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Enabling Global Collaboration Through OpenDSS

Posted to Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in the Utility Management Group
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Lindsey Rogers's picture
Principal Project Manager Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)

Lindsey Rogers is the Principal Project Manager in the Distribution Operations and Planning program. She manages EPRI’s Distribution Resource Integration and Value Estimation User Group...

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  • Aug 26, 2021 9:00 pm GMT
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Almost 25 years ago, two engineers – Roger Dugan and Tom McDermott – developed an electric power distribution system simulator (DSS) designed to support distributed energy resource (DER) grid integration and grid modernization. The program was designed to support all analyses that distribution engineers were likely to perform for distribution planning with interconnected distributed generation (DG) – including the gap of capturing the time- and location-specific benefits of DG. At the time, there was no tool available that could capture these unique considerations with the flexibility to keep up with changing technology. 


In 2008, after a decade of learnings, EPRI transitioned DSS to open source to expand its use to utility engineers, researchers, and university students across the globe. OpenDSS allows anyone with a simple laptop to create and analyze the most advanced distribution system by modeling a broad range of challenges. The tool was designed for unique customization and integration with a wide range of applications and other distribution planning software. OpenDSS also includes a graphical interface and set of complementary tools to facilitate the input/output of information to the simulation platform, including: 

  • Time-based advance analysis for planning
  • Advanced Visualization OpenDSS-Viewer
  • Specialized analysis add-ons
  • GIS visualization (in development) 
  • Big data analysis (in development) 

The release of OpenDSS-G is notable as it is the first power system simulation tool that has an advanced graphical interface. This interface provides distribution engineers new visualization capabilities in all components of planning and operations analysis allowing for more intuitive use. This interface adopted the functionalities of OpenDSS to make advance features easier to use. 

OpenDSS core attributes include:


Flexible: OpenDSS can be used for a wide range of analysis from basic analysis such as power flow and short-circuit to advanced capabilities such as QSTS, harmonic analysis, dynamic (electro-mechanical) analysis, probabilistic/scenario analysis, and real-time simulations with hardware-in the-loop.


Customizable: Easily customizable for bespoke applications and studies using distribution scripting language designed specifically for distribution engineers. Custom, user-defined device, controls, and processes are easily modeled as well as using modern programming languages such as Python, C++, Matlab, Java, VBA, etc. 


Accessible: The OpenDSS has an enhanced graphical user interface for easy modeling and simulation manipulation and human input/output, but also can be driven through an Application Programming Interface (API) using a powerful scripting capability for simulating scenarios/cases in batch mode for solving large/complex problems.


Interoperable: The OpenDSS is compatible with a wide range of software applications including existing distribution software and platforms such as Windows and Linux. As such, OpenDSS can be used to extend and enhance existing applications.


Sustainable: The OpenDSS has proven to be a sustainable solution tool within the industry through the broad user base, active forum discussions, research entity applications, etc. regularly using, supporting, and developing new applications leveraging the OpenDSS platform.


Today, more than 120,000 global stakeholders use the OpenDSS platform for their own distribution planning. Recently, EPRI worked with an eastern U.S. utility using OpenDSS to develop and demonstrate new analytical capabilities required to consider non-wires alternatives in the planning process. By using OpenDSS-G in these efforts, we were also able to define the visualization and computational capabilities required to efficiently and effectively inform a planner’s decision-making. 


OpenDSS will continue to pave the way for power system simulation capabilities long into the future.  EPRI is actively encouraging new users – students, researchers, and utilities – to learn more about the tool and how it can be a resource for DER grid integration and modernization studies. 


Starting Monday, August 30, EPRI will host a four-day global training event open to students, utilities, and researchers anywhere to learn more about OpenDSS. Registration is open now and we encourage you to share with your network. Together, we can enable the next generation of distribution engineers to meet the needs of tomorrow by working on them today. 

Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)
As an independent, nonprofit organization, we focus on electricity generation, delivery, and use to make electric power safe, reliable, affordable, and environmentally responsible.
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