GridCal: Open source ethics

GridCal is about to hit version 2.0 after three years of development. So I take the opportunity to announce it. After all it is good and it is free.

GridCal is an open source power systems calculation software that I started because there was nothing like it. There are other competitive open source software programs, but none has a work flow like the comercial programs with graphical user interface, easy to use, powerful, etc. I believe that GridCal surpasses many comercial software in that aspect. I made GridCal so that it is a user friendly program and a calculation library for people to use it as they desire.

GridCal

Developing an open source project is quite a journey. A journey that has served a double purpose for me; To learn how electrical models work for real and to create an invaluable tool to work with. It takes commitment and a certain work ethic to be able to develop something that others can rely on and extend without your explicit involvement. The commitment part is specially true in my case because I do it in my spare time after working 10 hours a day in a consultancy company.

I have been contacted by Germans, Koreans, Americans, Russians… people at university courses and more seasoned engineers alike. I really enjoy knowing how people use the software and if they find bugs or difficulties that I can solve.

Electrical models

I have had a particular hard time finding models that actually work in a computer implementation. I have spent a fortune on electricity books, and very few provide the essential details that are necessary to build an efficient computer implementation. Some missing topics would be how to compute a line loading, graph algorithms to check if there are islands, or state of the art short circuit among other topics. The electric sector is not as good as the computer science sector in sharing knowledge. Many people develop models and keep them for their own, publish a paper or two with incomplete information and it all stays there.

Luckily I found that the models of another open source project (MatPower) were quite comprehensible and were implemented with speed in mind. The way R. D. Zimmerman, C. E. Murillo formulated the circuit equations, make the implementation much simpler and efficient, and this formulation cannot be found in books. That is because the people who write them do not write software themselves, hence their explanation is  academic (simplistic if you will) and it is hard to make it work in the real life.

Open knowledge

Open source software in the electric field should be used in each and every university. Students would be then able to see the “guts” of the program and learn how it is done in real life. They would be able to see methods that work for real size grids (hundreds or thousands of nodes), instead of a simple method that will lead them nowhere if they want to implement it by themselves to learn. I faced that myself.

I was a researcher, and I was once in trouble by relying on a comercial program which limitations blocked my research. That led me to start programming open source simulators in my own time to be able to do research at work with them. Crazy I know, but I have it now and I use GridCal at work for real projects, and my co-workers do too.

Conclusion

Regardless if you are a student or a professional, give my program a try. And if you feel like giving some feedback or contributing I’ll appreciate it very much. The program can be obtained here.

Enjoy.

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