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Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 82 (2018) 3670–3682

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Hierarchical structure and bus voltage control of DC microgrid T

a,⁎ a a b
Zhikang Shuai , Junbin Fang , Fenggen Ning , Z. John Shen
National Power Transformation and Control Engineering Technology Research Center, Hunan University, Changsha 410082, China
Electrical and Computer Engineering, Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, IL 60616, USA


Keywords: Compared to AC microgrids, DC microgrids have the advantage of higher reliability and efficiency and are
DC microgrid convenient to connect with various distribution energy resources (DERs). Concentrated in different time-scale
Primary control control objectives, a multi-level control structure can guarantee that none of the control objectives affect each
Secondary control other. Considering this, an extensive review on the hierarchical structure of the DC microgrid is applied, and two
Tertiary control
typical control structures are presented in detail: two-level control architecture and three-level control archi-
Hierarchical control scheme
tecture. Furthermore, the primary, secondary, and tertiary control levels are systematically analyzed and clas-
sified according to different control objectives. In order to improve the control capability of the primary control
level, an energy efficiency improved DC bus voltage control strategy is proposed to increase the energy efficiency
and system reliability. Finally, a distributed DC microgrid model is established and simulated in the RT-LAB to
verify the effectiveness of the proposed control strategy.

1. Introduction DC microgrids. The reasons are as follows: (1) Less reliance on com-
munication; (2) more autonomous; (3) more suitable for plug and play
Since the concept of microgrids was proposed [1], distribution DC (PnP); (4) more flexible control configuration;
microgrids have been attracting increasing attention. Integrated using Depending on the local conditions, the normal operation of a DC
various technologies including distributed renewable energy sources microgrid is a reasonable set of compromises on multiple control ob-
(RES), energy storage system (BES), loads, grid-connected voltage jectives. Thus, a hierarchical control structure was proposed to optimize
source converter (G-VSC), and control devices, and so forth, as shown in the control of the DC microgrid [23], which is used for coordinating
Fig. 1, the DC microgrids have become important in coping with energy with multiple control objectives or optimal operation of the DC mi-
shortage and environmental pollution [2]. Compared to AC microgrids, crogrid in various time-scales. Many scholars have made great efforts
DC microgrids have many advantages such as high efficiency and re- on the hierarchical control structure of the DC microgrid. However, as
liability, while having no frequency, reactive issues [3], and it is easy to to the most appropriate hierarchical control structure for DC micro-
connect to DC micro-sources. Consequently, DC microgrids can be ap- grids, there was no consensus reached.
plied in a wide range of areas including residential buildings, data In general, hierarchical control structures can be classified into two
centers, island power supplies, communication systems, electric ve- major types: two-layer control structure and three-layer control struc-
hicles, and metro tractions [4–10] etc. ture. As described in [14], a typical three-level hierarchical control
Taking into consideration the wide application possibilities of DC structure is as shown in Fig. 2.
microgrids, many researches have been conducted in various aspects, The definitions of each control level are as follows:
such as power topology, network planning, operational control, stabi-
lity analysis, fault and protection [11–17]. In recent times, operational (1) Primary control: It is the lowest level in the control structure, and it
control has been the focus of the researches conducted on DC micro- adjusts the voltage reference provided to the inner current and
grids. As a result, many different operational control methods for the voltage control loops.
converters are proposed, and can be classified as the following: cen- (2) Secondary control: It is on the top of the primary control, and it
tralized control [18], master-slave control [19], multi-agent control mainly focuses on solving the problem of the voltage or current
[20], and distributed autonomous control [21]. From the research re- deviation.
sults [22], it can be concluded that the distributed autonomous control (3) Tertiary control: It is on the top of the control structure and is
is the most suited method as the primary control for converters in the mainly responsible for the optimal operation of microgrid at the

Correspondence to: College of Electrical and Information Engineering, Hunan University, No. 2, South Lushan Road, Changsha City, Hunan Province, China.
E-mail addresses: (Z. Shuai), (J. Fang), (F. Ning), (Z.J. Shen).
Received 23 October 2016; Received in revised form 8 August 2017; Accepted 28 October 2017
Available online 14 November 2017
1364-0321/ © 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Z. Shuai et al. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 82 (2018) 3670–3682

Fig. 1. Diagram of a DC microgrid.

control manner at the global level [26–28]. As a consequence, the

communication line is required in upper control level to collect the
operation information from basic composition unit [29,30].
In this paper, a review of the hierarchical control structure of the DC
microgrids is provided, and the primary, secondary, and tertiary control
levels are systematically analyzed and classified according to the dif-
ferent control objectives in different hierarchical control schemes. For
the existing problems in the DC bus voltage control method, a brief
solution was also proposed. This paper is organized as follows. In
Section Ⅱ and Ⅲ, the two-layer and three-layer control structures are
reviewed, respectively. Section Ⅳ presents a summary of the autono-
mous control in primary control. A brief review of the DC bus voltage
control strategy and improved DC bus control method is presented in
Fig. 2. . Hierarchical control levels of a DCmicrogrid.
Section Ⅴ, and the simulation results are presented in Section Ⅵ.
SectionⅦ presents the conclusions and future trends of the hierarchical
system level. control structure.

In the hierarchical control structure, the main objective of the pri- 2. Research of primary control
mary control is to ensure a normal and stable operation of each con-
verter unit. The voltage versus current (V–I) Droop control [24] and DC In the hierarchical control structure, the distributed autonomous
bus signal (DBS) [25] control are the most commonly used control primary control can maintain the voltage stability of the DC bus
methods for primary control. Compared to other control methods, without the communication line. As previously mentioned, the primary
droop control and DBS control use the DC bus as a communication line, control level mainly focused on small time scale control problems, such
which could make the DC microgrid operation normal even under the as transient current /voltage control, instantaneous power sharing. For
failed communication or non-communication conditions. Under the the requirement of a very short control response time, the primary
premise of the basic function of converters is achieved, the secondary control level is integrated with general of current and voltage control,
and tertiary control level are realized in a concentrated or distributed and located in local converters. As shown in Fig. 3, the droop based

Z. Shuai et al. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 82 (2018) 3670–3682

vo = vref − RD⋅io − RL⋅io (2)

From (1) and (2), we have to accept that the voltage deviation al-
ways exists in droop control, for the reason of unavoidable errors
caused by the droop coefficient RD and line resistor RL . Besides, the load
sharing accuracy and system stability have a direct correlation with the
droop coefficient. The higher the droop coefficient, the better is the
accuracy of current sharing and the larger is the voltage deviations
[39]. In [40] the design of RD is discussed in detail. Using an analysis
tool, literature [41] puts forward the idea that a tradeoff has to be made
Fig. 3. Primary control diagram.
between the power sharing and DC voltage deviation. Even so, the
conventional droop method still suffers from the drawback of poor
primary control adjusts the voltage reference provided to the inner current sharing and voltage regulation [42]. In addition, to solve the
control loops, to maintain autonomous control for parallel operation optimal droop coefficient, there are two additional approaches to en-
control of converters. For different operating environments, different hance the performance of droop control.
distribution autonomous control methods are used for primary control
such as droop control [24], frequency allocation approach [24], and DC
bus voltage method [25]. 2.1.1. Nonlinear droop control
The droop curve in the conventional droop control mentioned above
2.1. Droop method is linear. However, many researchers propose to introduce a nonlinear
droop curve to improve performance. In order to lower the influence of
The application of the droop control method in multi-terminal DC cable resistance, a nonlinear droop method is proposed [43], in which
systems was first seen in the literature [31]. As shown in Fig. 4, the V–I the value of droop resistance is a second-order function of the output
droop control method is realized by linearly reducing the output vol- current. In [44], a kind of droop control strategy based on the hysteresis
tage as the output current increases, in order to compensate for in- characteristics is proposed to improve load power distribution accu-
stantaneous mismatch between scheduled power and power demanded racy. A nonlinear droop function that minimizes the operating cost of
by the loads without any communication technology. The output the microgrid and shares the reactive power effectively among the
characteristics of the droop control scheme can be equivalent to a vir- sources was proposed in [45]. Literature [46] proposes a robust droop
tual resistor at the output of the converter [32]. This operational feature control approach, which promotes the power sharing accuracy and
makes the droop method fit nicely to the primary control to achieve the minimizes the circulating current. In literature [47] and [48], an in-
autonomous operation of parallel-connected converters, especially, creasing DC-bus voltage and current feedback droop control method are
during the absence of communication lines. In addition, this feature proposed respectively, in which the DC-bus voltage and current signal
makes it easy to realize the PnP capability. Moreover, the power versus are transferred to the droop controller to improve the accuracy of the
voltage (P-V) droop method is also one of the common forms of primary power sharing. Generally, as reviewed in [49], nonlinear droop control
control [33]. For specific control objects, a state-of-charge (SoC)-based can ensure a higher droop gain at heavy loads and lower values at
droop method [34], in which SoC and droop coefficients are specifically lighter load conditions.
correlated, was also adopted in the primary control.
Typically, in the V–I droop control method, a virtual resistance or
droop coefficient is adopted. Then, the output voltage vo is determined 2.1.2. Adaptive droop control
by the magnitude of the output current io and droop coefficient RD . Instead of a fixed droop coefficient value adopted in the conven-
tional droop control, an adaptive variable droop coefficient was pro-
vo = vref − RD⋅io (1) posed. In this method, the droop resistance was adjusted to track the
Here vref is the output voltage reference at open circuit. As shown in variation of the load current or power supply. An adaptive droop
(1), RD⋅io causes an output voltage deviation during the operation [35]. method was proposed to vary the virtual resistance in order to track the
Then, in order to obtain better control performance, many scholars pay variation of the load current [50] between parallel-connected DC-DC
particularly attention to calculate the optimized parameters of droop converters. To enhance the effect of the power sharing for DC-DC
coefficient RD , including literature [36,37]. converters, an instantaneous droop calculation algorithm is proposed
In addition, the accuracy of load sharing is affected by the line [51]. In this method, the virtual resistance value instantaneously hinge
impedance of the power system [38]. Taking into consideration the line on the converters output voltage deviation. However the introduction
impedance RL , from the load access point, the output voltage vo can be of negative resistance can lead to system instability [52]. In order to
described as following: optimize the power distribution of a DC microgrid, a coordinated
adaptive droop control is proposed [53], in which the droop coefficients
hinge on the available headroom of each converter station. In addition,
many other adaptive droop control methods are proposed such as fuzzy
logic-based adaptive droop control [54], consensus algorithm-based
adaptive droop control [55], and impedance-based adaptive droop
method [56].
The adaptive droop control method is more flexible and more ap-
plicable, and suffers from less voltage deviations and power sharing
errors, related to the conventional droop control. Therefore, as the
droop control adopted in primary control, an upper control level is still
needed to increase the control accuracy of the primary control, parti-
cularly when the distribution line impedances are not negligible [57].
On this occasion, an upper control level with a low-bandwidth com-
munication line is needed to provide the voltage-regulated signal to
Fig. 4. Principle of droop control. eliminate the control deviation caused by the droop control [58].

Z. Shuai et al. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 82 (2018) 3670–3682

2.2. Frequency based control

The conventional voltage droop control mainly aims at static power

flow regulation, with no frequency-response based power flow control.
However, in a DC microgrid, there are many distribution generations
and energy storage system (ESS) integrated, and therefore, the dynamic
behaviors of each unit are variable for different time scales [59]. In a
battery and ultra-capacitor parallel-connected system, the battery and
ultra-capacitor can be considered as a high energy density storage and
high power density storage, respectively [60]. Based on this, a fre-
quency-coordinating virtual impedance based control method for DC
microgrid was proposed in [61], wherein the virtual output impedances Fig. 6. Operation modes of DC microgrid.
were modified in different frequency-domains, the battery and super
capacitor units are scheduled to absorb low-frequency and high-fre-
form of this method is called the mode-adaptive decentralized control,
quency power fluctuations.
as shown in Fig. 6. The normal operating DC bus voltage range is di-
vided into several sections or levels. Then, different control strategies
2.3. DC bus signal based control are formulated in different sections for different micro sources. Thus,
the key to the DBS method is to set reasonable control strategy rules for
In a DC microgrid, various micro sources, loads, and energy storage different voltage sections.
units are connected to the DC bus in parallel. With the line resistance Similarly, different scholars have their own comprehension on dif-
ignored, the voltage of the DC bus can be regarded to be equal every- ferent bus voltage classifications. Usually, to get more flexible control
where. Thus, all the parallel-connected converters can get the same targets, the bus voltage range is divided into several different intervals.
voltage reference. By detecting the DC bus voltage signal, the working As the DBS method is adopted in the DC microgrid, the different voltage
status of each converter can be derived [62]. The implementation of the levels are equal to different system operation modes [66]. In [64], a
DBS method can be achieved without the need for the communication mode adaptive decentralized control strategy is proposed for the power
lines. It uses the DC cable as a communication carrier. In the DBS management of a DC microgrid, in which the DC bus voltage signal is
control method, the ranges of the operating voltage are generally di- utilized to determine the mode conversion. In the method, three op-
vided into pre-defined sections, which are named as voltage level or eration modes are set for the converters according to different voltage
operation mode. As presented in [63], different DC bus voltage levels ranges. In different voltage layers, the pilot converters are switched to
can be regarded as an information carrier and they can dictate different maintain the normal operation of the microgrid [67]. In general, the
operation modes. Particularly, with the pre-specified control rules, the more the voltage level is formulated, the more flexible are the control
DBS method can realize the autonomous control for each parallel- options of the microgrid, and vice versa.
connected converter. Fig. 5 is the current distribution diagram with In general, the DBS control method has the advantage of low cost
equivalent powers of the DC microgrid. and simple control, and it requires only non-communication techni-
According to Kirchhoff's current law (KCL), ques. However, there are several drawbacks of the DBS control strategy
IC = Is − IL (3) [63]. On the one hand, the normal range of voltage is limited and the
voltage levels cannot be divided unlimitedly for sources and storages. In
The deformation of (3) can be other words, the control modes of converters are rather few in number.
dVC On the other hand, voltage bus signaling can only be suitable for a
IC = C⋅
dt (4) small-scale microgrid with a limited number of sources and storages
Eq. (3) can be rewritten as:
dVC 1
= ⋅(IS − IL) 3. Two-level control structure
dt C (5)

From the voltage change ratio in Fig. 5 and Eq. (5), the balance of Hierarchical control for power distribution has been widely applied
the power in the microgrid can be observed. When the load power is in traditional AC power systems [68]. However, in power electronic
greater than the output power of micro sources, the voltage decreases converter-based DC microgrids, there is no frequency, reactive power
and vice versa [64]. An improved DBS method is proposed in [65], the and phase problem They are often ignored in dynamic stability [69],
switching frequency of a grid-connected DC/DC converter was used as and these advantages make the traditional AC hierarchical control
the operating information for the DC microgrid components. Another structure to be modified to meet the DC microgrid.
In the two-level control structure, proportional load sharing, voltage
regulations, circulating current avoidance, SoC equalization, and
charge/discharge management are the main control objectives in the
primary control level. Generally, various droop control methods and
DBS methods are applied in the primary control. However, as men-
tioned above, the voltage deviation and current sharing errors in-
evitably exist [70]. In order to rectify these problems, an upper level
controller, usually named as secondary control level was adopted. As
shown in Fig. 1, load sharing and voltage regulation between parallel
converters are achieved by the primary controller without a commu-
nication line. For getting better control effect, a secondary control level
is introduced into the control structure, which sets the reference to the
primary control and maintains the controlled parameter within an op-
timization range, As showing in Fig. 7. Fig. 7 Typical two-level control
Fig. 5. Powerflow of DC microgrid.

Z. Shuai et al. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 82 (2018) 3670–3682

Fig. 7. Typical two-level control structure.

Generally, as an upper control level, the secondary controller can be with constant power loads (CPL). A secondary controller is then set to
divided into two forms. The first one is integrated with the primary compensate the voltage deviation without affecting current sharing
control and is located in the power converter and the other is located accuracy. To overcome the drawbacks of the conventional droop con-
remotely [71,72]. In comparison, based on the primary control,the trol method in the DC microgrids, a secondary control level is proposed
control objective of the secondary control is more flexible and diverse to restore the DC voltage deviation and to improve the current sharing
than the primary control. The main optimization objective of the sec- accuracy by adjusting the droop coefficient [81]. In addition, [82]
ondary control can be described as follows. proposes a two-level control strategy of the grid connected DC micro-
grids, in which a DBS and SoC-based droop method is applied in the
3.1. Voltage deviation restoration primary control, and then, by shifting the droop curve, the secondary
controller can restore the DC bus voltage and SoC to the nominal value.
In the existing studies, many scholars hold that the main task of the
secondary control level is to cover the voltage deviation, which is 3.1.1. Optimal power flow
caused by the virtual impedance based droop control [73]. As shown in In a DC microgrid, an optimal power flow (OPF) between converters
Fig. 2, the secondary control level in the microgrid set the voltage is also the pursuit of many researchers. The optimal power flow algo-
regulation factor δvo to all units connected to the DC microgrid [74]. rithm can be considered originating from the AC power system [83].
Then, Eq. (1) can be rewritten as: Generally, the OPF algorithm in the secondary control depends on the
vo = vref − RD⋅io + δvo grid's conductance matrix and load distribution matrix [84]. In this
control architecture, different objective functions can be adopted in the
As described in Eq. (6), by introducing the variable δvo , the output secondary control, such as transmission loss minimization [84,85],
voltage vo can be improved significantly, to achieve the objective of minimal power losses [86], and maximum loadability [87]. As the
voltage restoration. voltage droop-based primary control is adopted in the multi-terminal
In a droop control based high voltage direct current (HVDC) grid DC (MTDC) grid, an OPF algorithm is executed at the secondary control
[75], current sharing is achieved by the droop-based primary control, level [85], and the converters update the voltage regulator set point to
and to restore the DC bus voltage deviation, five different schemes for improve the power flow sharing. In such a case, the voltage-droop
secondary control level are proposed and compared. To realize the DC characteristics curve of the primary control could be modified ac-
bus voltage regulation with low reliance on communications in a cording to the OPF results [88].
dedicated paralleled flywheel-based energy storage system, the DBS In multi-terminal DC transmission systems, the power balancing
method is employed in the power coordination of the grid and flywheel between converters is controlled by a voltage-droop controller.
converters as primary control. Then, through a dynamic consensus- However, the control effect of primary control is easily affected by the
based voltage observer, the secondary controller generates the DC bus DC microgrid topology and line resistances. Aimed at this issue, [89]
restoration signal to adjust the voltage set-point [76]. In order to avoid proposes a secondary control strategy to restore power flow at certain
the single point of failure problem, a consensus algorithm-based dis- converters to presuppose operating points. In a renewable energy
tributed secondary control method was proposed in [77], in which, the source (RES) integrated HVDC transmission system, to keep the power
compensations of current and voltage are send to the droop-based flows in the transmission cables within the thermal limits after dis-
primary control. Specific to the single point of failure, an interesting turbance, a secondary controller is set to change voltage and power
solution was proposed in [78], in which the fault current was well re- settings of the primary controllers [90]. To minimize the transmission
stricted. loss of a DC microgrid, [91] proposes a power flow sharing and voltage
To avoid the over-charging and over-discharging states of the ESS in regulation control based hierarchical structure. Herein a voltage-droop
the islanded DC microgrid, based on the bus-signaling method-based based primary control is utilized to improve the stability and reliability
primary control, an additional secondary control is employed to elim- of the grid, after which two voltage regulation signals generated by the
inate the steady state bus voltage deviation [79]. In [80], a voltage secondary control layer are sent to the primary controller to regulate
droop based primary controller is utilized to implement the current the power flow of the DC microgrid to the optimal condition. However,
sharing of the parallel-connected buck converters in a DC microgrid under this condition, the complexity of this control method increased.

Z. Shuai et al. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 82 (2018) 3670–3682

Fig. 8. Typical three-level control structure.

3.1.2. Power sharing and management uppermost shortage is that complex or multi system-level control target
Many scholars consider that the objective of the secondary control is cannot be realized, because of the limited control level. As a con-
to achieve accurate power sharing and optimal management among sequence, the most common objective of the secondary control is to
parallel-operated converters in a DC microgrid. As stated in [92],the bring the controlled converter back to scheduled operating conditions.
energy management system (EMS), which is the brain of the DC mi- However, the restoration of voltage and power deviation helps in the
crogrid, can comprehend operation status, load forecasting, operating normal operation of the DC microgrid. However, this does not mean
cost, and optimal schedules based on the output power information. In optimal operation [84], but the two control objectives can easily be
[92], a series of functions and constraints is calculated in the secondary achieved if an extra control level is provided.
control, decisions about powers and the exchange between distribution
networks are transferred to the lower level. The same control idea is
4. Three-level control structure
adopted in [72], the secondary controller shares its reference power/
current signals to the droop controller, then the droop coefficient is
According to the hierarchical intelligent control theory [97], a
dynamically adjusted to improve the power sharing in DC microgrid.
three-level intelligent control structure with the organization, co-
For example, in a RESs integrated DC microgrid, a sliding mode
ordination, and execution level was developed. By combining the
control (SMC) and a supervisory controller are scheduled in order to
hierarchical intelligent control theory and conventional hierarchical
maximize the use of the RES and minimize the connection to the grid
control of the AC grid with the inherent characteristics of the DC mi-
[84]. In the control process, the sliding surfaces, and set point of SMC
crogrid, many researchers have proposed various three-level hier-
are optimally changed by the supervisory controller according to the
archical control structures for the DC microgrid.
operating conditions. However, the utilization of the SMC as the pri-
Considering the weakness of a single optimization objective, in two-
mary control greatly increases the control complexity. [93] Presents a
level control structure, many intellectuals put forward a three-level
generalized voltage droop control strategy for a VSC-based DC micro-
control structure for a DC microgrid, a typical three-level control
grid. To improve the power-sharing capabilities of primary control, a
structure is proposed and shown in Fig. 3. As shown in the figure, the
centralized secondary controller is implemented to regulate the droop
main objective of the primary control is to realize power sharing and to
characteristics. To eliminate the influence of line resistance and im-
improve stability of the parallel-connected converters. Based on this, a
prove the accuracy of power distribution in a bipolar-type DC micro-
secondary controller is used to deal with the voltage deviations caused
grid, the droop-based primary control is utilized to achieve parallel
by primary control, and power-sharing accuracy improves simulta-
operation of converters then a distributed secondary control provides
neously. After this, a third-level or tertiary control was applied into the
the voltage and current restoration signal to improve the power dis-
control structure, which adjusts the set points for the secondary con-
tribution [94].
troller to achieve an optimal, economic, and efficient operation of the
Furthermore, except for the abovementioned applications, the two-
DC microgrid. Fig. 8 Typicalthree-level control structurent.
level control structure is also applied to hybrid energy storage systems
Based on the primary and secondary control level, for different si-
(HESS). In a multiple-parallel energy storage system [95], based on
tuations, various control objects for the tertiary control are proposed
charge/discharge monitoring and SoC detection, the distributed sec-
including economic and efficient operation, global energy management,
ondary controller alters the virtual droop resistance of each storage unit
optimal power flow, and other system-level objectives.
according to the difference between the unit SoC and the microgrid
average SoC. However, the biggest difficulty that lies in this control
structure is the precise estimation of SoC for each storage unit. 4.1. Optimal or efficiency operation
Based on the primary control, a secondary control is implemented to
obtain a better control performance, such as restoration of the voltage Similar to a conventional AC grid, the economic and efficient op-
deviation caused by primary control, better current and power sharing, eration of a DC microgrid is an objective many researchers generally
and power flow optimization. To connect the primary control with pursue. To explore a feasible DC control system for enhancing economic
secondary control, a communication line was required [96], whether in efficiency and the resilient operation of a DC microgrid [98], three-level
concentrated or distributed secondary control level. hierarchical control architecture is proposed and tested. As mentioned
As to the disadvantages of a two-level control structure, the before, V–I droop is utilized as the primary control, a secondary control
level is used to compensate the voltage deviations, and the economic

Z. Shuai et al. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 82 (2018) 3670–3682

operations of DC microgrids is realized by the tertiary control by setting 4.3. Energy management between grids
the operating point for the secondary control. As described in [83], the
secondary control is disabled in the grid-connected mode since the With the development of DC microgrids, there is an increasing need
voltage is maintained by the utility grid. However, it does not mean that for managing the power flow between DC microgrids and other stiff
the voltage deviations in the grid-connected mode are nonexistent. The grids or microgrids. As a representative three-level control structure
same control architecture is also utilized in [99] aimed at the parallel [106], a droop method-based primary control is adopted to make the
operation of distribution energy resources. As mentioned above, based system stable and more damped. The secondary control level is used to
on the droop-based primary control and voltage deviations compen- restore the deviations that are caused by the primary control. Finally,
sated by the secondary control, the tertiary controller worked si- the power flow between the microgrid and other distribution systems is
multaneously in the one-day-ahead dispatch and real-time-operation conducted by the tertiary control. Owing to the introduction of tertiary
dispatch to achieve an economic and optimal operation of the micro- control level, the optimal energy flow of the DC microgrid is assured. In
grid. However, both the secondary and tertiary controller work in real- an AC and DC hybrid microgrid, the same primary and secondary
time mode, and therefore, a high-speed communication is required. To control strategy mentioned in [106] is implemented, and the tertiary
maintain system power balance in hybrid AC/DC microgrids, [100] control is adopted to improve the performance considering the con-
proposes three-level control architecture with different control strate- nection to a stiff AC or DC source by providing a compensating para-
gies for AC and DC subgrid. In this method, voltage and frequency meter to the secondary control level [31]. In an AC and DC bus hybrid
droop-based autonomous control is scheduled for AC and DC subgrid as microgrid, with the same primary and secondary control strategy
the primary control respectively. Then, the secondary control is used to mentioned above, the tertiary control is scheduled to deal with the
recover the deviations of the bus voltage and frequency, based on the connection with an external DC system [107]. Aiming at a community
comparison of marginal costs. The optimal power references of system microgrid with multiple AC and DC sub-microgrids, the hierarchical
units are generated in tertiary control to achieve the power balancing. control structure is proposed to achieve the economic and coordinative
However, with the secondary and tertiary control connected in parallel, control.especially, the tertiary control is implement to ensure the op-
conflicting priorities may exist. Similar control strategies are also ap- timal coordination of an islanded community microgrid [108].
plicable in multi-terminal energy storage systems. In [101], a multi- As mentioned above, the tertiary control level conducts the power
level energy management system (EMS) is proposed to achieve a su- flow according to the system requirements; however, the energy in-
perior performance for DC microgrids. In addition, stable operations of teractions with other micogrids are neglected. To resolve this problem,
the microgrid and compensation controls are realized by the primary a three-level control method is proposed to improve the load sharing
and secondary control, respectively. On this basis, the optimal eco- among microgrids within a microgrid cluster [109]. In the control
nomic dispatch signals are generated in the tertiary control level ac- scheme, the load sharing among various sources within the DC micro-
cording to the comparison of marginal costs of the system operation. grid is managed by primary and secondary control. A tertiary control is
Thus, the operation costs of DC microgrids can be minimized. applied to adjust the voltage set point for each sub-microgrid, and then
the power sharing between multiple DC microgrids within a cluster is
4.2. Energy management among converters Compared to a two-level control structure, the three-level control
structure has inherent advantages that enable it to achieve more com-
In addition, for that the multiple renewable and micro energy plex control targets, especially the optimal control for DC microgrid at
sources are installed at different locations, the energy management the system level and the power flow management between microgrids.
among converters within a DC microgrid in the system level is also a In the two-level and three-level control scheme, the same primary
concern for many scholars. In [102], a three-level control strategy that and secondary control objects exist, such as power sharing, stable op-
fits the smart house is proposed, based on the droop-based primary eration in primary control, voltage restoration, and energy manage-
control and the voltage deviation compensation in the secondary con- ment in secondary control. Generally, an autonomous distributed con-
trol. To provide a better control performance for renewable energy trol strategy is universally adopted in the primary and integrated with
generation and load sharing, the tertiary controller provides optimal local converters. The secondary and tertiary control can be divided into
power flow control by changing the voltage reference to the secondary decentralized and centralized, wherein one integrates with the primary
control level. In general, the control architecture in [102] is widely control in a decentralized way, and the other uses the communication
used in many literatures. However, it can be observed from analyzing line connected to each converter in a centralized way [110]. In master-
the function that better use of the tertiary control level can be achieved. slave and multi-agent control, the operation of the microgrids depends
A similar control structure is also introduced to the hybridization of on the fast communication technique. The failure of communication
energy storages system (HESS) to minimize system bus voltage varia- results in the collapse of the whole microgrid. However, in the failure of
tion and extend the ESS lifetime in a DC microgrid [103]. Based on communication, the fundamental function of hierarchical control will
distributed primary control, a bus voltage restoration is implemented in be guaranteed by the autonomous decentralized primary control. This is
the secondary control, after which the tertiary control is used to recover the main difference between the hierarchical control and conventional
the SoC autonomously. However, the energy management of HESS is control method.
just a part of the entire DC microgrid. With the same primary and
secondary control structure applied to DC microgrids, [66] holds that 5. Energy efficiency improved DC bus voltage control
the tertiary control could be used to deal with extreme operational
conditions such as sudden load, load shedding, or ballast. However, 5.1. Research of DC bus voltage in primary control
within this control framework, it places greater demands on on-line
real-time processing. In [104] and [105], a hierarchical power man- As mentioned above, in a hierarchical control structure the normal
agement scheme is proposed for a typical DC microgrid, in which the work of secondary and tertiary control depends on the communication
primary control is used to implement distributed operation. Then the line. In order to ensure the safety and stability of the DC microgrid,
voltage restoration is achieved in the secondary, and the tertiary con- decentralized autonomous control in the primary control is required
trol is adopted to manage the battery charge and discharge or system [110]. Without regard for phase, frequency, symmetrical and asym-
energy management. However, in this scheme, the secondary control is metrical [111] problems of the DC bus voltage, the power balance
connected in parallel with the tertiary control, which indicates they are management can be considered as the DC bus voltage adjustment. To
operated at the same precedence level. ensure normal operation of the DC microgrid, the value of the DC bus

Z. Shuai et al. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 82 (2018) 3670–3682

voltage must be kept within a reasonable range [112]. In a DC micro-

grid,there are two main selections for the DC bus voltage base value:
380 V [113] and 400 V [114], and the normal operating range is de-
fined as a deviation of less than 10% [115].
Generally, DC microgrids comprise of GVSC, new energy power
generator, auxiliary power generator, energy storage system, and load.
There are multiple possibilities as to which of these components mainly
controls the DC bus voltage. In grid-connected states, there is an
emerging consensus that the GVSC unit is supposed to maintain the DC
bus voltage. However, in the island mode, there are a number of so-
lutions to realize the stability of DC bus voltages. During the operation
of a DC microgrid, over-voltage and under-voltage is a key issue in the
DC bus voltage control, which indicates the power balance between the
source and the load.
In the case of over-voltage, new energy power generation has to be
restricted and then combined with DER to maintain the DC bus voltage
balance in a normal range [115]. However this decreases the utilization
Fig. 9. Threshold of each mode.
of new energy. In the case of under-voltage, non-critical load is dis-
connected according to the DC bus voltage. As proposed in [116], a
controllable DC load is utilized for dc-bus voltage regulation for a dc voltage range of 1.0 p.u–1.05 p.u.
distribution system with providing the demand response requirements. Mode 4: In the grid-connected mode, the DC bus voltages are
In this process, a BES is usually adopted to balance the power supply maintained by GVSC. In the off-connected mode, the bus voltage
and demand. However, based on the current technical conditions, there drops into Mode 5.
is still the possibility that the BES can run out of its capacity easily Mode 5: In this mode, the DC bus voltage is maintained by DER and
[117]. Another limitation of conventional control strategy is that the BES.
capability for peak clipping of BES is seriously affected by the SoC
[46,118]. Overall, the improved DC bus voltage control method is summarized
as follows: In the high DC bus voltage, the DER, TSS, and the G-VSC are
5.2. Energy efficiency improved DC bus voltage control employed to absorb the excess energy. During the process, renewable
energy units continue working in the MPPT state. With the insufficient
In this section, an improved DC bus control method is proposed, in power supply, the G-VSC and BES are employed to provide energy in
which a thermal storage system (TSS) is introduced and connected to grid-connected mode. However, in the island mode, the BES units are
the DC bus by a buck converter to achieve the peak clipping operation. responsible for the energy deficient, and the operation voltage is de-
By detecting the DC bus voltage, the variable duty cycle control for creased properly to lower the power consumption of resistive loads. To
buck converter is achieved, and then the equivalent resistance of TSS prolong the time of the power supply under the off-connected condi-
that is connected to the DC bus is mutable. In this case, even in the tion, the BES is set to keep charging in Mode 3.
situation of high bus voltage, the TSS and BES could achieve the peak
clipping for DC microgrid. Hence the new energy resources could work 6. Experimental validation
in the MPPT state all the time and enhance the utilization of new en-
ergy. On the contrary, the TSS is off-connected to the DC bus in the To verify the proposed improved DC bus signal control method, a
condition of low DC bus voltage, which contributes to the restoration of model of DC microgrid is built by the RT-LAB. As shown in Fig. 11, lead-
the DC bus voltage. acid battery, photovoltaic array, wind power generation, thermal sto-
In the DBS method, a different voltage level is employed as an in- rage system, and loads are adopted to the system. Particularly, we in-
dicator to different control modes. In this paper, the voltage of troduce a 2 kW constant power load, which accounts for 20% of the
Vn ± 10% is considered within normal limits [115], and the voltage total load and the remaining 80% is resistive load. Besides, the normal
range is divided into five layers. To distinguish each voltage layer, they range of the DC bus voltage is set in the range of 400 ± 10% V. This
are named as mode I (M1), mode II (M2)…mode V (M5), from high to article selects the off-connected microgrid as the subjects of the simu-
low, and correspond to voltage ranges of: 1.1 p.u–1.075 p.u, 1.075 lation because it is a more challenging job to maintain the DC bus
p.u–1.05 p.u, 1.05 p.u–0.95 p.u, 0.95 p.u–0.925 p.u, 0.925 p.u–0.9 p.u, voltage without the support of the stiff grid.
as shown in (Fig. 9).
In each voltage mode, different priorities of converters are pre- 6.1. Island state with maximum load
sented in Fig. 9. Furthermore, the higher priority of the converters
implies that the unit response to the DC bus in a lower voltage deviation In this case, the total load of the DC microgrid is composed of re-
(Fig. 10). sistive and constant power load to test the maximum power output of
Combined with Fig. 9 and Fig. 10, the following control strategy can 10 kW at the off-connected mode. Fig. 12(a) shows the DC bus voltage
be derived. variation with output fluctuations of new energy generations. With the
maximum load connected, the DC bus voltage is below the rated vol-
Mode 1: A relative high voltage deviation exists and new energy tage, but remains in the normal voltage range. Fig. 12(b) shows the
generations are operated in the MPPT mode, with the cooperative output fluctuations of the wind power and the photovoltaic. By de-
operation of DER, TSS, and G-VSC. The DC bus voltage is restricted tecting the DC bus voltage, the control signals for the converters are
to 1.1 p.u. given in Fig. 12(c). As a response to the control of the reference signal,
Mode 2: The new energy generation is operated in the MPPT mode, the output curve of TSS and BES is given in Fig. 12(d). Through the
with the cooperative operation of BES and TSS. The DC bus voltage analysis of Fig. 12, when the bus voltage is above 400 V, the BES is set
is restricted to 1.075 p.u. to charging mode. With an increase in the DC bus voltage, the TSS and
Mode 3: The voltage range is divided into two parts. In order to BES are whipped into service. With the insufficient new energy power
maintain a high SoC, the BES is kept at a charging state in the supply, DC bus voltage drops to Mode 5, and then the BES coordinated

Z. Shuai et al. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 82 (2018) 3670–3682

Fig. 10. Control strategy for converters.

with the DER is responsible for the voltage restoration. structures of the DC microgrid and DC bus voltage control. By re-
viewing the existing literatures, the primary, secondary, and tertiary
control is systematically analyzed and classified. In the hierarchical
6.2. Island state with step load
control structure, various control objectives can be set flexibly in each
control level, according to the different application fields. Finally,
In this case, DC microgrid started with a 4-kW resistive load and 2-
based on the previous analysis, we can still draw some general con-
kW constant load. To test the disruption recovery, at 10 s, a 4-kW re-
sistive step load was connected to the DC bus. Fig. 13(a) shows the
voltage change when the step load is connected to the DC bus. Before it
(1) In hierarchical control structures, a communication line is required
is accessed, the DC bus voltage is in a relatively high level with the light
in both two-level and three-level control structures. Limited to the
load, and after that, the DC bus voltage drops when the step load is
existing communication rate and reliability, the real-time control of
connected. Fig. 13(b) shows the output fluctuations of new energy. The
different time scales in the DC microgrid is difficult to realize si-
control signals for converters are given in Fig. 13 (c), according to the
multaneously. With the development of communication, the
DC bus voltage signal. The output curve of TSS and BES is shown in
boundary of each control level shows a weakening tendency.
Fig. 13(d). With a sufficient electric energy supply, the TSS and BES are
(2) When the performance of the micro-programmed control unit
implemented to the balance in the power. As soon as the DC bus voltage
(MCU) is improved, more control goals can be achieved in the local
sags are detected, the TSS disconnects from the DC bus and BES
converter, the requirement of distributed optimization techniques is
switches to the discharge mode. From Fig. 13(c) and (d) it can be in-
achievable. The development possibility of the DC microgrid con-
ferred that, in a light load, DC bus voltage is relatively higher than
trol structure is flattening, digitalization, and integration.
Fig. 13(a) showed, and then the BES and TSS absorbs more energy from
(3) In a DC microgrid, instantaneous DC bus voltage signals contain
the DC bus. When the step load is connected to the DC bus at 4 s, the
useful information for the operating states prediction. In the pro-
TSS reduces the power absorption instantly.
cess, the intelligent estimation method can be adopted.
(4) With the development of artificial intelligent technology, optimi-
7. Conclusions and future trends zation of DC microgrid operation will obtain better control results.
(5) To improve the distributed energy resource utilization efficiency,
This paper provides an extensive review on hierarchical control

Fig. 11. Configuration of the experiment.

Z. Shuai et al. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 82 (2018) 3670–3682

Fig. 12. Simulation results with maximum load. (a)

DC bus voltage. (b) Output of new energy. (c) Power
reference signal. (d) Power response of converter.

Fig. 13. Simulation results with step load. (a) DC bus

voltage. (b) Output of new energy. (c) Power re-
ference signal. (d) Power response ofconverter.

Z. Shuai et al. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 82 (2018) 3670–3682

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data centers to improve energy efficiency. In: Proceedings of the 29th Fenggen Ning received the B.S degree in electronic and
International Telecommunications Energy Conference, Rome, INTELEC 07; 2007. information engineering from Hunan University, Changsha,
p. 32–9. China, in 2014, where he is currently pursuing the M.S
[115] Chen D, Xu L, Yao L. DC voltage variation based autonomous control of DC mi- degree in power electronics in the College of Electrical
crogrids. IEEE Trans Power Deliv 2013;28(2):637–48. Engineering. His research interests include voltage control
[116] Mazhari I, Parkhideh B. DC-bus voltage regulation for DC distribution system with and droop control in dc microgrids.
controllable DC load. In: Proceedings of the 8th IEEE international symposium on
Power Electronics for Distributed Generation Systems (PEDG), Florianopolis;
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bus signaling for Modular photovoltaic generation systems With battery energy
storage. IEEE Trans Power Electron . 2011;26(10):3032–45.
Z. John Shen (S′89-M′94-SM′01-F′11) received BS from
Zhikang Shuai (S′09-M′10-SM′17) received the B.S. and Tsinghua University, China, in 1987, and M.S. and Ph.D.
degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY, in
Ph.D. degree from the College of Electrical and Information
1991 and 1994, respectively, all in electrical engineering.
Engineering, Hunan University, Changsha, China, in 2005
and 2011, respectively, all in electrical engineering. He was He was on faculty of the University of Michigan-Dearborn
between 1999 and 2004, and the University of Central
with the Hunan University, as an Assistant Professor be-
tween 2009 and 2012, and an Associate Professor in 2013. Florida between 2004 and 2012. He joined the Illinois
Institute of Technology in 2013 as the Grainger Chair
Starting in 2014, he became a Professor at Hunan
University. His research interests include power quality Professor in Electrical and Power Engineering. He has also
control, power electronics, and Microgrid stability analysis held a courtesy professorship with Hunan University, China
since 2007; and with Zhejiang University, China since
and control. Dr. Shuai is a recipient of the 2010 National
Scientific and Technological Awards of China, the 2012 2013. His research interests include power electronics, and
power semiconductor devices, etc. Dr. Shen has been an
Hunan Technological Invention Awards of China, the 2007
Scientific and Technological Awards from the National active volunteer in the IEEE Power Electronics Society, and has served as VP of Products
2009–2012, Associate Editor and Guest Editor in Chief of IEEE Transactions on Power
Mechanical Industry Association of China.
Electronics, technical program chair and general chair of several major IEEE conferences.

Junbin Fang received his B. S. and M. S. from the College

of Information Engineering, Xiangtan University, Xiangtan,
China, in 2012 and 2015, respectively. He joined the Hunan
University as a Ph.D. student in 2015, where he is currently
pursuing the Ph.D. degree in the College of Electrical and
Information Engineering. His current research interests in-
clude renewable energy, DC power systems and energy
management in distribution systems.