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Computer Simulation Tools to Enhance Undergraduate Power Systems Education

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Simulations and Project-Based Learning II

Tagged Division

Engineering Technology

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.307.1 - 24.307.16



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Paper Authors


Matthew Turner Purdue University (Statewide Technology)

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Matthew Turner is an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering technology at Purdue University in New Albany, Ind. Previously with the Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research at the University of Louisville, he has research interests that include power-distribution system modelling, best practices for power-systems education, and electric energy and public policy.

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Chris Foreman Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Chris Foreman, an assistant professor in the department of electrical and computer engineering technology at Purdue University, holds a Ph.D. in computer science and engineering (2008), and M.Eng (1996) and B.S. (1990) degrees in electrical engineering, all from the University of Louisville. A senior member of IEEE and the Power and Energy Society, he teaches and performs research in renewable energy systems, smart power grids, industrial control systems, and cyber-security. He has over 15 years of power-industry experience with companies such as Westinghouse Process Control Division (now Emerson Process Management), Cinergy (now Duke Energy), and Alcoa Inc.

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Rajeswari Sundararajan Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Computer Simulation Tools to Enhance Undergraduate Power Systems EducationThis paper presents a review of software simulation tools relevant for use in undergraduateelectrical power systems education, considering both commercial proprietary and open sourceproducts.First, the role of computer simulators in power engineering education is discussed, including areview of current knowledge and major contributions to pedagogy development. This sectionfocuses on published literature documenting implementation cases and concludes that a need stillexists for evidence-based research on the efficacy of adopting computer simulation for teachingpower system topics.Second, the technical requirements of computer modeling and analysis as educational tools arepresented in context of various sub-domains under steady state (power flow), fault (short circuit)and transient conditions. This overview discusses the well- established simulation techniques forthe traditional processes of power generation and electric transmission, as well as recentdevelopments in tools designed for low-voltage distribution system simulation utilizingunbalanced three-phase models of components. Other non-traditional areas of electric powersimulation that have increasing influence on system operation and therefore educationaloutcomes are also treated, including: load modeling, power markets, smart grids, distributedgeneration and renewable energy resources, and the use of simulation to inform public policy. Major power software packages are then analyzed for their ability to extend student learningand aid in the development of intuitive insight in each of the afore mentioned sub-domains.Metrics used for evaluation include sophistication of modeling capabilities, level of prerequisiteuser expertise, computer hardware requirements, human factors and ergonomics of userinterface, program cost and availability, level of customization, industry relevance, and overallutility for educational purposes. While this section analyzes most of the principal softwarepackages currently available (PsCAD, ETAP, Windmil, PowerWorld, etc.), significant attentionis also paid to the emergent category of open source simulation tools, which includes theElectric Power Research Institute’s OpenDSS ,Pacific North West National Lab’s GridLAB-D,and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s HOMER software. Additionally, the results ofa survey on the use of distribution systems simulation software in the electric utility industry arepresented in order to inform readers on the industry prevalence of some of the software toolsdiscussed.The paper concludes with a discussion on the future of power systems software and itscontinuing role in enhancing electrical power systems education, particularly in context ofnational efforts by IEEE to promote the use of open source software within the power and energycommunity.

Turner, M., & Foreman, C., & Sundararajan, R. (2014, June), Computer Simulation Tools to Enhance Undergraduate Power Systems Education Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20198

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