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Using Intelligent Multi-Agent Systems for Shipboard Power Systems Reconfiguration

Jignesh M. Solanki, Student Member, IEEE, and Noel N. Schulz, Member, IEEE

Abstract-- Many approaches have been taken on the reconfiguration of power systems, but most of these approaches use a centralized method. While these methods can be acceptable for terrestrial power system applications, doing reconfiguration on shipboard power systems has a different set of issues involved. For naval ships, that may experience damage during battle, a centralized reconfiguration method provides a limitation. Based on these constraints researchers are investigating decentralized control strategies that allow for reconfiguration using localized information. One newer technology that is showing promise in this area is intelligent multi-agent (IMA) systems. This paper will discuss efforts underway at Mississippi State University to use IMA systems for reconfiguration of the power system. Agents are being implemented in multiple formats including MATLAB and JADE to investigate the issues related to data sharing, communications and reconfiguration strategies.


Restoration, Reconfiguration, Shipboard Power Systems






O UTAGES and faults are inevitable in any power system. The general practice is to isolate the fault. In the process

of isolation of the fault some un-faulted areas lose power. It is essential to restore power to these out of service areas as soon as possible. This entails fast and efficient switch operations

scheme, which would isolate the fault and restore the system. This problem is a combinatorial problem due to many possibilities of switching operations and increases with increasing complexity of the system. Several techniques, mathematical programming, heuristic techniques, knowledge based systems, traditional optimization techniques as well as non-convex techniques like genetic algorithm and simulated annealing, have been proposed for solving this type of problem. Heuristic techniques and knowledge-based systems have their own disadvantages of optimality. Traditional optimization techniques can guarantee optimality but it needs proper problem formulation and has time constraints for on the spot actions. One of the biggest concerns with these approaches is that they are centralized. A centralized solution needs to handle a large amount of data in a central computer. This leads to single-point-of-failure. This is a major concern

This work was supported by Office of Naval Research funds N00014-02-


J. M. Solanki and N. N. Schulz are with the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mississippi State University, Box 9751, Mississippi State, MS 39762 USA (email:,

when evaluating reconfiguration strategies for shipboard power systems (SPS). Distributed Intelligence deals with concentrating the intelligence on a component level. Each agent may have only a local view of the system, but the team of agents (i.e., multi-agent system) can perform system wide reconfiguration for restoration through autonomous and cooperative actions of the agents. An agent is a type of software abstraction. An object is a high-level abstraction that describes methods and attributes of a software component. However an agent is an extremely high-level software abstraction, which efficiently describes a complex software entity. Rather than being defined in terms of methods and attributes, an agent is defined in terms of its behavior and ontology. A multi-agent system (MAS) is a distributed and coupled network of intelligent hardware and software agents that work together to achieve a global goal. Although each agent is intelligent, local knowledge restricts it capability and it may not be sufficient to achieve a global goal for a complicated large system. In summary an agent is a computer system capable of autonomous action in some environment. There are several types of agents that are broadly classified as Software Agents, Mobile Agents, Reactive Agents, Middle Agents or Intermediate Agents and Interface Agents [1,2]. This paper provides an overview of past and continuing efforts at Mississippi State University to investigate the role of intelligent agents in reconfiguration strategies for shipboard power systems.


With the recent initiatives to enhance the reconfigurability and survivability of shipboard power systems many research efforts are concentrating on the automation of system operations and control. Controlling and directing the power where needed and desired after a fault is an expected capability of this new system. The Navy is working to have the ship operational in hostile environments even after damage. As a result of battle damage some loads are cut off and fast restoration of supply to these loads is necessary for system survivability. Loads have different priorities that must be considered during restoration in SPS. The system may need to shed unnecessary loads and maintain vital loads, such as weapons, communications and limited propulsion. SPS present challenges for robust control and reliable operation as they are

1. Multi-component systems.

1-59975-028-7/05/$20.00 © 2005 ISAP.


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2. Vulnerable to attacks and local disturbances, which can lead to widespread failure instantaneously.

3. The number of possible interactions increases, as the SPS grows complicated. Thus, it exceeds the ability of a single centralized entity to evaluate, monitor, and manage them in real time.

4. Integrated Power structure is complex for conventional mathematical theories and control methodologies.


Mississippi State University is part of a multi-university consortium, sponsored by the Office of Naval Research. The Electric Ship Research and Development Consortium is three years into a five-year program to provide advanced research and development activities for the all-electric ship. Through interactions with Florida State University, MSU researchers began to investigate the role of MAS in reconfiguration and restoration. The MSU group had been investigating optimization techniques for restoration. However these techniques would provide restoration after a longer amount of time. When looking the restoration process, there are several time periods to consider related to reconfiguration and restoration. The first time frame is pre-damage assessment. This involves reconfiguring the power system anticipating damage occurring. Some work on this topic has been done at Texas A&M [3 ]. The second time frame is the immediate activities that occur after the damage. This, like a reaction to moving your hand from a hot burner, involves removing the fault and restoring as many loads as possible. The third time frame involves optimization of reconfiguration as time permits. The MSU group is looking into these issues[4,5]. Based on the literature and discussions with Dr. David Cartes’ group at FSU, it became evident that MAS provided an opportunity for restoration in the second time frame. This is the reaction quick time when the system is trying to stay stable and keep as many lights and loads on as possible. For our initial studies, we began looking at implementing the MAS concept on a radial power system. The goal here was to understand the location and types of information that the agents need in order to make effective decisions. The agents are providing information about fault detection, fault isolation and restoration. The SPS system model is combined with an MAS system that has distributed, autonomous, and adaptive intelligent agents. MAS can overcome several limitations of the already existing solution techniques as given below:

1. Scalability: For several techniques time for restoration increases exponentially with the number of nodes. Mathematical techniques may lead to time explosion as well, whereas heuristic techniques don’t guarantee an optimal solution.

2. Topology Independent: This technique does not have information of topology of the system. Thus if the system changes in real time it does not affect the

solution obtained. This technique works on just the local information and does not need any global information.

Further details about the implementation of the agents is available in Reference [6]. Here we present a summary of the work to date as well as planned activities.



The agents only communicate with neighboring agents. The agents are implemented in MATLAB[7] using the MATLAB Function block in Simulink. There are three types

of agents in the proposed multi-agent system: Switch Agents (SAs), Substation Breaker Agents (SBAs) and Tie Breaker Agents (TBAs).

A multi-agent system is proposed to restore service through

system reconfiguration. The system tries to achieve three objectives: Detect the fault, Isolate the fault and Restore as much loads as possible. At the same time, there are some constraints that should be met: No components in the system are overloaded and for our initial work radial configuration must be kept. Every agent can sense the voltage and current magnitude downstream.

A test system was implemented in VTB [8] and MATLAB-

VTB co-simulation was done. Successful restoration was achieved using these strategies and MATLAB agent architecture [6].

Drawbacks Of MATLAB For Agent Development For Large-Scale Systems While the MATLAB/ Simulink /VTB environment provided an excellent first step environment for learning the development of agent technology, there were also some limitations that meant it would not be feasible for larger systems. MATLAB is a single threaded programming and cannot execute two or more programs in parallel. In Simulink, run time changes are not allowed and storage of data more than once is not possible. Due to its single threading nature, peer-to-peer message transfer is not possible. Also it does not have built-in message storing, polling and queuing architecture. For the agent communications, an action must wait until the next simulation time step. Also distributed control across machines is not currently available. Finally runtime changes in the agent action are not possible.



JADE is implemented fully in Java language. JADE is designed for the development of distributed multi-agent applications based on the peer-to-peer communication architecture. JADE is compliant with the FIPA (Foundation of Intelligent Physical Agents) specifications. FIPA is now an IEEE standard. JADE is collection of active components called agents, which can be created or destroyed according to problem requirement.


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Each agent lives in container and its agent instance is identified by a unique AID (Agent ID). An agent can execute several behaviors in parallel. The actual work that an agent does is carried out in its behaviors. Message passing between agents is asynchronous. If there are two (or more) behaviors receiving messages in agents then messages can be received by any of the behaviors and correct behavior may not receive that message. To avoid this, templates are defined where messages can be specified with certain characteristics. Interaction protocols allow standard types of messages (INFORM, REQUEST, PROPOSE) exchanged by agents during communications [9].


Because of the limitations with MATLAB/Simulink described above, MSU researchers are integrating JADE with our VTB models to develop an MAS system. An agent can query other agents, work together with other agents to make a decision as well as monitor the power system. This is achieved through the communication between neighboring agents. Communication between agents is achieved by FIPA specified Agent Communication Language (ACL). Communication between the distribution system simulation in VTB and agents in JADE is fulfilled through RPC model. This model acts as a windows Remote Procedural Call (RPC) server and uses function calls GetSignal and SetSignal from Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS) web server. These two functions are posted on the web using Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP). Communication between RPC and IIS is described in details in [10]. In this way the agent is always informed about its status and neighboring agent’s status. The goal is to design MAS that fulfills the functional requirements and achieve nearly global optimum solution in very short time. MSU is continuing its JADE development and is testing it on a small power system to understand the interactions between agents. There continue to be questions about the locations of agents and other monitoring equipment as well as how much information is necessary for the agent to make an effective decision.


In this paper, an intelligent multi-agent system for SPS restoration is proposed. The agents are developed in MATLAB and the system is simulated in VTB. MATLAB- VTB co-simulation is done for agent executions depending on the system measurements. The development is successfully tested on a test system. There are some drawbacks of implementing MAS in MATLAB and hence the focus is on using JADE as agent development platform. A brief introduction of JADE and agent development using JADE is enumerated.

MSU researchers will continue to explore the implementation of MAS for shipboard power system restoration. Goals include determining the location of monitoring information and agents, amount of information that must be passed between agents, and scalability and

topology independence features.



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Jignesh M. Solanki is currently pursuing a Ph.D. degree from the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department of Mississippi State University. He received his B.E. degree from V.R.E.C., Nagpur and M.E. degree from Mumbai University, India in 1998 and 2000 respectively. He was involved in research activities at IIT Bombay, India. His research interests are multi-agent system, power system analysis and its control. Noel N. Schulz received her B.S.E.E. and M.S.E.E. degrees from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 1988 and 1990, respectively. She received her Ph.D. in EE from the University of Minnesota in 1995. She has been an associate professor in the ECE department at Mississippi State University since July 2001. Prior to that she spent six years on the faculty of Michigan Tech. Her research interests are in computer applications in power system operations including artificial intelligence techniques. She is a NSF CAREER award recipient. She has been active in the IEEE Power Engineering Society and is serving as Secretary for 2004-2005. She was the 2002 recipient of the IEEE/PES Walter Fee Outstanding Young Power Engineer Award. Dr. Schulz is a member of Eta Kappa Nu and Tau Beta Pi. Recently she has been named to TVA Professorship in Power Systems Engineering at Mississippi State University.


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