A Review of Power Distribution Test Feeders in the United States and the Need for Synthetic Representative Networks

Brian Hodge, Bryan Palmintier, Venkat Krishnan, Barry Mather, Fernando Postigo Marcos, Carlos Domingo, Tomas San Roman, Fernando de Cuadra Garcia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus Citations


Under the increasing penetration of distributed energy resources and new smart network technologies, distribution utilities face new challenges and opportunities to ensure reliable operations, manage service quality, and reduce operational and investment costs. Simultaneously, the research community is developing algorithms for advanced controls and distribution automation that can help to address some of these challenges. However, there is a shortage of realistic test systems that are publically available for development, testing, and evaluation of such new algorithms. Concerns around revealing critical infrastructure details and customer privacy have severely limited the number of actual networks published and that are available for testing. In recent decades, several distribution test feeders and US-featured representative networks have been published, but the scale, complexity, and control data vary widely. This paper presents a first-of-a-kind structured literature review of published distribution test networks with a special emphasis on classifying their main characteristics and identifying the types of studies for which they have been used. This both aids researchers in choosing suitable test networks for their needs and highlights the opportunities and directions for further test system development. In particular, we highlight the need for building large-scale synthetic networks to overcome the identified drawbacks of current distribution test feeders.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number1864
Number of pages14
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5D00-70304


  • Distributed energy resources (DERs)
  • Distribution networks
  • Representative networks
  • Review
  • State of the art
  • Synthetic distribution test feeders
  • Test feeders


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