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Abstract An inverter is essential for the interfacing of


photovoltaic panels with the AC network. There are many
possible inverter topologies and inverter switching schemes and
each one will have its own relative advantages and
disadvantages. Efficiency and output current distortion are two
important factors governing the choice of inverter system. In
this paper, it is argued that current controlled inverters offer
significant advantages from the point of view of minimisation of
current distortion. Two inverter switching strategies are
explored in detail. These are the unipolar current controlled
inverter and the bipolar current controlled inverter. With respect
to low frequency distortion, previously published works provide
theoretical arguments in favour of bipolar switching. On the
other hand it has also been argued that the unipolar switched
inverter offers reduced switching losses and generates less EMI.
On efficiency grounds, it appears that the unipolar switched
inverter has an advantage. However, experimental results
presented in this paper show that the level of low frequency
current distortion in the unipolar switched inverter is such that
it can only comply with Australian Standard 4777.2 above a
minimum output current. On the other hand it is shown that at
the same current levels bipolar switching results in reduced low
frequency harmonics.

I. INTRODUCTION
rid connected single phase photovoltaic systems may be
unipolar switched or bipolar switched. They can be
current controlled or voltage controlled. In this paper the focus
is on current controlled systems. These have advantages such
as active current wave shaping, inherent current limitation and
automatic synchronisation with the AC network [1]. For
simplicity and excellent dynamic performance characteristics,
hysteretic control [2] has been adopted for the current loop.
The purpose of this paper is to compare low frequency
output current distortion of unipolar switched inverters and
bipolar switched inverters. Unipolar switched inverters have
the advantage of higher efficiency due to reduced switching
loss [3], but it has been shown theoretically [4] that distortion
of their output current can be significant, specially at low

Manuscript received September 20, 2007.
L. Bowtell and T. Ahfock are with Faculty of Engineering Surveying,
University of Southern Queensland, Australia (bowtelll@usq.edu.au)
power levels. Grid-connected inverters have to operate within
distortion limits specified in Australian Standards 4777.2.



II. SYSTEM DESCRIPTION

Figure 1 is a representation of the overall system.

Fig. 1: Overall System

The output terminals of the solar panels are directly
connected to the DC input bus of the inverter. The voltage
control loop is digitally implemented. It incorporates a
maximum power tracker. The tracker routine is invoked once
every few seconds. It involves incrementing or decrementing
the voltage reference signal for the voltage control loop and
monitoring of the resulting change in PV power output a few
seconds later. If the output power rises the next increment of
the reference voltage is made in the same direction as the
previous one otherwise it is made in the opposite direction. If
there is no change reference voltage is left unchanged.
COMPARISON BETWEEN UNIPOLAR AND
BIPOLAR SINGLE PHASE GRID-
CONNECTED INVERTERS FOR PV
APPLICATIONS
Les Bowtell and Tony Ahfock
G
2
Output power from the PV array tends to raise the DC bus
voltage by charging the storage capacitor. The voltage
controller operates to keep the voltage constant at the level
determined by the maximum power tracker. It is essentially a
digitally implemented PI controller. The controller output,
which at steady state is a constant value, is raised or lowered
until the DC bus voltage signal fed back to the controller
matches the voltage reference signal. The voltage reference
signal is multiplied by the AC supply voltage signal to produce
the reference current for the hysteretic current control loop.
The multiplier is digitally implemented.

A. Unipolar Mode Current Control

During the entire positive half cycle of the source voltage
( s
v
), insulated gate bipolar transistor T3 is kept off and T4 is
kept on. Transistor T1 is switched on when the inverter output
current ( s
i
) goes below the bottom limit of the hysteretic
band. This causes s
i
to rise while it flows through T1 and T4.
When current s
i
goes above the upper limit of the band T1 is
switched off. This causes s
i
to fall while it flows through D2
and T4.
During the entire negative half cycle of the voltage ( s
v
),
transistor T4 is kept off and T3 is kept on. Transistor T2 is
switched on when the inverter output current ( s
i
) goes above
the top limit of the hysteretic band. This causes s
i
to rise
negatively while it flows through T3 and T2. When current s
i

goes outside the lower limit of the band T2 is switched off.
This causes s
i
to fall towards zero while it flows through D1
and T3

B. Bipolar Mode Current Control

During the positive half cycle of the source voltage ( s
v
),
when current s
i
falls below the bottom limit of the hysteretic
band, T1 and T4 are switched on. As a result the current rises
through T1 and T4. If the current rises above the top limit of
the hysteretic band, T1 and T4 are switched off and current s
i

falls through D2 and D3.
During the negative half cycle of the source voltage ( s
v
),
when current s
i
goes above the top limit of the hysteretic
band, T2 and T3 are switched on. As a result the current rises
negatively through T2 and T3. When the current goes below
the bottom limit of the hysteretic band, T2 and T3 are switched
off and s
i
falls towards zero through D1 and D4.
Note that bipolar switching as described here is subtly
different from classical bipolar switching. The difference being
that in the classical case, during freewheeling through a diode
pair, the transistor pair across the conducting diode pair will be
turned on so that a reverse path is always available for the
current. However, for simplicity the experimental inverter was
operated as described above rather than as per classical bipolar
switching. This has no consequence for most of the AC cycle
because except near the zero crossing of s
v
, there is no attempt
by the current to reverse. The only observable effect is
discontinuity of the inverter output current for a short time
interval near the supply voltage zero crossing.

III. CAUSES OF LOW FREQUENCY HARMONICS

The following causes of low frequency distortion in the
inverter output current have been identified:
1) harmonic content in the signal voltage ref
v

2) harmonic content in the voltage controller output signal
[5];
3) switching delay; and
4) inductor non-linearity;

A. Multiplier Input Signal Voltage
Without any signal conditioning, multiplier signal ref
v
is
merely an attenuated version of the AC mains voltage. In that
case total harmonic distortion in ref
v
would be equal to total
harmonic distortion of the supply voltage which was measured
as 3.4 %. Assuming there were no other cause of distortion,
the distortion in ref
v
gets replicated in s
i
. The purpose of the
zero phase shift filter in figure 1 is to minimise distortion in
s
i
that is directly caused by the harmonics in the mains
voltage. Total harmonic distortion at the output of the filter
was 1.5 %.

B. Harmonic Content in Voltage Controller Output Signal
The feedback signal to the voltage controller contains
harmonics because of distortion in the DC bus voltage. The
main cause of that distortion is components at 100Hz and at
higher multiples of 100Hz which are part of the storage
capacitor current. With an analogue PI controller, the
harmonics propagate to the controller output. These get
modulated by ref
v
and produce a dominant third harmonic
component in the reference current [5]. Since a digital
controller has been adopted, it has been possible to completely
eliminate the 100 Hz harmonics from the PI controller output
with the result that it is purely DC at steady state. Thus the
multiplier output is not distorted if ref
v
is purely sinusoidal.

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C. Switching Delay
Detailed analysis presented by Sharma and Ahfock [4]
shows that switching delay can cause significant total
harmonic distortion in the output current of unipolar switched
current controlled single-phase photovoltaic systems. This is
particularly the case at low power output. If switching
frequency harmonics are ignored, the deviation between
inverter output current is and reference current ref
i
is given by
equation 1 which has been derived using the mathematical
model given in reference [4].

( ) sgn
2
s d c d s
s ref
v t V t v
i i
L L
=
(1)

where d
t
is the switching delay

If there was no switching delay, as expected, the right hand
side of equation (1) is zero. The second term on the right hand
side is proportional to the source voltage and does not
contribute to distortion since the source voltage has been
assumed to be sinusoidal. The first term on the right hand side
is a square wave component and therefore represents odd
harmonics in s
i
.

For the case of bipolar switching,

d s
s ref
t v
i i
L

=
(2)

Equation 2 was deduced from the mathematical model
presented in reference [4]. It predicts that switching delay
causes current s
i
to deviate from the reference, but no
distortion results because the deviation is proportional to the
source voltage which has been assumed sinusoidal.

D. Inductor Saturation

In the absence of switching delay, the mathematical model
in reference [4] predicts zero low frequency harmonic
distortion for both unipolar switching and bipolar switching. If
there is saturation and switching delay, then inductance L in
the above equations becomes a function of current s
i
. When
supply voltage s
v
is low,
L
assumes higher values and vice-
versa. It can be deduced from equations (1) and (2) that the
simultaneous presence of switching delay and saturation will
cause distortion in current s
i
essentially because inductance
L
is not a constant. In this paper inductor saturation is not a
cause of distortion since the highest current considered is
within the linear range of the inductor.

IV. EXPERIMENTAL RESULTS
Experimental results are displayed in Figures 2 to 5 and in
table 1. All tests were performed with inductance
L
equal to
10 mH, DC bus voltage c
V
at 400V and AC supply voltage s
V

at 230 V. Both at high output current and at low output
current, low frequency distortion is higher for unipolar
switching.
Low frequency distortion is present in the bipolar case
because ref
v
is not purely sinusoidal, because of imposed
blanking times near the zero crossing of supply voltage s
v
and
because of discontinuity in the current waveform just before
the zero crossings of the supply voltage. As mentioned before,
this discontinuity results from the fact that T3 and T4 are kept
off during the positive half cycle of s
v
and T1 and T2 are
kept off during the negative half cycle of s
v
. This last reason,
it is believed, is the most important cause of low frequency
harmonics in the bipolar case.
Low frequency harmonics is present in the unipolar case
because ref
v
is not purely sinusoidal, because of imposed
blanking times near the zero crossings of supply voltage s
v

and because of switching delay (equation 1). The last reason, it
is believed is the most important cause of low frequency
harmonics in the unipolar case.


Fig. 2: Inverter Output Current
(Bipolar switching;
2
ref
i A =
)


Fig. 3 Inverter Output Current
(Unipolar switching;
2
ref
i A =
)



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TABLE I
TOTAL HARMONIC DISTORTION (EXCLUDES SWITCHING FREQUENCY
HARMONICS)
Reference
Current
A (rms)
% THD
Unipolar
Switching
%THD
Bipolar
Switching
0.5 11.25% 8.37%
0.75 8.18% 5.02%
1.0 6.34% 3.8%
2.0 3.42% 2.06%

The harmonic spectrum at low output current for the case of
unipolar switching is given in figure 5. The harmonic
distribution has strong resemblance to that of a square wave as
predicted by equation (1).
The harmonic spectrum at low output current for the case of
bipolar switching is given in figure 6. It is postulated that the
observed low frequency harmonics can be significantly
reduced by preventing discontinuity of current at the zero
crossing near the zero crossing of the supply voltage.


Fig. 5: Inverter Output Current
(Bipolar switching;
0.5
ref
i A =
)


Fig. 4 Inverter Output Current
(Unipolar switching;
0.5
ref
i A =
)


Fig. 5 Harmonic Spectrum of Inverter Output Current (Unipolar 1A, THD =
6.34 %)


Fig. 6: Harmonic Spectrum of Inverter
Output Current (Bipolar 0.5A, THD = 8.37%)

V. CONCLUSION
One of measures of quality of power from a grid connected
photovoltaic system is the level of low frequency harmonic
content in its output current. Several causes of low frequency
harmonics have been identified for single phase grid connected
systems operating in current controlled unipolar or bipolar
mode. Techniques have been proposed to reduce low
frequency harmonic content for both unipolar switching and
bipolar switching. It is also demonstrated, both theoretically
and experimentally, that compared to unipolar switching,
bipolar switching has reduced levels of low frequency
harmonics especially when power output is low. If compliance
to Australian Standard 4777 is a requirement, then unipolar
switching may not be an option below a certain power level.
Bipolar switching is more likely to meet AS4777 harmonic
requirements at low power levels provided current
diacontinuity near the supply voltage zero crossing is avoided.
However unipolar switching may offer higher efficiency
because of reduced switching loss. An optimum approach may
be to operate the inverter in unipolar mode for most of the AC
cycle and to swap to bipolar mode near the supply voltage zero
5
crossing. This is currently being investigated.

REFERENCES
[1] Borle L, Dymond M S, Nayar C V, Philips S J, Current Controlled
Grid Connected Inverter, Proceedings of the Australian and New
Zealand Solar Energy Society Conference, pp 374-379, December 1993.
[2] Harashima F, Inaba H, Kondo S, Takashima N, Microprocessor-
Controlled SIT Inverter for Solar
[3] Energy Systems, IEEE Transactions on Industrial Electronics, pp 50-
55, Vol 34, No. 1, February 1987.
[4] Liaw C M, Chen T H, Wang T C, Cho G J, Lee C M and Wang C T,
Design and Implementation of a Single Phase Current-Forced
Switching Mode Bilateral Converter, IEE Proceedings PtB, No.3, pp
129-136, May 1991.
[5] Sharma R , Ahfock A, Distortion in Single Phase Current Controlled
PV Inverters For Grid Connection, Proceedings of the Australasian
Universities Power Engineering Conference , AUPEC04, Brisbane,
Australia, September 2004
[6] Sharma R and Ahfock A , Performance Analysis of Utility Connected
Photovoltaic Generation Proceedings of the Australasian Universities
Power Engineering Conference, Brisbane, Australia, September 1992