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Photovoltaic Supplied Grid-Connected Modular

Multilevel Converter with Active Power Injection and

Reactive Power Compensation Capability

Ke Shen, Dan Zhao, Guodong Zhao, Shaozhe Wang

School of Automation,
Northwestern Polytechnical University,
Xi’an, China

Abstract—This paper discusses the active and reactive power improve the effective utilization and save investment cost of
control method for a modular multilevel converter (MMC) based PV systems. Previous works were mainly focused on the PV
grid-connected PV system. The voltage vector space analysis is systems operating as a power quality conditioner capable of
performed by using average value models for the feasibility compensate harmonics and reactive power [10-11], but the
analysis of reactive power compensation (RPC). The proposed research on active and reactive power control strategies for the
double-loop control strategy enables the PV system to handle MMC based grid-connected PV system remains unexplored.
unidirectional active power flow and bidirectional reactive power
flow. Experiments have been performed on a laboratory-scaled This paper focuses on a feasible physical configuration for
modular multilevel PV inverter. The experimental results verify modular multilevel grid-connected PV systems. The voltage
the correctness and feasibility of the proposed strategy. space vector for the converter system is modeled to analyze the
control possibilities of the active and reactive power injection
Keywords—Modular multilevel converter; grid-connected PV by a grid-connected PV source. Then, a concrete control
systems, reactive power compensation, maximum solar power procedure for the grid-connected MMC based PV system with
injection multi-function is explained in the interest of increasing the
utilization rate of PV systems.
The rest of the paper is organized as follows. Section II
Countries worldwide are currently facing challenges such describes the system configuration of a MMC based grid-
as energy shortage and environmental deterioration. connected PV system. Then, the proposed control strategy is
Consequently, the pollution-free, renewable energy sources addressed in Section III. Experimental results conducted on a
have shown attractive prospects. Solar power generation is small-scale prototype are included in Section IV. Finally, the
largely promoted because it produces no pollution, has very concluding remarks are drawn in Section V.
abundant power supply, and tends to be popularized
extensively in distributed energy (DE) systems.
Large-scale application of grid-connected PV systems has
become a trend. Hence, the power electronic interfaces are A. Configuration of Grid Interfacing PV Power Plants
subject to several requirements, such as efficiency, reliability, Fig. 1 shows the single-phase topology of the proposed
power quality, etc. [1]. The topology optimization of power single-stage modular multilevel photovoltaic grid-connected
electronic interfaces is an essential aspect of the research and inverter. The series-parallel connection of PV panels that make
development of PV systems. The multilevel converters as up a PV array to obtain a dc bus with an adequate voltage for
interfacing units for grid-connected PV systems have been utility-scale solar energy generation. The number of branches
investigated intensively during the past decade [2-9]. This in parallel is written as N p , while in each branch N s PV panels
includes the use of neutral point clamped (NPC) inverter [2], are connected in series. Two power decoupling capacitors with
cascaded H-bridge inverter [3-6] and modular multilevel the same capacitance, C 1 and C 2 , are connected in series
converter (MMC) [7-9]. Since the MMC possesses the distinct between the positive and negative dc buses. In normal state,
features of modular design, easy scalability, and fault tolerant each legs of the MMC invariably keep n SMs on duty. In each
capability, the previous paper [8] suggested that the MMC has SM, the value of the energy storage capacitor is C SM , which
a large potential to be the next-generation large-scale PV grid- provides a stable dc voltage for the SMs and ensures the
connected inverter,. normal operation of the MMC. Fig. 1 describes circuit
Meanwhile, the solar industry is facing serious cost schematic among the grid voltage u ga , transformer secondary
pressures, so it is very crucial to find a control strategy to side voltage u sa , and dc bus voltage u pv , where Z in represents
the buffering reactor impedance, Z s denotes the total equivalent
This work was supported in part by the National Natural Science
Foundation of China (Grant No. 51507142) and in part by the Shaanxi
Provincial Natural Science Foundation for Basic Research, China (Grant No.
impedance of the filter inductor, respectively. The turns of the the upper and lower arms, and will not affect the MMC output
isolated transformer in primary and secondary are expressed as current [12], where I CCa can be expressed as:
N 1 and N 2 , respectively. Then the transformation ratio T r can 1
be calculated as I CCa iUa  iLa (4)
N1 According to Kirhhoff’s laws, the grid-connected MMC
Tr (1) system is characterized by the following equations
ioa iUa  iLa (5)
Ideal Utility
PV Array Modular PV Inverter Line Filter
Transformer Grid upv
s  usA1  iUa Z in  ioa Z s  usa 0 (6)
SM1 upv
usA1  uA2t  iLa Z in  ioa Z s  usa 0 (7)

C1 2
A1 N2 : N1 Subtracting (7) from (6), then substituting (5) into this
... o
Zin iUa ioa
equation yields
Np upv
Zin iLa uoa Zs
uA2t  usA1 Z
usa uga  ioa ( in  Z s )  usa 0 (8)


2 2
The inner electromotive force (EMF) e ia is defined by

... uA2t
SM2n uA2t  usA1
eia (9)
t 2
Ns This voltage loop equation (8) can be rewritten as follows
Fig. 1. System configuration of the proposed grid-connected modular eia  ioa ( in  Z s )  usa 0 (10)
multilevel PV system. 2
Equation (10) implies that the buffering reactor impedance
can be considered as a part of the grid-connected impedance.
B. Voltage Vector Space Analysis
Fig. 2 shows the simplified modular multilevel grid-
According to the current and voltage definitions shown in connected inverter equivalent circuit, where R e is defined as
Fig. 1, the expressions for the upper and lower arm terminal the equivalent resistor of the grid-connected inverter.
voltages, u sA1 and u A2t , can be written as follows
n n
Re Lin/2+Ls
usA1 ¦ s j vcj ¦ s j (Vdc  'vcj ) ioa
j 1 j 1 eia
(2) usa
N UVdc  ¦ s j 'vcj
j 1 Fig. 2. Simplified equivalent circuit for the single-phase grid-connected
2n 2n modular multilevel PV system.
uA2t ¦ s j vcj ¦ s j (Vdc  'vcj )
Generally, the desired inner EMF e ia is controlled as a
j n 1 j n 1
(3) sinusoidal waveform
N LVdc  ¦ s j 'vcj
eia (t )
upv sin(Z0 t  M ) (11)
j n 1
where N U and N L refers to the actual switched SMs on upper where m a is defined as the modulation index of a-phase,
and lower arms respectively, V dc is the theoretical value of the and ij is the phase angle of the inner EMF voltage, Ȧ 0 is the
SM voltage, s j is the switching status of the jth 60ǻv cj is the radian frequency of the grid.
instantaneous value of the deviation for the jth capacitor
voltage in the arms. The circulating current I CCa only flow in

G G jZ0 (0.5 Lin  Ls ) I oa
G jZ0 (0.5 Lin  Ls ) I oa I oa G jZ0 (0.5 Lin  Ls ) I oa U sa
Eia Eia G G
Re I oa G Re I oa
G G G G I oa G
I oa U sa Re I oa U sa Eia
(a) (b) (c)

Fig. 3. Phasor diagram of the simplified equivalent circuit. (a) Active power injection only. (b) Leading reactive power injection only. (c) Lagging reactive
power injection only.

The diagram of vectors at the point of common coupling controlling the active and reactive power exchange between
(PCC) is shown in Fig. 3. As can be seen from Fig. 3, when the MMC system and the utility grid.
the amplitude and phase of the inner EMF are adjusted, the
amplitude and phase of grid current vary as well, thereby
between the instantaneous conductance and the increment of
III. PROPOSED CONTROL STRATEGY conductance in real time.
The control scheme for a MMC based PV system is The reactive power controller regulates reactive and active
indicated in Fig. 4. A dual-loop control structure is proposed. power exchange between the MMC system and the utility grid
The outer loop is the feedback of dc bus voltage, and the inner when the reference current generating strategy is switched to
loop is the feedback of grid current. The algorithm in the outer the RPC mode. In RPC mode, the reference current is
voltage loop provides the reference grid current i ref , while the composed by the reactive component and the active component.
inner current loop ensures a high-precision grid current. For the reactive component, the amplitude of reference current
I qref is determined by the reactive power reference Q ref , which
A. Reference current generating strategy can be written as follows
For the MPPT controller, the amplitude of the reference
current I pref is obtained by proportion integration (PI) control 2Tr
I qref Qqref k ˜ Qqref (12)
of the error between the maximum power point (MPP) voltage Ug
U pref and the actual voltage u pv , and the phase of reference
current is determined by tracking the grid voltage through a where U g is the RMS Value of grid voltage, k is the gain factor.
phase-locked loop (PLL). In the proposed single-stage PV
system, the incremental conductance (IncCond) method is The active component of reference current is employed
adopted to realize the MPPT task [13]. When using this method, when considering the power loss may cause the dc bus and
the reference voltage of the maximum power point of the individual SM voltages to drop. The PI controller is designed to
photovoltaic cell is adjusted according to the comparing result maintain the dc bus voltage u pv to approach the reference value
U qref .

Uqref Ibusref PV panels Grid

upv switch
Qref Iqref sinș irefa QPR
cosș controller MMC
cos Reactive Power ioa
Controller eia
uga ș sinș
PLL sin
sj ...
upv ik Phase
PI disposition
MPPT drivers
controller vcj PWM
ipv Ipref
MPPT Controller
Power circuits
Current feedback
Reference current generating control loop

Fig. 4. Overall control scheme of modular multilevel PV system.

When the system is operated in solar generator mode, the state error at the fundamental frequency, the quasi-
command value of the dc bus voltage U pref is calculated by the proportional-resonant (QPR) controller [14] is utilized for the
MPPT algorithm. When the system is operated in RPC mode, current loop controller to provide a high gain at the
the command value of the dc bus voltage U qref is a constant fundamental frequency without phase offset. The QPR
value. Here, U qref is set to the open circuit voltage of the PV controller consists of a proportional regulator and a quasi-
array. This setting aims to sustain a sufficient high dc bus resonant regulator. The gain of this controller is infinitely high
voltage to avoid duty cycle saturation [14]. at the resonance frequency and extremely low at the non-
resonant frequency. Therefore, the QPR controller can obtain
B. Grid current feedback control steady-error-free regulation of the fundamental harmonic
The inner current loop controls the MMC output current i oa frequency component when used to control directly the AC
to follow the reference current i refa as close as possible. quantity, thereby achieving excellent steady and transient
Conventional PI controllers suffer from the drawback of performance. The transfer function is shown in (13).
unavoidable steady-state error, which influences the tracking
performance of the grid current. In order to reduce the steady-

2 k r Zc s
Gi ( s ) kp  (13)
s 2  2Zc s  Z02
where k p , k r , and Ȧ c are the proportional gain, resonant
gain, equivalent bandwidth frequency, respectively.
Phase disposition PWM method is adopted to generate the
gate signals. Since the basic principle of SM capacitor voltage
balancing control has been discussed in detail in [15], it won't
be covered here.


To verify the performance of a modular multilevel grid-
connected PV system and the effectiveness of the proposed
methods, a hardware prototype was built and tested in Fig. 5. Experimental setup.
laboratory. The control system for the experimental system was
implemented by a dSPACE 1103 control board. MOSFET of A. MPPT Mode
IXFH70N20Q3 is chosen for the switches. The PV panels from
Sanyo with the part number HIP-195BA19 are employed to Fig. 6 shows the experiment results of active power
carry out the experiments. transmission obtained from the rooftop grid-connected PV
system. Fig. 6(a) and (b) describe experimental dc bus voltage
The major electrical specifications of the PV panels are u pv , ac grid voltage u g , output voltage u o , and output current i o
shown in Table 1. Experimental setup of a five-level MMC is under MPPT mode. From both Fig. 6, it can be concluded that
shown in Fig. 5. Table 2 summarizes the circuit parameters and the proposed technique can simultaneously accomplish the two
test conditions of the experiment platform. The experimental tasks of MPPT and grid-connected current control.
verification is presented in the following parts.
upv (100V/div)
ioa (10A/div) uga (100V/div)
Parameters Symbols Values
Maximum power P max 195W

Maximum power voltage V pm 55.3V

Maximum power current I pm 3.53A

Open circuit voltage V oc 68.1A

Short circuit current I sc 3.79A iUa (10A/div)

Parameters Symbols Values
Command dc bus voltage in RPC
U qref 272.4V
upv (100V/div)
DC bus capacitance C1 , C2 4700ȝF

Individual SM capacitance C SM 2200ȝF

Buffer inductor uoa (100V/div)
L in 0.5mH

Filter inductor Ls 5mH

Number of SMs in each arm n 4 iLa (10A/div)

Number of PV panels in parallel Np 1
iUa (10A/div)
Number of PV panels in series Ns 4

Grid frequency f0 60Hz Time (10ms/div)

Switching frequency fs 600Hz (b)

Grid voltage (rms) Ug 115V Fig. 6. Experiment results of active power transmission under MPPT
Transformer turns ratio Tr 2.5(N1/N2) mode. (a) dc bus voltage u pv , ac grid voltage u g , and arm current i U .
(b) dc bus voltage u pv , output voltage u o , and arm currents i U , i L .

Fig. 7 (a) and (b) show the steady-state experimental
waveforms of SM capacitor voltages on upper and lower arms,
respectively. The test results indicate that the control of
capacitor voltage balance is feasible and effective. ioa (10A/div)

uga (50V/div)

Time (4ms/div)

Fig. 8. Experiment results of leading reactive power injection conditions.

Time (200ms/div)

(a) ioa (10A/div)

uga (50V/div)

Time (4ms/div)

Fig. 9. Experiment results of lagging reactive power injection conditions.

Time (200ms/div)
This paper has addressed the design approaches and
control strategies for the MMC based PV grid-integration. The
Fig. 7. Experiment results of SM capacitor voltages. (a) v c1 (Ch1, 10
major accomplishments and some conclusions are summarized
V/div), v c2 (Ch2, 10 V/div), v c3 (Ch3, 10 V/div), and v c4 (Ch4, 10 in the following.
V/div) in upper arm. (b) v c5 (Ch1, 10 V/div), v c6 (Ch2, 10 V/div), 1) The MMC based PV system is able to perform well both
v c7 (Ch3, 10 V/div), and v c8 (Ch4, 10 V/div) in lower arm. in active power injection and reactive power compensation
conditions, and this favors the enhancement of utilization of
B. RPC Mode the PV systems.
Fig. 8(a) and (b) show the experiment results of leading 2) The presented method is easy to implement. It only
reactive power injection conditions at the steady states. needs to change the software to adapt different voltage classes
and power capacities.
Similar experimental results can be seen in Fig. 9 with
lagging reactive power injection. 3) Experimental verification of the control of the single-
phase modular PV inverter system confirms the effectiveness
As can be seen from Fig. 8 and Fig. 9, the double loop
and practical feasibility of the proposed strategy.
control scheme enables the system to achieve favorable RPC
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