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Distribution Network Planning Using a Constructive


Heuristic Algorithm
Marina Lavorato, Marcos J. Rider, Member, IEEE, Ariovaldo V. Garcia, Member, IEEE, and
Ruben Romero, Senior Member, IEEE,.

Abstract An optimization technique to solve distribution


network planning (DNP) problem is presented. This is a very
complex mixed binary nonlinear programming problem. A
constructive heuristic algorithm (CHA) aimed at obtaining an
excellent quality solution for this problem is presented. In each
step of the CHA, a sensitivity index is used to add a circuit or
a substation to the distribution network. This sensitivity index
is obtained solving the DNP problem considering the numbers
of circuits and substations to be added as continuous variables
(relaxed problem). The relaxed problem is a large and complex
nonlinear programming and was solved through an efficient
nonlinear optimization solver. A local improvement phase and
a branching technique were implemented in the CHA. Results of
two tests using a distribution network are presented in the paper
in order to show the ability of the proposed algorithm.
Index Terms Distribution network planning, constructive
heuristic algorithm, mixed binary nonlinear programming, power
systems optimization, KNITRO, AMPL.

I. I NTRODUCTION
HE main objective of the distribution network planning
(DNP) problem is to provide a reliable and cost effective
service to consumers while ensuring that voltages and power
quality are within standard range. Several objective functions,
including new equipment installation cost, equipment utilization rate, reliability of the target distribution system, and
loss minimization should be evaluated considering increase
of network loads and newly installed loads for the planning
horizon. New optimization models, new techniques aimed to
find optimal or then good solutions for the DNP problem are
still needed, considering the location and size of substations
and circuits, construction of new circuits as well as new
substations or alternatively the reinforcement of the existing
ones in order to permit a viable operation of the system in a
pre-defined horizon [1].
The DNP problem can be divided in three time ranges:
short-range (1 to 4 years), long-range (5 to 20 years) and
horizon-year (20+ years) planning periods, that include singleperiod models and multi-period models [2]. Some DNP research has included also, the primary-secondary distribution
planning [3] and DNP with distributed generation [4] and [5].

Manuscript sent December 1, 2008. This work was supported by the


Brazilian Institutions CNPq and FAPESP.
M. Lavorato, M. J. Rider and A. V. Garcia are with the Department of
Electrical Energy Systems, University of Campinas, Campinas - SP, Brazil.
R. Romero is with the Faculty of Engineering of Ilha Solteira, Paulista
State University, Ilha Solteira - SP, Brazil.
(E-mails: {lavorato, mjrider, ari}@dsee.fee.unicamp.br, ruben@dee.feis.
unesp.br).

978-1-4244-4241-6/09/$25.00 2009 IEEE

The circuits (location, size and type of conductor) and


substation (location) short-range planning problem to a singleperiod in the primary distribution network, is modeled in
this paper as a mixed integer (binary) nonlinear programming
(MBNLP) problem, where the binary decision variables represent the construction (or not) of new circuits or new substations, and the objective is to minimize the total investment cost
(fixed and variable costs) subjected to technical constraints of
distribution networks operation [6]. The distribution networks
have particular operation characteristics that are of fundamental importance to the formulation of MBNLP problem, as its
radial topology and the impossibility of interconnection of
networks fed by different substations.
In the literature there are several approaches proposed to
solve the DNP problem. Among them, discrete optimization
like branch-exchange algorithm [7] and branch-and-bound [3].
However the size of the search space of the DNP problem
leads to a big computational effort. Techniques based in metaheuristics like genetic algorithms [8], [9], simulated annealing
[10], [11], tabu search [12], ant colony system [13], and evolutive algorithms [14], [15] are also present in the literature. The
majority of the proposed methods solve a load flow problem
to calculate the operation point of the network and to verify
the viability of each investment proposal. Heuristic algorithms
are also proposed to guarantee the radial configuration of the
network. Meta-heuristics are techniques that can find the best
solutions for the DNP problem in an acceptable CPU time.
The constructive heuristic algorithm (CHA) also has been
proposed to solve the DNP problem [16], [17]. The CHA is
robust, easy to be applied and it normally converges quickly
to a local solution with a finite iterations number. In [16], [17]
the DNP problem is modeled as a mixed integer quadratic programming problem, in which the objective is to minimize the
cost of construction of new circuits and substations and also
the cost of the active power loss in the circuits. A linearized
model is employed to represent the operation constraints what
affect the quality and precision of the results. The CHAs
also were used with success to solve other power system
optimization problems like the reconfiguration of distribution
systems [18], power system transmission expansion planning
[19] and capacitor allocation in power distribution systems
[20].
In this work a CHA is proposed to solve the DNP problem
modeled as a MBNLP problem. In each CHA iteration a
nonlinear programming problem (NLP) is solved to obtain a
sensitivity index that is used to add a circuit or a substation
to the distribution network. The NLP is obtained through

relaxation of the integer nature of the decision binary variables


which are considered as continuous (but restricted) variables.
The objective of the NLP problem is to minimize the operation
and construction costs of the distribution system (construction
of new circuits and/or substation plus the costs associated with
the circuits active power losses) in a time range previously
defined, and the constraints are the demand attended, voltage
levels between limits, capacity of both circuits and substations
and the radial configuration of the network. A nonlinear
optimization solver was used to solve the NLP. A branching
technique is implemented to avoid operation unfeasible cases
and the final solution is improved through a proposed simple
local improvement technique. Two tests using a distribution
network are shown. For the first test the solution obtained by
the CHA is better than the one presented in the literature that
was obtained using meta-heuristics.
II. T HE D ISTRIBUTION N ETWORK P LANNING M ODEL
The distribution network expansion planning problem can
be formulated as follows:


(cij nij lij ) + s
(cfi mi ) +
min f = l
ibs

(ij)l

l
(gij (
nij )(Vi2 +Vj2 2Vi Vj
(ij)l
s
s.t.

cos ij )) +

(cvi (PS2i + Q2Si ))

(1)

ibs

Picalc PSi + PDi = 0


QSi + QDi = 0
Qcalc
i
V
Vi
V
1
nom 1+
100
V
100
PS2i + Q2Si [(m0i + mi )S i ]2
Pij2

Q2ij

[(n0ij

i b
i b

(2)
(3)

i b

(4)

i bs

(5)

+ nij )S ij ] (ij) f (6)


(ij) l if n0ij = 0

nij [0, 1]

i b if
mi [0, 1]

0
(nij + nij ) = nb nbs

m0i

=0

(7)
(8)
(9)

(ij)l

where n
 ij = n0ij + nij and the constants l and s are given
by:
l = 8760 l l cl

s = 8760 s s

and f is the set of power flows directions


f = {ij / i b and j bi }
and l , b , bs b and bi b are the sets of branches
(existing and proposed), nodes, bus substation nodes (existing
and proposed) and connected nodes in the node i, respectively.
ij represents the circuit between nodes i and j. l and s
are the interest rate for circuits and substation, respectively.
cij , nij , n0ij and lij represent the circuit cost that can be
added (US$/km), the number of circuits added, the circuit
existent and the length of the circuit, respectively, in branch
ij. cfi , mi and m0i represents the substation fixed cost that
can be added to the network (US$), the number of substation

added and substation existent, respectively, in the node i. l


and s are the interest rate to losses power and provided
energy for the substation, respectively. l and s are the
load factor to the circuits and substation, respectively. cl is
the energy cost to active losses (US$/kWh) and cvi is the
substation variable cost (US$/kVAh2) to the node i. PSi and
QSi are the real and reactive power provided by substations
of the node i, respectively. Picalc and Qcalc
are the real and
i
reactive power calculated of the node i, respectively. S i is
the apparent power maximum limit provided by substation
in node i. The maximum and minimum limits of voltage
magnitudes are V % of the voltage nominal value. Vi and
V nom are the voltage magnitude of de node i and nominal
voltage magnitude of the distribution network. Pij and Qij
are the real and reactive power
 flow that leaves node i toward
node j, respectively. Sij = Pij2 + Q2ij is the apparent power
flow of the branch ij and S ij is its maximum. nb = |b | is
the number of nodes and nbs = |bs | is the number of bus
substation nodes (existing and proposed).
The objective function is the total cost defined in Eq. (1)
which has three parts (one part at each line of the equation)
and is based on the reference [6]. The first part represent the
investment cost (construction of circuits and substations), the
second part represents the corresponding annual cost of the
active losses and the third represents the annual cost of substations operation. Eqs. (2) and (3) represent the conventional
equations of AC power flow and the elements of Picalc and
Qcalc
are calculated by (10) and (11), respectively.
i

Picalc = Vi
Vj [Gij (
nij ) cos ij + Bij (
nij )sin ij ] (10)
jb

Qcalc
i

= Vi

Vj [Gij (
nij )sin ij Bij (
nij ) cos ij ] (11)

jb

where ij =i j represents the difference of phase angle


between nodes i and j. Gij () and Bij () are the nodal
admittance matrix elements considering the existing number
of circuits and the added circuit in branch ij as variable.
Eq. (4) represents the constraints of magnitude voltage
of nodes and Eq. (5) represents the maximum capacity of
substation i. The elements of real and reactive power flow
in branch ij of Eq. (6) are given by:
Pij = Vi2 gij (
nij )Vi Vj (gij (
nij ) cos ij +bij (
nij ) sin ij )
nij )Vi Vj (gij (
nij ) sin ij bij (
nij ) cos ij )
Qij = Vi2 bij (
where gij () and bij () are the conductance and the susceptance of the branch ij considering n
ij as variable. The binary
investment variables nij and mi are the decision variables
and a feasible operation solution of the distribution network
depends on its value. The remaining variables only represent
the operating state of a feasible solution. For a feasible
investment proposal, defined through specified values of nij
and mi , one can have several feasible operation states. Eqs.
(7) and (8) represent the limits of number of circuits and
substations that can be added to the distribution network,
respectively (note that duplication of circuits and substations
is not allowed).

Eq. (9) is essential to generate radial connected solutions.


From graph theory it is known that a subgraph T is a tree if the
subgraph meet both following conditions: (1) the subgraph has
(nb 1) arcs and (2) it is connected. Eq. (9) guarantees the first
condition and the second condition is guaranteed by Eqs. (2)
and (3) (power balance), provided that there is power demand
at each node, for the optimization technique is required to
generate a feasible solution connecting all the system nodes.
This means that at the end of the process the obtained network
is connected and has radial topology.

SSI = max {Si , mi = 0}

(12)

CSI = max {max{Sij , Sji }, nij = 0}

(13)

where Si is the apparent power provided by substation of the


node i. Sij and Sji are the apparent power flow of the branch
ij. The sensitivity indexes are function only of the operational
characteristics of the distribution network.
The NLP problem used to obtain the sensitivity indexes is
obtained from Eqs. (1) (9), considering as continuous variables the number of new circuits and substations (continuous
but limited between 0 and 1) and adding two new parameters
to the constraints set (5) (9) as it is shown in Eqs. (14)
(18).
2
PS2i + Q2Si [(m0i + m+
i + mi )S i ]
2
Pij2 + Q2ij [(n0ij + n+
ij + nij )S ij ]
0
0 nij 1 n+
ij nij
0
0 mi 1 m+
i mi

(n0ij + n+
ij + nij ) =
(ij)l

i bs

(14)

(ij) f (15)
(ij) l (16)
i bs

nb nbs

(cij n+
ij lij ) + s

(17)
(18)

(cfi m+
i )+

ibs

The DNP problem as formulated in Eqs. (1) (9) is a


mixed binary nonlinear problem. It is a complex combinatorial
problem that can lead to combinatorial explosion on the
number of alternatives that have to be tested. Considering the
number of circuits and substations (nij and mi ) as continuous variables, the problem becomes a still difficult to solve
nonlinear programming problem. Although the solution of this
relaxed DNP problem may not be an alternative for planning
(fractional number of circuits and substation), it serves to build
a useful sensitivity index used in the CHA.
A CHA may be viewed as an iterative process in which a
good solution of a complex problem is built step by step. The
CHA is robust and has good convergence characteristics. In
the case of the DNP problem, in each step, a substation or a
single circuit is added to the distribution network based on the
sensitivity indexes shown in Eqs. (12) and (13). The iterative
process ends when a feasible solution is found (generally
this is a good quality solution). The previously mentioned
sensitivity indexes SSI (Substation Sensitivity Index) and
CSI (Circuit Sensitivity Index) are based on the maximum
MVA power flow in circuits with nij = 0 and in the provided
MVA power of substation with mi = 0 obtained in the solution
of the NLP problem.

(ij)l

v = l

(ij)l

III. C ONSTRUCTIVE H EURISTIC A LGORITHM

ibs

+
where n+
ij e mi represent the circuits and substations, respectively, that can be added to the distribution network during the
CHA iterative process. Also, n
ij = n0ij + n+
ij + nij is used in
the calculation of the Eqs. (1), (10) and (11), and the elements
of real and reactive power flow in branch ij of Eq. (6).
At the end of the CHA iterative process, the total cost, given
by Eq. (19), is obtained using the solution of the last NLP
problem.

2
2
l
(gij (n0ij +n+
ij )(Vi +Vj 2Vi Vj
(ij)l

(cvi (PS2i + Q2Si ))

cos ij )) +
(19)

ibs

The substation and circuit feasible indexes (20) and (21),


respectively, are used to define the stop criterion of the CHA.
SF I =

(mi )

(20)

ibs

CF I =

(nij )

(21)

(ij)l

The constructive heuristic algorithm, is very simple and is


presented in the sequence.
+
1: Assume that m+
i = 0, i bs and nij = 0, (ij) l
is the current topology.

2: Solve the NLP problem (1) (4) and (14) (18) for the
current topology.
if SF I + CF I = 0 then
A feasible solution for the DNP problem has been found
and the total planning cost is v ; go to Step 5
end if
Otherwise continue;
3: (Substations construction phase)
if SF I = 0 then
Using SF I index (Eq. (12)), identify and add the most
attractive substation to the current topology; return to Step
2
end if
Otherwise continue;
4: (Circuits construction phase)
if CF I = 0 then
Using the CF I index (Eq. (13)) identify and add the most
attractive circuit in the current topology; This circuit must
be connected or to the substation bus or to a node already
feeded by a substation and return to Step 2;
end if
5: (Local improvement phase)
Rank added circuits, in a descent order using as criteria
its investment and operation cost;
Remove one by one, an added circuit according to the
ranking obtained and solve the CHA (only for adding
circuits); If the circuit found by the CHA algorithm is the

same that was removed one then keep it in the configuration;


Otherwise the new circuit is included in the configuration.
The circuits in the final topology represent the solution of the
CHA (the distribution network expansion plan).
It must be noted that in the CHA firstly all needed substations were added and in the sequence the circuits are
considered (see steps 3 and 4 of the CHA algorithm). To
improve the convergence and to reduce the CPU time to solve
NLP problems it is recommended to use the previous NLP
solution as initial point.
In CHA Step 4 the circuits are added to the network in
such a way that a tree that starts from an existing substation
bus is constructed. The local improvement phase is aimed to
improve the initial solution obtained by the CHA. Note that
the local improvement local is made only in circuits added
for the CHA using the NLP problem results to substitute one
circuit by other.

16
10

14

20
22

23
17

19
18

11
21

12
15

IV. T ESTS AND R ESULTS


The CHA proposed to solve the DNP problem was written
in AMPL (a mathematical programming language) [21] and
the solution of the NLP of steps 2 and 6 was solved using the
nonlinear programming solver KNITRO (Nonlinear Interiorpoint Trust Region Optimizer) [22] (called with default options).
The 23-nodes system available in [10], [13] has been used to
show the performance and robustness of the CHA for the DNP
problem. The 34.5-kV distribution network, supplied by a 10MVA substation, feeds an oil production area with 21 loads
nodes. The proposed feasible routes are displayed in Fig. 1.
The maximum allowable voltage drops is 3%. The average
power factor is equal to 0.9. All aluminum conductors 1/0
and 4/0 are used with parameters given in [23]. The capital
cost for circuits is 10 kUS$/km. The cost of energy losses is
0.05 US$/kWh, loss factor equals 0.35, interest rate is 0.1 and
the planning period extends to 20 years.
Two kind of tests were performed: Test 1 - planning of a
distribution network considering one existing substation; and
Test 2 - planning of a distribution network considering two
substations, an existing one and a candidate substation.
The NLP problem that is solved at each iteration of the CHA
for the tested system has the following characteristics: 117
variables (24 unconstrained and 93 constrained), 1 equality
linear constraint, 46 equality nonlinear constraints, 35 linear
inequality constraints and 141 inequality nonlinear constraints.
A. Test 1 - Planning of the Distribution Network
This test has as objective to show a comparison between
results obtained with the proposed method and results presented in the literature using meta-heuristics. Table I shows
the sequence in which the circuits were added to the network
by the CHA, the circuits costs, the active power losses costs
and the total investment cost. The added circuits by the local
improvement (LI) phase are also shown. Due to the radial
configuration constraint it is possible to preview the total
number of iterations that is equal to 2(nb 1) + 1. In this test

Fig. 1.

13

23-nodes system - propose feasible routes

TABLE I
I TERATIVE PROCESS OF THE CHA FOR THE T EST 1
Iteration
CHA
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
Iteration
LI
1
2

Added
circuits

n+
0110
n+
1014
n+
0614
n+
1019
n+
0607
n+
0708
n+
1423
n+
1921
n+
1922
n+
0308
n+
1020
n+
0523
n+
1417
n+
1521
n+
1121
n+
0309
n+
0405
n+
1223
n+
1620
n+
1113
n+
1718
n+
0208

=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=

1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1

Removed/added
circuits
n+
0308
n+
0809
n+
1521
n+
1518

=
=
=
=

0
1
0
1

Circuit
cost (US$)

Losses
cost (US$)

Total
cost (US$)

0
2021
6318
14495
20444
28625
35491
40351
45901
51728
78807
85780
92189
96671
102740
109134
127336
136738
143523
148542
153594
158006
158762

37851
37701
37750
36848
36848
31666
31667
31667
31666
31667
25912
24117
24066
24069
24065
24067
22407
20987
19946
19947
19946
19946
19947

37851
39722
44068
51343
57292
60291
67158
72018
77567
83395
104719
109896
116255
120739
126805
133200
149742
157725
163470
168488
173541
177952
178709

Circuit
cost (US$)

Losses
cost (US$)

Total
cost (US$)

152250

19921

172171

151892

20227

172119

5
3

9
8

4
6

23

16

16

20

10

14

22

14
23

11

19

17

22

1
17

11

19

18

18
21

12
15

Fig. 2.

20

10

21

12
15

13

Distribution network expansion plan for Test 1

Fig. 3.

Distribution network expansion plan for Test 2


TABLE III
S UMMARY OF RESULTS OF T EST 2 (US$)

TABLE II
P RESENT W ORTH C OSTS FOR THE T EST 1 (US$)
Solutions

Circuit
cost

Losses
cost

Total
cost

Final [13]
Final [10]
Initial
Final

151892
151892
158762
151892

21021
21007
19947
20227

172913
172899
178709
172119

the CHA solves a total of 45 NLP problems and the solution


is depicted in Fig. 2.
Table II shows a comparison between the results obtained
by references [10] and [13] and the results obtained by the
proposed method. Note that the total cost of circuits added
of proposed method is equal to the obtained by the metaheuristics [10], [13]. However the total operation cost of the
proposed method is smaller due to the optimization of the
network operation modeled in the NLP problem (1) (4) and
(14) (18). It should be noted also, that the initial solution
obtained by the CHA, without the local improvement phase is
a solution of good quality for the proposed problem.

Solutions

Circuit
cost

Losses
cost

Substation
cost

Operation
cost

Total
cost

Initial
Final

155694
149182

14687
14661

1000000
1000000

6493490
6493450

7663871
7657293

circuit ik is added to the current topology and the circuit


jk is removed. In the other problem circuit jk is added and
circuit ij is removed. By doing this, two problems are solved
independently and the final solution is the one with the better
cost. Fig. 5 shows the steps sequence of CHA to find the best
solution. Note that two branching were made in the iterative
process. The best solution is the Solution 1. In this test 114
NLP problems were solved.
V. C ONCLUSIONS
A constructive heuristic algorithm aimed to solve the
power system distribution expansion planning was presented.
The CHA has some advantages like robustness, and quickly
presents viable investment proposals.

B. Test 2 - Planning Distribution Network and Substations


In this test, it was considered that the substation located at
node 1 has a maximum capacity of 4 MVA and that in node 2
there is a candidate substation with a maximum capacity also
of 4 MVA and with a construction cost of 1000 kUS$ and
the operation cost of this substation is 0.1 US$/kVAh2 . The
solution obtained by CHA is shown in Fig 3. Table III shows
a summary of the results obtained with the proposed method.
Fig 4 shows a problem that may occur when solving
planning problem with the CHA and more than one substation
is present. Node k is feeded by two substations, what is not
allowed. In this case the CHA creates two different problems
(branching), that are separately analyzed. In one problem the

13

VA from
substation A
Sik
Skl

Sjk

k
Skm

l
Sk

m
Fig. 4.

Illustrative example

VA from
substation B

6
0 m+
2 =1
=1
1 n+
0110
2
3
4
5

n+
0208
n+
0708
n+
0607
n+
1019

=1
=1

=1

=1

=1
n+
1417

=1

n+
=1
0616

= 1 10
= 1 11
= 1 12
= 1 13
= 1 14
= 1 15
= 1 16
= 1 17
= 1 18
= 1 19
= 1 20
= 1 21
=0 1

fix: n1620 = 0
n+
1020
n+
1921
n+
0308
n+
1622
n+
1122
n+
1113
n+
0309
n+
1521
n+
0523
n+
0405
n+
1223
n+
1718

n+
=1
1423

fix: n1020 = 0

= 1 10

10 n+
=1
1620

= 1 11

11 n+
=1
1921

= 1 12

12 n+
=1
0308

= 1 13

13 n+
=1
0523

= 1 14

14 n+
=1
1718

= 1 15

15 n+
=1
1121

= 1 16

16 n+
=1
1622

= 1 17

17 n+
=1
1521

= 1 18

=1
18 n+
0309

= 1 19

=1
19 n+
0405

= 1 20

20

=1
n+
1223

= 1 21

21

n+
=1
1113

n+
=0
0308

LI Phase

LI Phase

=1

n+
=0 1
0308

Solution 1

n+
=1
0809
n+
1521
n+
1518

=0 2
=1

Solution 2

Fig. 5.

=1
n+
1014

=1

LI Phase
n+
0308
n+
0809

=1

fix: n0614 = 0

fix: n1014 = 0
n+
0614
n+
1921
n+
1423
n+
1922
n+
1521
n+
1518
n+
0308
n+
0523
n+
1020
n+
1121
n+
1113
n+
1718
n+
0309
n+
0405
n+
1223
n+
1620

=1

n+
=1
0809
2

n+
=0
1521
n+
=1
1518

Solution 3

Tree of the CHA to Test 2

A nonlinear programming problem, in which the costs of


system operation and of construction of circuits and substations are minimized, subject to constraints of to attend de
demand, voltage magnitude limits, capacity of circuits and
substations and also the radial configuration of the network
was solved using a robust commercial software.
In the proposed method a branching technique to avoid
infeasible operation cases and also a local improvement technique are included.
Results obtained show the capability of the method to find
an expansion plan to distribution networks and the topology
obtained in some tests were identical to those presented in
the literature, but the final total cost obtained in this work
is smaller. Results show, also, the capacity of the method in
solving problems in which construction of new substations is
possible.
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