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Ant Colony Optimzation of Microgrid Power Management

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C.M. Colson, Student Member, IEEE, M.H. Nehrir, Senior Member, IEEE, C. Wang, Senior Member, IEEE

progress in power deregulation, tight construction constraints on

new high voltage lines for long distance power transmission, and

global environmental concerns have created increased interest in

alternative energy (AE) generation. Hybrid combination of AE

sources can significantly improve their reliability and better

deliver power to customer loads without reliance on centralized

electricity production. It is expected that alternative energy

distributed generation (AEDG) microgrids that capitalize on

diverse energy sources, are controlled in a decentralized way, and

reduce the burden on the utility grid by generating power close to

the consumer will penetrate the existing grid-infrastructure in

the near future.

This paper presents a framework for an

intelligent supervisory controller that utilizes ant colony

optimization (ACO) methods for AEDG microgrid dispatch

control. The novelty of this work is the application of ACO to the

rapid microgrid power management problem given complex

constraints

and

objectives

including:

environmental,

fuel/resource availability, and economic considerations. Given

the compound nature of the multi-objective, multi-constraint

energy management problem for integrated AEDG systems, this

paper develops a constraint satisfaction problem (CSP) algorithm

capable of finding Pareto optimal dispatch solutions. Microgrid

power management control is not an easy problem, but its

development is critical for widespread AEDG system

implementation.

Index Terms Ant colony optimization, constraint satisfaction,

microgrid, power management.

I. INTRODUCTION

businesses, and factories rely on a steady supply of

electrical power.

American electricity consumption is

projected to grow from 4,065 billion kilowatt-hours in 2006 to

5,619 billion kilowatt-hours in 2030, with growth rates of

2.2% per year for commercial customers, 1.5% per year for

industrial customers, and 0.8% per year for residential

customers [1]. This rising demand for electricity, an aging

existing infrastructure, and an uncertain energy future pose

significant risk to the complex and critical U.S. power system.

In 2007, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation

(NERC) cited critical demands for renewable energy and

Nehrir (email: hnehrir@ece.montana.edu) are with the Electrical and

Computer Engineering Department, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT

59717 USA.

C. Wang is with the Division of Engineering Technology, Wayne State

University, Detroit, MI 48202 USA (e-mail: cwang@wayne.edu).

transmission modernization as key long-term emerging

issues [2]. The efforts to prepare for the energy future will

likely include measures to modernize the electrical grid,

enhance the quality and reliability of the energy supply,

diversify how the nation sources its immense hunger for

electricity, and address the looming crisis of environmental

impact of emissions from energy consumption. As an

example of the enormous scale faced by industry

infrastructure maintenance and upgrade, the Edison Electric

Institute (EEI) projected a $37 billion expenditure on its

member company transmission system assets from 2007 to

2010 alone [3].

Given the state of the nations electrical generation

capacity, it is impossible to discuss the future of electric power

in the United States without addressing the nations primary

reliance on only three sources (coal, nuclear power, and

natural gas) for nearly 90% of the nations electricity [1]. This

huge proportion of American electrical generation is derived

in a centralized manner. As demand continues to rise,

increased pressure will be placed on existing central power

plants, transmission assets, and distribution systems. This

steadily escalating need for electrical power, progress in

power deregulation, tight construction constraints on new high

voltage lines for long distance power transmission and

reliance on central generation places the nations energy future

in a difficult predicament. Recognizing these challenges for

central generation, along with growing global environmental

concerns, interest has increased in alternative energy (AE)

generation. Wind, photovoltaic, fuel cell, microturbine, and

other AE devices are attractive primarily because of low or

zero emissions, high efficiency, scalable application, and/or

adaptability to remote implementation. It is believed that

these desirable characteristics can be capitalized upon through

hybrid combination of AE sources, networked within a

microgrid framework to significantly improve their reliability

and better deliver power close to customer loads. Although

ideally adaptable to islanded off-grid applications, it is

expected that alternative energy distributed generation

(AEDG) microgrids that capitalize on diverse energy sources,

are controlled in a decentralized way, and reduce the burden

on the utility grid will penetrate the existing infrastructure

network in the near future [4]. In fact, the DOEs Vision

2020 statement set forth mid-term goals of achieving upwards

of 20% of new generation capacity added by 2010 in the form

of distributed energy resources [5].

Although there is little consensus on a standard definition,

for the purpose of this paper, a microgrid is specified as a

that has three primary components: distributed generators,

autonomous load centers, and the ability to operate

interconnected with or islanded from the larger utility

electrical grid. Interest in the microgrid concept, at the

distribution level, with multiple AEDG sources has been

increasing worldwide [6]-[9], mainly because the scalable

generation sources connected to microgrids can be coordinated

and controlled in a decentralized way. This operational mode

allows diverse AEDG sources to provide their full benefits

while reducing the coordination and control burden on the

utility grid. Further, the desire to become less dependent on

fossil fuel-based resources indicates the need for innovation in

ways to complement vast centralized non-renewable energy

power generation with renewable energy sources so that

energy utilization for the entire system is stable and

sustainable to the maximum extent. The primary goal of

microgrid architectures is to significantly improve energy

production and delivery for load customers, while facilitating

a more stable electrical infrastructure with a measurable

reduction in environmental emissions.

This paper seeks to address the power management

framework critical for making progress towards the goal of

properly integrating multiple AEDGs into a microgrid. The

conventional implementation of up to a medium-sized

generator onto a distribution system may not have a significant

impact on power quality at the feeder level. Additionally,

with only one generator operating, the power management

problem reduces to a trivial one. However, coupling multiple

AEDGs and dispatchable loads, within a microgrid framework

that is capable of utility interconnection, is a new concept and

creates a daunting challenge for safe and efficient operation.

This paper lays out an artificially intelligent power

management supervisory algorithm that can be used to

optimize AEDG dispatch based on local load demand and

additional realistic constraints such as: emissions concerns,

fuel availability and cost, weather conditions, the spot-market

price of electricity, and local history information. To this end,

the artificially intelligent supervisor should find a rapid Pareto

optimum to what is by definition a multi-objective

combinational problem. In short, this work addresses the

complicated engineering problem of how multiple AEDGs and

dispatchable loads can be successfully controlled on a

microgrid in a near-optimal manner using artificial

intelligence concepts.

In Section II, the multi-objective, multi-constraint microgrid

power management problem is discussed.

The ACO

algorithm and its application to microgrid constraint

satisfaction is discussed in Section III.

Conclusions and

planned future work are given in Section IV.

II. MULTI-OBJECTIVE CONFIGURATION

cases, a global maximum of any particular individual objective

function may not be a satisfactory solution for the remaining

objectives [10]. Because of this, we need to alter our concept

of optimality for such problems. With similarity to economic

systems, a Pareto optimum can be reached where the solution

represents a state of satisfaction for one objective that

cannot be raised further without lowering another objectives

satisfaction. Multiple formal mathematical techniques exist

to derive Pareto solutions, but they can be computationally

expensive [11]. The power management of a microgrid

clearly fits into the broad field of multi-objective optimization

problems of interest today and currently, such problems have

not been proven to be solvable in strongly polynomial-time.

Therefore, evolutionary algorithms and heuristic techniques

such as ant colony optimization (ACO) may yield excellent

near-optimum results in short periods of time, which is critical

for good power management and dispatch [12].

The formulation of the multi-objective, multi-constraint

microgrid power management problem begins by identifying

the attributes of the microgrid. These include the microgrid

capability to:

- Meet consumer load demand within given voltage and

frequency standards.

- Reduce or defer distribution and transmission capacity

additions.

- Reduce line losses, provide VAR support, and

stimulate power market opportunities for trading

ancillary services to the utility grid.

- Facilitate customization as load composition, diversity,

and profile vary (example: urban vs. rural).

- Allow the integration of stable and adaptable control

system behavior for seamless plug-and-play

implementation and sensible load control.

These attributes lead to the definition of the primary

constraints:

- AEDG resource availability (i.e., solar insolation, wind

energy, etc.)

- Microgrid bus voltage levels and stability factors

- Real/Reactive power demands from microgrid loads

- Status of interconnection

The primary objectives for the microgrid power

management problem are:

- Minimize economic factors (i.e. fuel costs, operation

and maintenance, etc.)

- Minimize environmental impact

- Optimally dispatch dump/shedable loads

- Maximize delivery to utility grid (including ancillary

services, reserve margin, etc.)

Based on this objective and constraint formulation of the

microgrid power management problem, and ACO algorithm is

developed to achieve rapid solutions, as explained in the next

section.

is to seek an optimal solution for numerous competing

objectives, simultaneously. In such problems, the satisfaction

of the objective functions becomes a combination of vector

2

A. Framework

The Ant Colony Optimization (ACO) algorithm is a natureinspired metaheuristic optimization method proposed by

Dorigo, et al. [12], for solving NP-hard combinatorial

optimization problems such as the benchmark traveling

salesman problem (TSP), scheduling problems, subset

problems, and a host of others. This artificial intelligence (AI)

technique is of particular interest because it has been shown to

develop Pareto-optimal solutions with short time complexity

[13]. Additionally, the ACO algorithm has been shown to

outperform other general purpose optimization algorithms

including genetic algorithms (GA) when applied to a number

of benchmark combinatorial optimization problems, although

this claim is widely interpretational [12].

Within the ACO algorithm, colonies of artificial ants

cooperate to find solutions to discrete optimization problems.

Problems in ACO are generally represented with a

construction graph, where each node in the graph corresponds

to a component of the solution. The goal is to find the

solution with the minimum cost or distance path, which

ultimately represents the best answer. Each ant walks on

this graph and incrementally builds a solution. Modeled after

real ants, the behavior of the artificial ants is governed by two

primary factors: stigmergic tendency and random exploration.

Stigmergy, or indirect communication facilitated by the

environment, is accomplished in nature through the deposit of

chemical pheromones. The pheromones reinforce good

solutions and guide the search. For the ACO algorithm, a

simulated ant uses artificial pheromones at each step in the

construction graph, along with other problem specific

heuristics, to randomly select the next component in the

solution.

The algorithmic framework for ACO depends on the

construction graph representation, is typically simplified as:

G = (N,A,C).

For the graph G, the set of nodes

N = {d1,d2, . . . ,dn} represents where path decisions must be

made; the set of arcs A ={lij} link the nodes i to j; and

(optionally) C = {cij} is the set of costs associated with arcs A.

The elements of sets N and A are typically constrained. In setcovering or constraint satisfaction variants of the

combinational optimization problem, the order of the solution

sequence is not important. Fig. 1 shows an example of a

construction graph that the ACO algorithm would attempt to

solve. Nodes d1 through d3 are shown in Fig. 1, as well as

how additional nodes (dn) would be added to the construction

graph. A complete path on the graph passes through each

node once, contains a set of arcs (represented as dashed lines

in Fig.2), and is called a solution (s). The minimum cost path

is called the optimal solution (s*) and is represented by the

darkened arcs in Fig. 2 as the shortest complete path.

arc representation on the construction graph is slightly

modified from the general case. The graph is defined by a

triple (X,D,C), where X is a set of variables, D is a set of

domains, and C is a set of constraints. Each variable xi in X

can be assigned a value from its domain Di in D. The

constraints in C restrict the set of values that these variables

can take simultaneously.

A complete solution, s, is

constructed by incrementally selecting a value for each

variable in X. The goal in a CSP is to find a solution that

satisfies all the constraints in C [12].

For the microgrid power management problem, the CSP

construction graph is easily defined. Each generator, storage

system, and/or dispatchable load is represented by a variable.

It is noted that the microgrid could have a population of

generators and loads that are a mix of dispatchable and nondispatchable systems, and this fact simply modifies the

number and type of variables defined. The domain of each

variable represents the quantized operating points at which the

generator or load could be commanded to operate.

possible variable assignment. For example, Fig. 3 is the

construction graph for the variables x1, x2, and x3. The graph

is fully connected except for nodes of the same variable (e.g.

x1,d1 cannot be connected to x1,d2). This prescribed constraint

enforces the stipulation that only one instantiation for each

variable is allowed in a solution set. Based on the microgrid

power management formulation, given in section II, this is

analogous to selecting one operating point for an individual

generator (it is invalid to select two or more operating points

for the same generator). A generator operating point could be

its power, voltage, and/or frequency setpoints. The ants walk

the graph until a value has been selected for each variable,

resulting in dispatch positions for each generator attached to

the microgrid. The inclusion of every possible assignment

typically results in a very large solution space, and the

computation of transition probabilities is significantly more

computationally expensive than for other applications, such as

the TSP. A method for reducing this complexity is suggested

later in the section discussing data representation. The nonfully connected construction graph for the power management

problem with n-generators (excluding controllable loads at this

time) and m-by-p-domains (in V and f) is displayed in Fig. 4.

It should be noted that all nodal connections are not indicated

on the construction graph for clarity.

connections omitted for clarity).

Ant tour construction is based on a probabilistic function.

At each construction step, an ant must choose the next node

to visit in pursuit of a complete solution. The probability of

choosing node j from node i, is a combination of pheromone

weighting and random exploration, expressed by:

p =

k

ij

ij nij

[ ] [ n ]

lNik

il

(1)

il

weighting factor, nij is the heuristic value on arc ij, is the

heuristic weighting factor, and Ni is the feasible neighborhood

of options for the ant, k, to traverse from node i. In addition

to global heuristics that help improve the simulated ants

capabilities, pheromones associated with the construction

graph are deposited on the arc chosen and globally

evaporate over time. Pheromone decay on the construction

graph arcs are accomplished by:

ij f = (1 ) ij o

(2)

where: ijo is the current step pheromone value on arc ij, ijf is

the updated pheromone value on arc ij, and is the decay

factor. This combined effect allows for the artificial

stigmergic effect which leads to better solution convergence.

Numerous modifications of the ACO algorithm exist that

allow customization for particular problems. Primarily, the

level to which the best solution found by the ants is exploited

4

are design trade-offs that must be considered when applying

ACO algorithms. Typically, the number of ants per colony

and the number of colonies is predetermined by the designer.

This is especially crucial in the elitist-based, max-min Ant

System (MMAS) system [12] because pheromone update and

scaling does not occur until an entire colony of ants has

selected its best colony solution. That information is passed

on to the next colony by changing the pheromone matrix that

the new colony operates on. There are some practical and

theoretical tradeoffs that are incorporated into the choice of

how many colony ants and how many colonies are applied.

Clearly, as the number of colonies increases, more best-so-far

updates of the pheromone matrix are passed on, presumably

leading to better solutions. However, increasing the number

of colonies becomes more computationally expensive, and

because the pheromones on good solutions are becoming

stronger relative to weak solutions, the level of exploration by

subsequent colony ants is diminished. By increasing the

number of ants within a colony, initially there is great

exploration, but it is computationally expensive and unless the

and values, in equation (1), are weighted properly, the ant

behavior approximates random search.

The primary algorithm structure is described by the

following pseudocode:

procedure Ants (input # of ants per colony, input # of colonies)

Derive parameters

Initialize pheromone and heuristic matrices

for ( number of colonies )

Find_Best_Tour_of_Colony

Determine_Fitness_of_Best_Solution

Update_Pheremone_Matrix

Update_Heuristic_Matrix

end

Calculate_Dispatch_Quantities

end

each ant in a colony constructs its solution set by selecting a

generator value from each category according to (1).

Determine fitness of best solution: After the ants construct

their solutions, the best solution is determined by comparing

solutions to a performance measure. This information is

retained in memory for later comparison, updating the

pheromone and heuristic matrices, and ultimately determining

the solution dispatch quantities.

Update pheromone matrix: The pheromone matrix is

updated based on the random proportional rule [12].

Update heuristic matrix: Ants are only allowed to select

generator values that meet the selected constraints. Values

that violate constraints (infeasible solutions) are given a

heuristic value of zero. The heuristic matrix is updated to

reflect infeasible solutions.

Calculate dispatch quantities: Based on the solution

determined by the ants, quantities such as a generators

voltage magnitude and angle are calculated.

C. Data Structure

There are numerous ways to represent the constraints and

objectives for the microgrid optimization problem. For

simplicitys sake, a matrix data structure for constraints and

objectives is suggested and shown in Fig. 5. Each generator

(Gx) has a corresponding vector of values (Nx), the length of

which is determined by the resolution of the functions that

represent power produced or consumed, environmental cost,

monetary

cost,

fuel/resource

availability,

etc.

Correspondingly, the heuristic and pheromone matrices map

directly to the constraint and objective dimensions, as will be

explained later.

management CSP, generator operating characteristics are

defined and classified. A matrix is used to represent the

operating characteristics and constraints associated with each

generator.

Initialize pheromone and heuristic matrices:

ACO

algorithms such as MMAS utilize limits on the amount of

pheromone. For the microgrid power management CSP, the

pheromones are normalized (upper limit of 1and lower limit of

0). The pheromone matrix is initialized to the upper limit. By

initializing the pheromone values and utilizing a small

pheromone evaporation parameter (such as 0.02), this results

in an initial search phase that is very explorative [12].

Significant initial exploration is beneficial to the problem at

hand because it allows rapid investigation of a broader scope

of the construction graph and is not as hampered by local

minima/maxima.

optimization problem is for this data structure scheme to allow

the algorithm to update infeasible nodes according to time.

For example, as resources vary with time (e.g., blowing wind

or varying sun insolation intensity), the resource levels

ultimately determine the operating ranges of each generator

(i.e. power output from a photovoltaic panel). To monitor

these generator parameter changes, the resource constraint

matrix is correspondingly updated for nodes that are not

the dark nodes indicating unavailability and the light nodes

indicating availability. In this implementation, infeasible

solutions (dark nodes) are given a heuristic value of zero.

Using this framework, it should be possible to have the ACO

algorithm operate in real-time, taking in sensory data

corresponding to resource information, and modify the

constraint and objective matrices as ants are seeking their

solutions. This feature will allow the algorithm to respond

dynamically to changes in microgrid capability.

are significantly larger in size than the constraint and objective

matrices described above. This is primarily due to the

geometric expansion required to fully connect each node with

every other node. Subsequently, in the case of n-generators

with a one dimensional domain of size m, the pheromone and

heuristic matrices are of size nxmxT. As shown in Fig. 7, the

additional dimension, represented by T, corresponds to the

to arcs, from the generator/node cell. For example, if the

current ant position is generator #2 at node #4, then matrixsheet T8 represents the totality of arc travel options available

from that node.

Most ant colony metaheuristic applications hav

ve not

explicitly focused on constraint satisfaction problems (CSPs)

(

[15]-[16, et.al.]. This is a curious result for a few reeasons.

First, it presents the obvious question as why ant algo

orithms

have not been more hotly pursued to solve CSPs. This may

m be

because, although ant algorithms, such as MMAS and

d ACO,

can find good, near-optimal solutions to CSPs, they cannot

prove that a satisfactory Pareto optimum does not exist

e

if

conditions demonstrate a lack of an optimum [12]. This

T

is

undesirable for many computer science and engin

neering

applications. Despite this drawback, ant algorithms seeem to

be ideally suited to a class of CSPs that represent prractical

application problems of interest to engineers. Additionally,

for practical applications speed is a critical aspect of

intelligent systems that will operate in real-time or neaar realtime applications, such as for microgrid power manag

gement.

Clearly, for engineers seeking practical implementations, the

drawback ACO exhibits with regards to provability for

f the

existence of an optimum (or no optimum) is irrelevant. What

n that is

the engineer desires is a rapid convergence to a solution

presumably near optimal. Ant algorithms can achiev

ve this,

and possibly because less is known about their theo

oretical

expression, this is why they have been of less interest to

researchers.

In most engineering applications to date, the ACO

algorithm has been applied to off-line problem solving

g [17][20]. This involves using computational resources to solve

s

a

problem, not in real-time, and have those solutions used

d later.

In one recent example of a purely engineering application for

ant algorithms [21], the ant metaheuristic framew

work is

applied to a relatively straightforward engineering design

problem, storm water network design. The optimal storm

water network solutions, solved off-line, can be applied to

construction design. The framework presented in thiss paper

has sought to build upon such examples and app

ply ant

metaheuristics to a real-time CSP application. The ultimate

purpose of applying ACO to the microgrid power manag

gement

problem is to capitalize on ACOs two most po

owerful

properties: rapid convergence and inherent stigmergic memory

m

that seem ideally suited for real-time applications.

IV. CONCLUSION AND FUTURE WORK

It should be noted that both the constraint and objective

functions in the microgrid power management problem have

been shown to be non-linear, non-homogenous, and

sometimes time-varying in the desired variables. While it is

possible to linearize these functions, it is not desirable to do

so. This exhibits the need for good, rapidly converging

techniques for determining near optimal solutions without the

complicated problem. In this paper, a framework haas been

developed for utilizing the promising ACO heuristic tecchnique

for implementation in a microgrid power manag

gement

controller. The formulation details for the power manag

gement

problem were discussed, as well as the structure of thee ACO

algorithm as applied to the microgrid scenario.

This paper has specifically addressed a smalll, but

fundamental portion of the challenge to coordinate and control

c

multiple AEDG sources connected to a microgrid. The design

of an intelligent decision-making strategy, based on

n ACO

heuristics, is an important step toward autonomous operation

of microgrids that achieve energy sustainability while

minimizing operational costs and environmental emiissions.

6

from simulation studies using this ACO technique for

microgrid power management. Constraints including real and

reactive power dispatch, time-varying resource and load

matrices, and a discussion regarding performance factors will

be discussed. Techniques for addressing solution stagnation

and pheromone resetting results will be included.

algorithm used at the electric-motor design Engineering Applications of

Artificial Intelligence, Vol. 21, No. 6, September 2008.

[18] M. Lopez-Ibanez, T.D. Prasad, B. Paechter, Ant colony optimization for

optimal control of pumps in water distribution networks Journal of Water

Resources Planning and Management, Vol. 134, No. 4, July/August 2008.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT

colony optimization algorithm (ACO) for multi-objective resource allocation

problem (MORAP), Applied Mathematics and Computation, Vol. 200, No. 1,

Jun 15, 2008.

Montana State University/Dynojet Research for her research

assistance and contributions to this work.

Multi-Objective Distribution System Reconfiguration, IEEE Transactions on

Power Systems, Vol. 22, No. 3, August 2007.

REFERENCES

[1] Energy Information Administration - Office of Integrated Analysis and

Forecasting, Annual Energy Outlook 2006, U.S. Department of Energy,

DOE/EIA-0383, 2006.

[21] M.H. Afshar, Partially constrained ant colony optimization algorithm for

the solution of constrained optimization problems: Application to storm water

network design, Advances in Water Resources, Vol. 30, 2007.

Long-Term Reliability Assessment, Princeton, NJ, October 2007.

[3] Edison Electric Institute, Transmission Projects: At A Glance,

Washington, D.C., January 2008.

[4] N. Hatziargyriou, H. Asano, R. Iravani, and C. Marnay, Microgrids,

IEEE Power & Energy Magazine, Vol. 5, Issue 4, July/August 2007.

[5] Strategic plan for distributed energy resources, US Department of

Energy,

September

2000.

Available

at:

http://www.eere.energy.gov/de/pdfs/de_program_plan.pdf.

[6] R. Lasseter, A. Abbas, C. Marnay, J. Stevens, J. Dagle, R. Guttromson, A.

Sakis Meliopoulos, R. Yinger, and J. Eto, Integration of distributed energy

resources: The CERTS microgrid concept, California Energy Commission,

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[7] Y. Fujioka, H. Maejima, S. Nakamura, Y. Kojima, M. Okudera, and S.

Uesaka, Regional power grid with renewable energy resources: A

demonstrative project in Hachinohe, CIGRE 2006, Paris, August 2006.

[8] B. Bucholz, et al, PE Magazine, July/August 2007.

[9] European Commission (Apr. 2006), European SmartGrids technology

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[10] Saul Gass, Linear Programming: Methods and Applications - 5th Edition,

Dover Publications, Inc. 2003, pgs. 224-250.

[11] A. Osyczka, Multicriteria optimization for engineering design, Design

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[12] M. Dorigo and T. Stutzle, Ant Colony Optimization. MIT Press, 2004.

[13] B. Fox, W. Xiang, H.P. Lee, Industrial applications of the ant colony

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Technology, Vol. 31, No. 7-8, January 2007.

[14] K.Y. Lee and M.A. El-Sharkawi, Modern Heuristic Optimization

Techniques Theory and Application to Power Systems, IEEE Press,

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[15] Christine Solnon, Ants Can Solve Constraint Satisfaction Problems,

IEEE Transactions on Evolutionary Computation, Vol. 6, No. 4, August 2002.

[16] Finbarr Tarrant & Derek Bridge, When Ants Attack: Ant Algorithms for

Constraint Satisfaction Problems, Artificial Intelligence Review, Vol. 24,

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