brand: “MatrikonOPC will continue its commitment to vendor neutral OPC, will continue with leading new technology development, and will continue to help people adopt open, standards based solutions”. However the bulk of the statement was devoted to Norm Gilsdorf  “MatrikonOPC will operate as a separate business entity within Honeywell Process Solutions. Honeywell is committed to ensuring the continued success and growth of MatrikonOPC.” Speculation that Honeywell might wish to maintain MatrikonOPC as a separate business to enable a future sale drew the response that  “Honeywell does not comment on market rumor and/or speculation.” To read the full story, take out a subscription to the Industrial Automation Insider.

NI focuses on training and green engineering

“National Instruments does pretty well in hard times,” said the company’s UK & Ireland managing director Robert Morton when he introduced the now traditional summer press conference, this year translated from the IET’s Savoy Place headquarters overlooking the Thames to the even more prestigious surroundings of the Royal Society in Carlton House Terrace. Illustrating his argument, Morton explained that, while NI had, like many other companies, seen revenues fall in 2009, they had since recovered rather more rapidly than those of many others. Moreover R&D spending had been maintained, resulting in the historical R&D 16% share of revenues rising to 20% in 2009, while R&D headcount had actually increased as the company took advantage of recruitment slow-downs elsewhere to add hard to come by expertise in areas such as FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) development.  To read the full story, take out a subscription to the Industrial Automation Insider.

Oil and gas engineers train at the GE University

Twenty-six oil and gas industry professionals from 20 countries worldwide have participated in the fifth GE Oil & Gas University graduation ceremony held at the business’ headquarters in Florence, Italy. During the 6 month program, a team of experts and instructors from GE Oil & Gas, university professors and international professionals explained energy sector technology, from the exploration and production of energy sources to their utilization. Students who successfully completed the program received certificates in Oil & Gas Technologies.  To read the full story, take out a subscription to the Industrial Automation Insider.

Yokogawa’s wireless assertions cause outrage

Assertions made by Yokogawa executives at their recent European User Group meeting in the Netherlands as to the relative merits of the rival ISA100.11a and WirelessHART or, as it should now be known, IEC 62591 specifications for wireless field device networking in the process industries have produced a predictably furious response from the WirelessHART vendor community. Indeed, just about the only point of agreement between the two sides is that users want a single standard, although the term used by ARC’s Harry Forbes in reporting the session on wireless networking at last February’s ARC Forum in Orlando was not so much that they just wanted a single standard but were “pleading” for one. To read the full story, take out a subscription to the Industrial Automation Insider.

Recovery of demand seen at Metso and Rockwell

The Metso results for Q2, from April to June 2010, show order intake worth Euro1671m, 64% up on the same period last year. Net sales increased 10%, but earnings before interest, tax and amortization (EBITA) were Euro154.2m, or 11.3% of net sales, significantly increased compared to Euro74.7m and 6% in Q2/2009, giving an increase of 106%. “The overall positive tone in the global economy and the recovery of demand remains in most of our customer industries, especially in the emerging economies”, says Metso’s president and ceo Jorma Eloranta. To read the full story, take out a subscription to the Industrial Automation Insider

TRADE WARS, TARIFFS AND INCENTIVES

As American and European Governments try to recover from the recent economic downturns, all face increased pressure to protect home industry and jobs. Barack Obama has promised to double American exports in the next five years, to create 2m good, new jobs. In the UK there has been much discussion about developing new technologies to create modern industries, such as those introducing green- or wind-power.

China emerged fairly unscathed from the global recession, possibly by halting a modest rise in their currency in order to stimulate exports. It has now passed Germany as the world’s largest exporter. It has also surpassed Japan as the biggest lender of business finance, and continues to invest in western businesses. Both the EU and the US have reacted to recent trade imbalances with import restrictions, the EU on shoes, the US on tyres. China has responded by restricting imports of poultry and car parts from the US.

America’s trade deficit and dependence on Chinese credit is now recognised in the US as a national security problem, rather than merely an economic problem. Perhaps most important, poorer countries are also finding it difficult to compete with China’s undervalued currency — Chinese exports to India, Brazil, Mexico and Indonesia have grown by between 30% and 50% recently. So the pressure is growing for China to let their currency rise in value, from many quarters, not least from the Middle East and the Gulf states. Protectionist tariffs are threatening the Gulf petrochemical industry, where recent multi-billion dollar investments in chemical plants have been based on target markets in Asia, comments Abdulwahab Al-Sadoun, the secretary general of the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association. He explains that Gulf exporters are battling a 21 per cent anti-dumping tariff on Chinese imports from the Gulf of methanol, a basic building block of the chemical industry, in place since last summer, and face new plastics tariffs proposed in India. “The drive behind it is of course the recession and politicians who are trying to safeguard lost job opportunities,” said al Sadoun.

China buys more than 55 per cent of Gulf petrochemical exports, and the market was expected to continue to be the global centre of demand growth. The tariffs imposed by India and China are based on the fact that GCC producers have some of the lowest production costs in the world, because they buy oil or natural gas from their governments at prices set far below international market rates. This was the basis on which the Gulf has built its chemicals industry. “This could lead to trade wars between countries,” he said. “I don’t see a winner in this war, everyone will be losing”, continued Al-Sadoun.

The problem is not just about basic chemicals: look at the so-called emerging high tech products – like wind turbines. China, Germany, Spain, UK and the US vie with others to reap economic and environmental benefits of domestic green-energy sources while positioning themselves as market leaders in providing those technologies to export to the world. Like the UK, China intends to meet 20 percent of its energy needs from renewable energy sources by 2020. In 2009, China accounted for more than a third of the world’s wind-capacity installations, more than doubling its cumulative installed capacity for the fourth year in a row. And the country has passed the US to become the world’s largest wind-turbine market. Like the suggested role for the UK, China hopes to become the global production site for green technology. Current Chinese exports to Europe and the US are less than 1 percent of total production, but their producers are poised to become big exporters. China’s success in wind turbine renewable-energy technology was helped by restricting the sale of rare-earth minerals, critical for manufacturing turbines, by blocking export of those metals: China sits on the world’s largest known deposits of these rare-earth minerals.

A recent result of US public criticism last year succeeded in preventing taxpayer stimulus funds being used to buy 240 Chinese-made turbines for a new wind farm in west Texas. The world’s pursuit of low-carbon sources of energy collided with the national need to create jobs: in the end, the public demanded that turbines be produced in the US, not China.

In India too, the world’s fifth-largest user of wind power, investments in this form of renewable energy are expected to continue to grow in the years ahead. Probably to spread their green investments geographically, ABB has just announced its fourth global wind power generator factory, in Vadodara, India. The factory is intended to supply wind power generators, a crucial component in wind turbines, for the growing Indian and global markets. The new factory, employing 150 people, will produce up to 100 units per month with a rating of up to 2.5 megawatts.

Europe also has high renewable-energy ambitions. Germany already gets 16 percent of its electricity from renewable sources such as solar and wind. A new McKinsey & Co. study concludes that “By 2050, Europe could achieve an economy-wide reduction of [greenhouse gas] emissions of at least 80 percent compared to 1990 levels.” McKinsey expects the cost of energy per unit of GDP in 2050 could actually be reduced by 30 percent in Europe, boosting competitiveness. Production of renewable technology could create tens of thousands of new jobs.

PHOTO-VOLTAIC (PV) SOLAR PANELS

In 2008, China also emerged as the largest producer of solar panels in the world, accounting for roughly one-third of total solar shipments. Beijing hopes to increase domestic generation of electricity from solar panels from 3GW in 2010 to 20GW by 2020. But so far growth in Chinese production of solar panels has outstripped the growth of the installed solar capacity in China. The vast majority of solar panels produced in China are exported. Between 2007 and 2008, for example, the value of Chinese exports of solar panels to Europe more than doubled. Sales to the US in 2009 were two-thirds higher than the previous year.

As nations vie for global leadership in the wind, solar and other renewable energy fields, trade disputes are inevitable. In August 2009, two major German solar-technology firms filed a complaint with both the German government and the European Union about government subsidies allegedly given to Chinese competitors.

IMS Research produced a report this month on the costs and prices of solar photovoltaic (PV) modules. In Germany the incentive schemes for installing solar schemes are tailing off, so suppliers are reducing cost prices to maintain their competitive position. In Q2/10, producers drove costs down 8% to $0.74 per watt, citing improved throughput, increased efficiencies and reduced material costs as helping to achieve this: IMS predicts that costs will fall once again in Q3. While factory gate selling prices fall, due to Renminbi/Euro exchange rate issues this has not translated into any decrease in prices to wholesalers, distributors or end-customers. While 82% of PV installations in Q2 were in the Euro zone, all suppliers reported sales and result in different currencies. Currency fluctuations have made the difference. For example, Chinese crystalline cell and module manufacturer, Solarfun, announced last week that its PV module average selling price (ASP) had declined by 6.8% in the second quarter to RMB 11.19/W. However, converted to Euros, the truth is its prices actually rose by 3.1%! IMS still predict 2010 PV module shipments are forecast to increase by an incredible 60% over 2009 to reach 15.6 GW. Beyond 2010 the situation is less clear and questions remain over how the industry will respond to multiple incentive reductions in the largest European markets heading into 2011. A strong consensus is apparent in the market today that we will see another unhealthy drop in demand, with installations in EMEA declining by 80% in Q1/11, compared to 2010.

IMS Research also advises a degree of optimism from First Solar: the thin film supplier recently announced that it planned to construct 500-700 MW of systems in 2011 and boasted a ‘captive pipeline’ of utility-scale business that would buffer any fluctuations in demand. Following its acquisition of project developer NextLight, First Solar plans to begin the construction of a massive 290 MW power plant before the end of 2010 and install modules there throughout 2011. Possibly they have been in discussions with another supplier recently making announcements of this type…….

Solar plants in Sicily

ABB has won an order worth $50m from Actelios SpA in Italy to supply three photovoltaic (PV) solar power plants in western Sicily. The order was booked in the second quarter, 2010. The plants will have fixed PV modules and a total power capacity of over 13 megawatts (MW). The main plant will be erected in Spinasanta with a capacity of 6 MW. Additional smaller plants will be built at Cardonita and Sugherotorto.

Once connected to the grid, the plants will supply around 19 GWhpa of renewable electric power. This will help avoid the generation of more than 9,400 tons of carbon dioxide annually, equivalent to the annual emissions of about 3,900 fuel efficient cars. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2010.The short installation time will be facilitated by ABB’s modular eBoP (electrical balance of plant) concept. By pre-assembling individual components of the plant’s electrical systems and testing them prior to delivery, on-site installation and commissioning is fast and simple, reducing costs and project risk.

The turnkey project includes design, engineering, supply and commissioning of the power plants, as well as the medium-voltage distribution link that will connect the plants to the national grid. ABB will supply transformers, medium- and low-voltage switchgear, protection devices and an advanced control system, with remote control and diagnostic capability, to optimize operations and ensure maximum efficiency. “Renewable energies like solar play an increasingly important role in adding power capacity with minimal environmental impact, and ABB has a significant technology portfolio to harness and integrate these energies into the grid,” said Peter Leupp, head of ABB’s Power Systems division.

Clamp-on ultrasonic flowmeters for water metering

Arena Coventry Limited, a total facilities management company, which manages all the facilities at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, UK, has reduced water consumption and achieved significant cost savings after fitting Micronics water metering. Their original investment in Micronics meters was a heat meter installed in 2008 to establish and monitor the energy costs associated with underground heating of the pitch. This was a success and following a later meeting with Seven Trent, triggered by a reduction in water consumption, the valuable information gained and clarification that the water used for the pitch heating does not go to sewage led to a reduction in water charges.

Energy management to reduce consumption and costs are a key function of Alan Pickering’s role as the Ricoh Arena’s Deputy Facilities and Energy Manager. He said: “Water consumption is a big issue on the site, which led us to invest in the installation of three Micronics Ultraflo 2000, Clamp-On, flowmeters in 2009, which we use with an on-site Monitoring and Targeting system to manage the significant water consumption on the site.”

The three meters were supplied and installed by Micronics, and provide individual half-hour consumption data for the north concourse, arena and southern concourse areas. Within three weeks of installation, the investment identified intermittent continuous flushing periods of some WCs in the southern concourse area, which when remedied reduced the site water consumption by 50%, providing a payback of one month!

In addition to the above, Micronics meters have also been installed in the new Exhibition Hall to provide consumption data for automatic billing of water consumption for this area, which is shared between the on-site G Casino and the Ricoh Arena.

Having considered various measurement alternatives, clamp-on ultrasonic meters were selected due to the installation and maintenance/service benefits associated with the non-invasive technology including low cost and minimum disruption installation with no system drain down required plus dry maintenance and service. And Micronics were selected as the supplier due to Alan’s previous experience with them and a combination of their long-term experience with ultrasonic clamp-on technology; competitive pricing and product performance i.e. best value!

Micronics clamp-on flowmeters in conjunction with Alan’s effective use of the on-site Monitoring and Targeting system has delivered a significant reduction in water consumption and reduced overall costs by 50%! He has been very pleased with the performance of the Micronics products and says the pre and post order service support has also been very good.

Alan believes there is significant potential for ongoing savings on-site and the project has demonstrated how clamp-on ultrasonic technology can be successfully implemented as a cost-effective solution to improve heat energy measurement and water management on similar sites.

Andrew Bond steps down from editing the INSIDER

Andrew Bond has sent a message to all INSIDER newsletter subscribers, as per the text below, explaining the change of the editorial management structure for future issues of the INSIDER.

After nearly 14 years as Editor of Industrial Automation INSIDER, the first four under its original title of SCADA Insider, and more than 11 as owner and publisher, I am passing over both the editorship and ownership of the title and its associated web site to Nick Denbow with effect from the September 2010 issue. Nick takes over complete responsibility for the editorial content, production and distribution of the title and fulfilment of existing subscriptions with immediate effect, although I will continue to provide advice and some editorial input on a consultancy basis.

Nick, like me, is a Cambridge University engineering graduate and also, unlike me, a Chartered Engineer and a member of the Institute of Measurement and Control. He also, again unlike me, brings the benefit of 25 years of actual practical experience in the industry, notably with Bestobell Mobrey and Platon, to INSIDER as well as more recent experience in marketing, PR and as the founder editor of the pioneering ProcessingTalk web site.

To ensure continuity Nick has since January of this year been playing an increasing role, both contributing editorially and representing us at a wide range of industry events. As a result I am confident that he will not just maintain but enhance the quality and breadth of coverage to which INSIDER subscribers have become accustomed.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank subscribers for their generous support over the years and, in some cases, since the very first issue in January 1997, and urge them to show the same level of support and encouragement to Nick in the coming months and years.

With best wishes

Andrew Bond