You are on page 1of 8

Plants. Industry Academia Collaboration (IAC) Conference, 2015, Energy and sustainable development Track, Apr.

6 8, 2015,
Cairo, Egypt.

Overview of Grid Code and Operational

Requirements of Grid-connected Solar PV
Power Plants
H. Khairy1, M. EL-Shimy*2, G. Hashem2
M.Sc researcher Ain Shams Unniversity, cairo, Egypt
Electric Power and Machines Department, Ain Shams University
Ain Shams Faculty of Enginnering, Cairo, Egypt
*Corresponding author:; 00201005639589

Abstract In this paper the challenges and

requirements related to the connection of the
photovoltaic (PV) generating stations to the
utility grid are investigated considering various
grid codes, international standards, and
international practices. The impact of the
connection voltage level and PV generator
capacity is also considered in the survey. In
addition, operational and control requirements
conditions are presented. The SCADA systems
applications in the PV power plants are also
presented. The information presented in the
paper may be considered a key factor in
planning, operation, and control of PV power
plants connected to the grid at various voltage
levels. In addition, the overview of various
discrepancies between them. Consequently, a
careful selection of a standard or adaptation of
a specific standard to the conditions of a
considered power grid is necessary. This is of
special importance in developing countries
such as Egypt.
Index TermsPV power plants, grid connection, grid codes,
international standards, SCADA

Currently Egypt and many other developing
countries are facing a major power and energy
problems. These problems are attributed to
many factors. These factors include insufficient
power generation, low network reliability and
insufficient maintenance, insufficient fossil
fuels, and bad economy [1]. Due to their
availability and competitive prices, renewable
energy can contribute in the national energy
security. The whole world is expanding in using
the renewable energy, especially German,
China and USA [2].
The nuclear power can be considered as a
feasible alternative to renewable energy. With
nuclear power, huge amounts of energy can be
generated using small amounts of nuclear. In
addition, the variability, intermittency, and
dispatchability of nuclear power sources are
significantly better in comparison with most

renewable energy sources; however, there are

these two major disadvantages related to the
nuclear power. These are the nuclear waste and
the safety. Although the waste is very small, it is
more dangerous and hazardous in comparison
to fossil fuels; the nuclear waste needs to be
buried deep down to earth for thousands of
years so the radioactivity can diminish. It should
also be kept safe from earthquakes, floods and
terrorist attack. The nuclear power is although
reliable but maintaining the safety of the plant
is very expensive. In case of any accident, the
nuclear power station can result into a
catastrophe. Another operational issue related
to large nuclear plants is the MW/sec rate limit
capability. This rate limit is not large enough to
accommodate the variations of the system load,
especially during its peaking. Therefore, nuclear
power plants may be considered as baseloaders. On the other side, the rate limit of
renewable energy sources such as wind and
solar power plants is much higher than that of
the nuclear plants. Therefore, renewable energy
sources show a good fit to large load variations.
Problems such as the inherent intermittency
and variability of renewable energy sources are
currently given high R&D focus [1, 2].
Connecting a renewable energy plant to the
utility grid is facing a lot of operation and
control challenges, also the renewable energy
sources have to comply with the grid code of
the relevant country. Most grid codes mandate
that the operational capabilities of renewable
energy sources be as close as possible to
conventional power plants. According to SANDIA
report [3] PV installations are typically
separated into three categories: residential,
non-residential, and large or utility scale.
Nonresidential PV would include installations at
government buildings and retail stores ranging
from tens of kilowatts (kW) to several MW, while
residential installation would be installed in the
homeowner's premises, typically less than 10
kW. These types of installations are typically on
the customers side of the meter and the

energy produced is used predominantly on site.

Customer-side generation is under state
jurisdiction, and their interconnection is
interconnection procedures.
The PV plants may be connected to either low
voltage or medium voltage power grid
depending on the plant size and the available
output power. The grid regulation required for
connecting the PV plant to the medium voltage
power grid may vary than that required for
connecting the PV plant to the low voltage grid.
Both German grid code [4] and SANDIA report
[3] deals with the technical requirements for
connecting photovoltaic plant to the medium
voltage power grid, while the IEEE paper [5]
deals mainly with the interconnection regulation
of connecting PV plants to the low voltage
power grid and the regulation modification
when the PV plant is connected to the medium
voltage power grid.
requirements related to the connection of the
photovoltaic generating stations to the utility
grid will be investigated considering various grid
codes and international standards. The impact
of the connection voltage level is also
considered in the survey. In addition, operational
and control requirements during normal
presented. The SCADA systems applications in
the PV power plants are also presented.


In this section grid code requirements for

connecting PV plants to either the LV or MV
power grid will be investigated. The grid code
can be divided into two main categories;
normal operation and under grid disturbance
requirements. Both of these categories will be
investigated in this section.
A. Normal operation requirements
The normal operation requirements can be
divided to frequency deviation, voltage
deviation, active power control,+ and reactive
power control.
A.1. Frequency deviation
According to IEEE 929-2000 [5], a small PV
system connected to the LV grid side has to
operate properly within a frequency range of
59.3 Hz (98.83%) - 60.5 Hz (100.83%) based on
nominal frequency of 60 Hz. This means that
the PV plant has to trip when the frequency
drops to 59.2 Hz (98.66%) or increased to 60.6
Hz (101%). When the frequency lies outside the
allowable limits the inverter should cease to
energize the utility lines within 6 cycles. On the

other hand, the IEC 61727 [6] stated that the

frequency range is 49 Hz (98%) to 51 Hz (102%)
based on a system frequency of 50 Hz, when
the system frequency lies outside these limits
the PV system must be disconnected within 0.2
sec (10 cycles). It is clear that the international
connection requirements. Therefore, the proper
settings should be re-determined according to
the considered system operational practices
and characteristics.
When the PV system is connected to the
MV grid side, the frequency deviation is
required to meet the requirements in Table I as
stated in Germany, France and Spain grid codes
Frequency tolerance (in Hz) according to German, France,
and Spain grid codes for PV plants connected to the MV grid




47.5 < f <


48 < f <

47.5 < f <


10 cycles



10 cycles



Over frequency
trip time (sec.)
Underfrequency trip

According to SANDIA [3] the grid connected

PV generator must meet off-nominal frequency
(ONF) tolerance requirements. For example,
large-scale PV plants connected in the Western
footprint may need to comply with the existing
WECC ONF requirement. In addition,
proposed NERC PRC-024-1 [8] requirement
addresses a generator frequency tolerance
curve. The details of both the WECC ONF and
the NERC PRC-024-1 frequency ride through
requirements are shown in Fig. 1 and Table II.


Fig. 1: NERC PRC-024 frequency ride-through curves (60 Hz

WECC frequency ride-through requirements (60 Hz system)
WECC frequency ride-through requirement
> 59.4

60 to < 60.6

Minimum time

< 59.4

> 60.6

3 min

< 58.4

> 61.6

30 sec

< 57.8

7.5 sec

< 57.3

45 cycle

< 57

> 61.7


A.2. Voltage deviation

According to IEEE 929-2000 [5], an PV system
connected to the LV grid side must be able to
operate healthy within the voltage window of
106 - 132V at the PCC, that is 88% to 110% of
nominal voltage which is 120 V. That means the
system will trip when the voltage becomes
outside these limits with disconnection time as
shown in Table III. For system with line voltage
greater than 120 V, the same ratio of 88% 110% of nominal voltage is applied. It has to be
noticed that if the system line voltage differ
than 120 V, the percentage value of nominal
voltage in Table III should be followed.
According to IEC 61727 [6, 7] the voltage limit
for LV grid connected PV plants is from 85% to
110% for nominal voltage with disconnection
times as shown in Table IV when the voltage
becomes outside these allowable limits.
In countries with increased PV penetration, in
normal conditions the voltage limits specified by
the LV GCs should not exceed the limits
expresses in Table V. The maximum allowed
voltage rise caused by the PV systems should
be less than 3% and is estimated in terms of
short circuit power of PCC and the apparent
power of the PV system [7].
Response to voltage deviations for PV systems connected to
the LV grid according to IEEE 929-2000
Maximum trip
Voltage at PCC (120 V base)
time (Cycles)
V < 50%
50% < V < 88.33%


88.33% < V < 110%

Normal operation

110% < V < 137.5%


V 137.5 %

Response to voltage deviations for PV systems connected to
the LV grid according to IEC61627
Voltage range

Disconnection time (cycles)

V < 50%

50% < V < 85%


85% < V < 110%

Normal operation

110% < V < 135%


V > 135%


Voltage limits for high PV penetration countries



80% < V < 110%

85% < V < 110%

90% < V < 110%

Another point that attention has to be paid

for is voltage flickers i.e. the frequent variation
of voltage which could lead to modulations of
light intensity of incandescent. Even more
flickers can affect the operation of some
apparatus like computers, instrumentation and
communication equipment. Any voltage flicker
resulting from the connection of the inverter to
the utility system must not exceed the
permissible limits. The voltage flicker produced
by the connection of a PV plant to the power
grid must not exceed the border line of irritation
in Fig. 2 according to [5, 9]. This is in order to
minimize the noxious effects to other customers
on the utility system.

Fig. 2: Voltage flickers limit [5]

A.3. Active power control

Two modes of active power control are
required when connecting large PV plant to a
MV grid. The first one is when the plant is
intended to operate at constant output power
while the second mode is when the plant is
required to participate in frequency control of
the grid.The PV plant has to control the output
power by reducing it in steps of 10% of the
rated power. A set point given by the utility grid
operator has to be reachable at any operation
point of the plant; usually set points of 100%,
60%, 30% and 0% of the plant rated power are
used [4, 7].
When the system frequency is above or below
the nominal value, it means that there is too
much or too less generated power in the system
compared to the load. For example, as in grid
connected wind generators the system operator
prefers to have a plant capable of offering the
so called spinning reserve for security issues
[10], it means that the plant should be available
and ready to respond to the frequency changes
by reducing or increasing their
automatically as shown in Fig. 3. This

requirement is also applicable to PV power

plants. Fig. 4 shows how the plant output power
has to be controlled with respect to frequency;
it is shown that the plant output power has to
be reduced with a gradient of 40%/Hz when
frequency increased than 100.4%. The plant
output power is permitted to increase again
when the frequency is below 100.1%. When the
frequency is above 103% or below 95% the
plant has to be disconnected from the grid [4,

Usually the plant has to be able to inject the

required reactive power within a few minutes
and as often as required.

Fig. 5: Power factor active power dependency

requirements for PV plants connected to the MV grid

Fig. 3: Active power and frequency control in - wind

power plants

Fig. 4:

During a symmetrical fault or heavy load

steady changes, the plant has to support the
utility voltage by injecting more reactive current
to the network, voltage control should comply
to Fig. 6. In Germany, if the voltage drops more
than 10% of nominal voltage the control must
inject reactive current at the low voltage side of
the plant transformer with a contribution of at
least of 2% of the rated current per percent of
voltage drop [4, 7]. The plant must be capable
of injecting the required reactive current within
20 ms into the grid. If required, the plant has to
be able to supply reactive current at least 100%
of the rated current. In case of an
unsymmetrical fault, the reactive current must
not exceed values that cause voltages higher
than 110% of nominal voltage in the non-faulty

Fig. 4: Active power and frequency control - PV power plants

A.4. Reactive power control

PV plants connected to the MV power grid
has to be able to supply reactive power to the
grid at any point of operation to achieve a
power factor of between 0.95 lag and 0.95 lead
[3, 4, 11] to support grid voltage stability under
normal operation. The reactive power has to be
supplied during the feed-in operation, which
means there is no need to supply reactive
power during night. The reactive power set
point can be one of the following operational
modes [4, 7]:
A fixed power factor.
A variable power factor depending on
the delivered active power (Fig. 5).
A fixed reactive power in MVAR.
A variable reactive power depending on
the voltage (Fig. 6 and 7).

Fig. 6: Required injected reactive current with respect to

voltage drop, according to German grid code for the MV grid

In Spain, the amount of injected reactive

current during voltage drop is defined by the

conditions the reactive current is defined by the
curve D-C which is the mirror of the polygonal
ABCD. Above voltage level of 1.3 p.u of nominal
voltage, the PV plant must be disconnected by
the means of protective relay [16] as shown in
Fig. 7.

Each individual current harmonic should

be limited to the percentages listed in
Table VI when the voltage at the PCC is
ranging between 120V and 69KV. The
limits in this table are a percentage of
the fundamental frequency current at
full system output. Even harmonics in
these ranges should be less than 25% of
the odd harmonic limits listed.

These requirements are for six-pulse

converters and general distortion situations.
IEEE standard [9] gives a conversion formula for
converters with pulse numbers greater than six,
also gives different current harmonic limits for
different voltage levels at the PCC. The voltage
harmonic distortions are limited to the values in
Table VII depending on the voltage level. The
values in this table are in percentage (%) of
fundamental frequency voltage and for
conditions lasting for more than one hour. For
shorter periods the values can be exceeded by
50% [9].
Fig. 7: Reactive current requirement during faults according
to Spain grid code for MV grid

Finally, for PV plant connected to the LV

power grid, the PV system should operate at a
power factor
higher than 0.85 (lagging or
leading) when output active power is higher
than 10% of the rating. Most PV inverters
designed for utility-interconnected service
operates close to unity power factor. Specially
designed systems that provide reactive power
compensation may operate outside of this limit
with utility approval [5].
A.5. Short circuit limits
The short circuit current may exceed the
utility grid limit at the point of connection of the
PV plant. The short circuit current of a
synchronous generator is typically eight times
the rated current. For a PV plant, the short
circuit current is typically the same as the rated
current [4]. Therefore, there is no need to limit
the PV plant short circuit current by external
current limiter.
A.6. Harmonics
The harmonic component of the injected
current has to be in accordance with clause 10
of IEEE Std. 519-1992 [9]. This is to avoid the
adverse effect of harmonics on the other
equipments connected to the grid. The
summarized as follows:
Total harmonic current distortion at the
PCC should be less than 5% of the
fundamental frequency current at the
rated inverter output.

Current harmonic limits recommended by IEEE 929-1992 for
six-pulse converter
Odd harmonics

Distortion limit

3rd 9th

< 4.0%



< 2.0%



< 1.5%

11 - 15
17 - 21

23 - 33


Above the 33rd

< 0.6%
< 0.3%

Voltage harmonic limits recommended by IEEE 519-1992
Voltage at the PCC
(THD %)
69 KV and below
69.001 KV up to
161 KV
More than 161.001

B. Under grid disturbance requirements

The main goals are to ride through
momentary network faults and at the same
time to provide grid support which is called fault
ride through capability (FRT). If a large PV plant
is immediately disconnected instead of helping
the system to regain a steady state operating
point, the electrical grid stability will be even
more negatively affected. These requirements
apply to large PV plant connected to the MV
power grid.

Table VIII
The term fault ride through (FRT) is related
FRT requirements for wind generator according to different
to how the plant has to act in the case of utility
grid codes
voltage drop because of faults to maintain grid
Fault duration
Min voltage
stability, reliability and operational security. The
based on 50Hz
system (cycles)
(% of Vnom)
general form of FRT requirements is depicted in
Fig. 8 [12]; above the solid line the plant must(E.On)
not be disconnected from the utility grid while
underneath the line there are no requirementsSpain
to stay connected. However, each code can add
more constraints on the connection and the
disconnection of the plant. Four main
parameters can define the FRT requirements
which are the minimum acceptable voltage
during the fault (Vmin), fault duration, voltage
restoration time and steady state voltage (Vss).
These FRT requirements are applicable for both
wind and PV plants.
For wind plant the FRT parameters according
to some different grid codes are shown in Table
VIII, more information and international
coverage of these values in can be found in
[12]. While in PV grid connected systems, Fig. 9
represent the FRT limits in the German E.ON
Netz grid code [4, 7, 11]. The plant must not be
Fig. 9: FRT limits according to German grid code
disconnected above borderline 1, which means
it must not disconnect when voltage drops to
According to SANDIA [3], in the US the FRT
0% of the utility nominal voltage with a duration
requirements for wind plants were first
not more than 150 ms (7.5 cycles based on
standardized in the Federal Energy Regulatory
50Hz system). The voltage restoration time
Commission (FERC) Order 661A [13]. This
must not exceed 1500 ms (75 cycles on 50Hz
requirement often applies to transmissionsystem) with minimum acceptable steady state
connected PV plants, even though the standard
voltage equals to 90% of the utility nominal
states that it applies only to wind plants. FERCs
voltage. Underneath border line 3 there are no
FRT requirement mandates that a generator
requirements to remain connected to the grid.
shall withstand zero voltage at the point of
In the area above borderline 2 and beneath
common coupling (PCC) -typically the primary
borderline 1, the following options are available
side of the station transformer- for up to 0.15
according to an agreement with the utility
seconds (7.5 cycles based on frequency of
operator: feed-in of a short circuit current, or
50Hz) and the ensuing voltage recovery period.
short-time disconnection up to 2 seconds, or
The FERC requirement is not specific about the
depending on the concept of grid connection
requirement to ride-through during the voltage
borderline 2 can be moved. Below borderline 2
recovery period.
a short-time disconnection can be carried out in
The North American Electric Reliability
any cases, also a longer disconnection time are
standard [8] addresses voltage tolerance for all
generators. If approved, NERCs voltage ridethrough (VRT) standard will have to be
reconciled with FERC Order 661A and other
LVRT regional standards that may exist. Fig. 10
shows the FRT curve contained in the proposed
NERC PRC-024-1 requirement.

Fig. 8: General form of FRT requirements

Fig. 10: FRT limit according to (NERC) PRC-024-1

C. SCADA Integration Requirements

FERC Order 661A also contains Supervisory
requirements for wind plants. As mentioned in
the previous discussion, SCADA requirements
contained in FERC Order 661A are sometimes
applied to large-scale PV plants. The purpose of
the requirement was for the plant owner to be
able to transmit data and receive instructions
from the transmission provider in order to
protect system reliability. SCADA data to be
shared are based on needs for
Real-time monitoring, operations and
dispatch, etc.),
State estimation (to determine real-time
Remedial action schemes (planned
response to contingencies),
Remote communication, and
Safety issues (confirming energized/deenergized components).
Further details on SCADA for power system
applications can be found in [14 - 16]. Local
SCADA system in PVplants is composed of data
acquisition unit, RTU, and a communications
unit. The SCADA system could measure and
collect PV array temperature, solar irradiance,
DC output voltage and current, inverter output
AC voltage and current relay switch state and so
on. Data acquisition unit consisted for current
transformer (DCT and ACT), voltage transformer
(PT) and communication unit such as RS485 or
Ethernet ah shown in Fig.11. Further information
about the usage of SCADA systems in the PV
power plants can be found in [19].

Fig. 11: SCADA in grid connected PV plant [16].

This paper presented a detailed analysis of
the requirements of connecting PV plants to the
power grid. Various voltage limits and capacities
of the PV plants are carefully considered in the
specification of various requirements. In
addition, the survey covers many international
standards, grid codes, and practices. The
normal operation as well as under grid
disturbance requirements in details. In addition,
the SCADA system requirements and its
potential capabilities are demonstrated. The
salient finding is the discrepancies between
various standards. This is may be attributed to
the significant dependency between a proper
set of requirements from one side and the
characteristics, operational capabilities, control
options, stiffness of the considered power
systems from the other side. Therefore,
integration of new power generation facilities to
a power grid should be carefully made
according to a carefully selected standard or
according to a revised form of a carefully
selected standard. This requires elaborated
analysis and simulation of the considered grid.
Due to their special operational and control
characteristics, the proper construction of grid
code and standardized connection requirements
is essential even if the characteristics of the
considered system are well known.
[1] M. EL-Shimy, Wind Energy Conversion Systems:
Reliability Prospective, Encyclopedia of Energy
Engineering and Technology, vol. 2, pp. 2184 - 2206,
[2] REN21 (2014). "Renewables
pp. 15,

[3] A. Ellis, et al., "Utility-Scale Photovoltaic Procedures and

SAND2012- 2090, February 2012.
[4] E. Troester, "New German grid codes for connecting PV
systems to the medium voltage power grid.," presented
at the." 2nd International workshop on concentrating
photovoltaic power plants: optical design, production,
grid connection, 2009.
[5] "IEEE Recommended Practice for Utility Interface of
Photovoltaic (PV) Systems," IEEE Std 929-2000 , vol.,
no., pp.i,, 2000
[6] International Electrotechnical Commission, "IEC 61727 Photovoltaic (PV) systems Characteristics of the utility
interface", 2004.
[7] B.-I. Crciun, et al., "Overview of Recent Grid Codes for
PV Power Integration," 13th International Conference on
Optimization of Electrical and Electronic Equipment
(OPTIM), pp. 959-965, 2012.
[8] Std, N.E.R.C. "PRC-024-1/Draft 6." Draft on Generator
Settings (2013).
[9] "IEEE Recommended Practices and Requirements for
Harmonic Control in Electrical Power Systems," IEEE Std
519-1992, pp.1, 112, April 1993
[10] M. EL-Shimy. Renewable energy: Grid Codes and
[11] Y. Yang, et al., Advanced Control of Photovoltaic and
Wind Turbines Power Systems. In Advanced and
Intelligent Control in Power Electronics and Drives
Springer International Publishing, 2014.
[12] M. EL-Shimy, and N. Ghaly, Grid-Connected Wind
Energy Conversion Systems: Transient Response,
Encyclopedia of Energy Engineering and Technology,
vol. 2, pp. 2162 - 2183, 2014.
[13] Order 661 - Interconnection with Wind Energy, issued
by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) of
United States, June 2, 2005.
[14] "IEEE Guide for Monitoring, Information Exchange, and
Control of Distributed Resources Interconnected With
Electric Power Systems," IEEE Std 1547.3-2007, pp.1158, 2007
[15] Std, N.E.R.C. "PRC-024-1/Draft 6." Draft on Generator
Settings (2013).
[16] H. Guozhen, et al., "Solutions for SCADA system
Communication Reliability in Photovoltaic Power
Plants," presented at the Power Electronics and Motion
Control Conference (IPEMC), 2009.