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Control of power inverters for the smart grid

Conference Paper  in  Proceedings of the American Control Conference · June 2014

DOI: 10.1109/ACC.2014.6859226

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Qing-Chang Zhong
Illinois Institute of Technology


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2014 American Control Conference (ACC)
June 4-6, 2014. Portland, Oregon, USA

Control of Power Inverters for the Smart Grid

Professor Qing-Chang Zhong, FIET, SMIEEE

Chair in Control and Systems Engineering
Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering
The University of Sheffield
United Kingdom

1. Introduction voltage and current remains within certain range when

the loads are nonlinear and the grid voltage, if present,
Energy and sustainability are now on the top is distorted; how to make sure that a balanced neutral
agenda of many governments. Smart grids have be- line is provided for applications where a neutral line is
come one of the main enablers to address energy and needed, e.g. when three-phase loads are not balanced;
sustainability issues. Many research centres have been how to make sure that inverters can be operated in grid-
set up worldwide to address various aspects of energy connected mode or standalone mode and how to minim-
and sustainability. Renewable energy, distributed gener- ise the transient dynamics when the operation mode is
ation, hybrid electrical vehicles, more-electric aircraft, changed; how to synchronise inverters with the grid so
all-electric ships, smart grids etc will become more that they can be connected to the grid when needed; how
and more popular. Arguably, the integration of renew- to share loads proportionally according to their power
able and distributed energy sources, energy storage and ratings when inverters are operated in parallel; how to
demand-side resources into smart grids, often via in- connect inverters to the grid in a grid-friendly manner
verters, is the largest “new frontier” for smart grid ad- so that the impact on the grid is minimised etc.
vancements. Control and power electronics are the two Based on the research monograph Control of Power
key enabling technologies for this. Power electronics Inverters in Renewable Energy and Smart Grid Integ-
is becoming part of the grid and control is where the ration [1] recently published by Wiley-IEEE Press1 ,
“smart” is from. Together with the power systems in- of which the cover is shown in Figure 1, this tu-
frastructure, they form the backbone for smart grids. torial will present a systematic treatment of the above
An inverter converts DC electricity from sources problems, focusing on advanced control strategies that
such as batteries, solar panels, or fuel cells to AC elec- have been verified with extensive experiments. The
tricity. Inverters are the interface to integrate renew- tutorial is divided into four parts: power quality is-
able energy and distributed generation into smart grids. sues, power flow control, parallel operation of invert-
Hence, how to control inverters so that renewable en- ers and synchronisation. Many innovative concepts,
ergy sources can be connected to the grid in a smart and such as synchronverters (inverters that mimic synchron-
friendly way is very important for the modelling, oper- ous generators) [2], C-inverters (inverters with capa-
ation and management of smart grids. Inverters are also citive output impedances) [3], robust droop control to
widely used in uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), share real power and reactive power accurately among
induction heating, high-voltage DC (HVDC) transmis- parallel-operated inverters without communication [4],
sion, variable-frequency drives, electric vehicle (EV) harmonic droop control to inject harmonics into the in-
drives, air conditioning, vehicle-to-grid (V2G) etc and, verter to reduce harmonics in the output voltage [5], and
hence, have become a common key device for many sinusoid-locked loops for synchronisation [6] etc, will
energy-related applications and it is expected that more be presented in detail. Because of the large amount of
and more inverters will be manufactured and used. experimental results to be presented, this tutorial will
interest many major industrial players in renewable en-
There are several important control problems asso-
ciated with inverters. For example, how to make sure 1

that the total harmonic distortion (THD) of the inverter 0470667095.html.

978-1-4799-3274-0/$31.00 ©2014 AACC 2132

synchronous generators driven by prime movers (and
which have reached a high level of maturity over 100
years) can be applied to synchronverters. The function
of real power control, frequency control, reactive con-
trol and voltage control can be implemented with one
compact controller, having a symmetric structure. The
direction of the energy flow between the DC bus and the
AC bus in a synchronverter is changed automatically ac-
cording to the grid frequency, which greatly facilitates
the grid connection of renewable energy resources.
In this part of the tutorial, the synchronverter
strategy will be described in details, including model-
ling of synchronous generators, implementation of syn-
chronverter, real power (frequency) and reactive power
(voltage) control etc. Then, the self-synchronised syn-
chronverter strategy [7] is presented to remove the ded-
icated synchronisation unit that had been believed to be
a must-have component for grid-tied inverters.

3. Parallel-operation of inverters

Due to the limited availability of high-current high-

voltage power electronic devices, it is inevitable that
multiple inverters are needed to be operated in parallel
for large-scale utilisation of renewable energy. For ex-
ample, a 5GW renewable energy installation will need
Figure 1. Cover of Control of Power Inverters in 1000 inverters of 5MW connected in parallel. Parallel-
Renewable Energy and Smart Grid Integration operated inverters could provide plug-and-play system
redundancy and high reliability, which becomes more
and more important for end users. Moreover, reliable
ergy, energy conversion, energy recovery and storage, parallel operation of inverters could lead to the mass
smart grid integration, electric vehicles, UPS, aircraft production of inverters at lower power level, which
power systems, ship power systems etc. could significantly reduce the production cost. A large
number of inverters, e.g., in the form of static synchron-
ous compensators (STATCOM) and active power filters
2. Grid-friendly integration (APF), may also be connected in close proximity, which
are effectively operated in parallel although they are not
The electrical power system is currently under- directly connected in parallel. Hence, the parallel oper-
going a dramatic change from centralised generation ation of inverters will be very common.
to distributed generation. More and more distrib- It should not be assumed that inverters could be op-
uted/renewable energy generators will be connected to erated in parallel automatically. Without proper con-
the grid via power inverters. In order to minimise the trol mechanisms in place, circulating currents may ap-
impact of a large number of inverters connected to the pear and some inverters may be overloaded, which may
grid, the inverters need to be well controlled so that cause damage. The system may even become unstable
they are grid-friendly. Synchronverters are inverters that and lead to unwanted behaviours. The parallel opera-
mimic synchronous generators [2]. They are mathemat- tion of inverters has been a major problem in industry.
ically equivalent to the conventional synchronous gen- A robust droop controller will be presented so that
erators and can take part in the regulation of power sys- parallel-operated inverters can achieve accurate load
tems. If a synchronverter is connected to the utility grid sharing in proportion to their ratings even if their per-
and is operated as a generator, no difference would be unit output impedances are different and/or the voltage
felt from the grid side between the synchronverter and a setpoints for the inverters are different. Moreover, the
synchronous generator. Thus, the conventional control fundamental tradeoff between the sharing accuracy and
algorithms and equipment that have been developed for the capability of voltage regulation is considerably re-

laxed or eliminated if the load voltage is measured ac- This part of the tutorial will cover the degrada-
curately. This strategy has made the parallel operation tion mechanisms of the voltage quality and a series
of multiple inverters into reality. of approaches to improve the voltage quality, includ-
In this part of the tutorial, the conventional droop ing designing the output impedance of inverters, in
control strategy is described in details with the funda- particular to be capacitive[3], bypassing the harmonic
mental limitations revealed. Then, a robust droop con- load current[8], injecting the right-amount of harmonic
troller [4] is presented to overcome the fundamental voltage into the voltage reference to cancel the har-
limitations so that the sharing of real power and react- monic voltage dropped on the output impedance (har-
ive power can be accurate and the output voltage can be monic droop control) [5] etc.
regulated within the desired range.
The Instructor
4. Synchronisation of inverters
Qing-Chang Zhong is the Chair Professor in Con-
Before an inverter is connected to a power source, trol and Systems Engineering at University of Sheffield,
e.g. another inverter or the grid, it should be syn- UK, and a Specialist recognised by the State Grid Cor-
chronised with the source. That is, it should have the poration of China (SGCC). He is a Distinguished Lec-
same frequency, the same voltage and the same phase turer of IEEE Power Electronics Society and the UK
as the source. There are also many other applica- Representative to European Control Association. He
tion where the synchronisation with an external sig- also serves on the Scientific Advisory Board of US
nal is often needed. The commonly used synchron- NSF FREEDM Systems Center at North Carolina State
isation strategies include the phase-locked-loops (PLL), University and the Rolls-Royce University Technology
sinusoid-tracking algorithms etc. The performance of Partnership (UTP) Board in Power Electronics Sys-
the synchronisation unit is critical for the performance tems. He obtained a PhD degree in 2000 from Shang-
of the inverter because the synchronisation unit should hai Jiao-Tong University and another PhD degree in
provide the references of the grid frequency, phase and 2004 from Imperial College London (awarded the Best
voltage accurately and in a timely manner. Doctoral Thesis Prize). He proposed the architecture
In this part, some conventional synchronisation for next-generation smart grids, which is now widely
strategies will be presented at first. Then a synchron- reported on,,
isation strategy called sinusoid-locked loops [6], which and the US Science News Ra-
are based on the operation of synchronous generators, dio Network. He is an Associate Editor for IEEE
will be presented. It is able to quickly recover the fre- Trans. on Power Electronics, IEEE Trans on Con-
quency, phase and amplitude of the grid. trol Systems Technology, IEEE Access and European
Journal of Control. His research focuses on power elec-
5. Power quality control tronics, advanced control theory and the integration of
both, together with applications in renewable energy,
One of the major problems associated with invert- microgrids, smart grid integration etc. He is a Fel-
ers is the harmonics in the voltage provided. There low of IET and was a Senior Research Fellow of Royal
are two sources of harmonics: one is from the invert- Academy of Engineering.
ers (e.g. because of the pulse-width-modulation and Professor Zhong has been working in the area of
the switching) and the other is from the loads or the control theory and applications for more than 20 years.
grid. The majority of loads today are nonlinear and He has made significant contributions to the robust con-
generate harmonic currents when a purely sinusoidal trol of time-delay systems and has entered into the area
voltage supply is provided. These harmonic currents of investigating time-delay systems using the theory of
then cause harmonic components in the voltage because general infinite-dimensional systems. He is the sole au-
of the impedances in the distribution network and, also, thor of Robust Control of Time-delay Systems [9] and
inside the voltage source. Harmonics are not desirable a co-author of Control of Integral Processes with Dead
because they cause overheating, increased losses, de- Time [10]. He established links between some funda-
creased kVA capacity, neutral line overloading, distor- mental concepts, e.g. sampling-hold and numerical in-
ted voltage and current waveforms etc. It has become tegration, J-spectral factorisation and similarity trans-
a very serious issue in modern power systems. Hence, formation, and algebraic Riccati equations and block
stringent industrial regulations have been put into place. diagrams. He proposed an uncertainty and disturbance
The total harmonic distortion (THD) of voltages and estimator (UDE) for robust control of uncertain systems
currents needs to be maintained low, often below 5%. and extended it to time-delay systems, nonlinear sys-

tems etc. Wiley-IEEE Press, 2013.
Professor Zhong has also established himself in the [2] Q.-C. Zhong and G. Weiss, “Synchronverters: Inverters
area of power electronics and renewable energy, after that mimic synchronous generators,” IEEE Trans. Ind.
working in the area for more than 10 years. Together Electron., vol. 58, no. 4, pp. 1259–1267, Apr. 2011.
with his collaborator, Professor Zhong proposed and [3] Q.-C. Zhong and Y. Zeng, “Can the output impedance
of an inverter be designed capacitive?” in Proc. of the
implemented a concept to operate inverters to mimic
37th Annual IEEE Conference of Industrial Electronics
synchronous generators. Such inverters are called syn- (IECON), 2011, pp. 1220–1225.
chronverters [2] and they have the internal dynamics [4] Q.-C. Zhong, “Robust droop controller for accurate pro-
and external functions of synchronous generators. This portional load sharing among inverters operated in paral-
has considerably facilitated the grid connection of re- lel,” IEEE Trans. Ind. Electron., vol. 60, no. 4, pp. 1281–
newable energy and electrical vehicles etc. Another sig- 1290, Apr. 2013.
nificant contribution is that he has proposed a robust [5] ——, “Harmonic droop controller to reduce the voltage
droop controller [4] so that parallel-operated inverters harmonics of inverters,” IEEE Trans. Ind. Electron.,
can share both real power and reactive power accurately vol. 60, no. 3, pp. 936–945, Mar. 2013.
even if there are numerical errors, noises, disturbances, [6] Q.-C. Zhong and P.-L. Nguyen, “Sinusoid-locked loops
parameter drifts and component mismatches etc. His to detect the frequency, the ampitude and the phase of
the fundamental component of a periodic signal,” in
other major contributions in this area include the inven-
Proc. of the 24th Chinese Control and Decision Con-
tion of AC Ward Leonard drive systems, energy recov- ference (CCDC), Taiyuan, China, May 2012.
ery from landing aircraft, various strategies to improve [7] Q.-C. Zhong, P.-L. Nguyen, Z. Ma, and W. Sheng, “Self-
power quality in microgrids, the provision of a neut- synchronised synchronverters: Inverters without a ded-
ral line for inverters and the invention of inverters with icated synchronisation unit,” IEEE Trans. Power Elec-
capacitive output impedances (called C-inverters). His tron., vol. 29, no. 2, pp. 617–630, Feb. 2014.
research in this area has led to a research monograph [8] Q.-C. Zhong, F. Blaabjerg, J. Guerrero, and T. Hornik,
Control of Power Inverters in Renewable Energy and “Improving the voltage quality of an inverter via by-
Smart Grid Integration [1] jointly published by John passing the harmonic current components,” in Proc.
of IEEE Energy Conversion Congress and Exposition
Wiley and IEEE Press.
(ECCE), Raleigh, North Carolina, Sept. 2012.
[9] Q.-C. Zhong, Robust Control of Time-delay Systems.
References Springer, 2006.
[10] A. Visioli and Q.-C. Zhong, Control of Integral Pro-
[1] Q.-C. Zhong and T. Hornik, Control of Power Invert- cesses with Dead Time. Springer, 2011.
ers in Renewable Energy and Smart Grid Integration.


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