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Distributed Control and Optimization for Communication and Power Systems


Peng, Qiuyu (2016) Distributed Control and Optimization for Communication and Power Systems. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/Z99C6VBW.


We are at the cusp of a historic transformation of both communication system and electricity system. This creates challenges as well as opportunities for the study of networked systems. Problems of these systems typically involve a huge number of end points that require intelligent coordination in a distributed manner. In this thesis, we develop models, theories, and scalable distributed optimization and control algorithms to overcome these challenges.

This thesis focuses on two specific areas: multi-path TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) and electricity distribution system operation and control. Multi-path TCP (MP-TCP) is a TCP extension that allows a single data stream to be split across multiple paths. MP-TCP has the potential to greatly improve reliability as well as efficiency of communication devices. We propose a fluid model for a large class of MP-TCP algorithms and identify design criteria that guarantee the existence, uniqueness, and stability of system equilibrium. We clarify how algorithm parameters impact TCP-friendliness, responsiveness, and window oscillation and demonstrate an inevitable tradeoff among these properties. We discuss the implications of these properties on the behavior of existing algorithms and motivate a new algorithm Balia (balanced linked adaptation) which generalizes existing algorithms and strikes a good balance among TCP-friendliness, responsiveness, and window oscillation. We have implemented Balia in the Linux kernel. We use our prototype to compare the new proposed algorithm Balia with existing MP-TCP algorithms.

Our second focus is on designing computationally efficient algorithms for electricity distribution system operation and control. First, we develop efficient algorithms for feeder reconfiguration in distribution networks. The feeder reconfiguration problem chooses the on/off status of the switches in a distribution network in order to minimize a certain cost such as power loss. It is a mixed integer nonlinear program and hence hard to solve. We propose a heuristic algorithm that is based on the recently developed convex relaxation of the optimal power flow problem. The algorithm is efficient and can successfully computes an optimal configuration on all networks that we have tested. Moreover we prove that the algorithm solves the feeder reconfiguration problem optimally under certain conditions. We also propose a more efficient algorithm and it incurs a loss in optimality of less than 3% on the test networks.

Second, we develop efficient distributed algorithms that solve the optimal power flow (OPF) problem on distribution networks. The OPF problem determines a network operating point that minimizes a certain objective such as generation cost or power loss. Traditionally OPF is solved in a centralized manner. With increasing penetration of volatile renewable energy resources in distribution systems, we need faster and distributed solutions for real-time feedback control. This is difficult because power flow equations are nonlinear and kirchhoff's law is global. We propose solutions for both balanced and unbalanced radial distribution networks. They exploit recent results that suggest solving for a globally optimal solution of OPF over a radial network through a second-order cone program (SOCP) or semi-definite program (SDP) relaxation. Our distributed algorithms are based on the alternating direction method of multiplier (ADMM), but unlike standard ADMM-based distributed OPF algorithms that require solving optimization subproblems using iterative methods, the proposed solutions exploit the problem structure that greatly reduce the computation time. Specifically, for balanced networks, our decomposition allows us to derive closed form solutions for these subproblems and it speeds up the convergence by 1000x times in simulations. For unbalanced networks, the subproblems reduce to either closed form solutions or eigenvalue problems whose size remains constant as the network scales up and computation time is reduced by 100x compared with iterative methods.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Power System, Communication Network, Distributed Algorithm
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Engineering and Applied Science
Major Option:Electrical Engineering
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Low, Steven H.
Thesis Committee:
  • Low, Steven H. (chair)
  • Wierman, Adam C.
  • Chandy, K. Mani
  • Doyle, John Comstock
  • Vaidyanathan, P. P.
Defense Date:7 December 2015
Non-Caltech Author Email:qiuyupeng (AT)
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:01262016-194420781
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:9549
Deposited By: Qiuyu Peng
Deposited On:04 Feb 2016 21:28
Last Modified:09 Mar 2016 17:20

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