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Solar Energy 94 (2013) 182–194


Modeling and analysis of current harmonic distortion from

grid connected PV inverters under different operating conditions
Yang Du a,⇑, Dylan Dah-Chuan Lu a, Geoffrey James b, David J. Cornforth c
School of Electrical and Information Engineering, The University of Sydney, Australia
Division of Energy Technology, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Sydney, Australia
School of Design, Communication and IT, University of Newcastle, Australia

Received 17 November 2012; received in revised form 10 April 2013; accepted 13 May 2013
Available online 8 June 2013

Communicated by: Associate Editor Arturo Morales-Acevedo


Due to the fast growth of photovoltaic (PV) installations, concerns are rising about the harmonic distortion generated from PV invert-
ers. High current total harmonic distortion (THD) occurs when PV inverters operate under light load conditions due to low solar inso-
lation. A general model modified from the conventional control structure diagram is introduced to analyze the harmonic formation
process. Causes of the current harmonics are summarized and its relationship with output power levels is analyzed. The field measure-
ment for current harmonics is carried out at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) microgrid to
validate the analysis results. In particular for two-stage inverter, unlike previous papers that assume the DC-link voltage is constant, the
DC-link voltage ripple is identified as the source of a series of odd harmonics. A mew periodic time-varying model is proposed by includ-
ing the DC-link voltage ripple into the conventional current control loop model. This model is able to simulate the characteristics of the
harmonic components and show their dependence on the DC-link voltage ripple.
Ó 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: DC-link voltage ripple; Harmonics; Matlab/Simulink; Microgrid; PV inverter

1. Introduction 2011). Australia also promises to achieve 20% power gener-

ation from renewable energy by 2020 (Clean_energy_coun-
In several countries including Australia, an increasing cil, 2009).
number of PV generation systems are connected to the dis- The power electronics interface is essential to connecting
tribution network as a result of strong government sup- renewable energy sources to the grid. This interface has two
port. The PV market is growing rapidly (30–40%), and its main functions: extracting the maximum amount of power
price is constantly decreasing (Razykov et al., 2011). Many from the PV modules (Du and Lu, 2011; Bennett et al.,
countries are trying to increase the penetration of renew- 2012); and conversion of direct current (DC) power to an
able energy. The US plans to meet up to 20% of electricity appropriate form of alternative current (AC) power for
demand with solar technologies by 2030 (Brinkman et al., the grid connection (Beser et al., 2010). Renewable energy
sources such as solar energy cannot be manipulated in the
same way as conventional power sources, so the operating
conditions of PV inverters vary according to the solar inso-
⇑ Corresponding author. Address: School of Electrical and Information lation (Lu and Nguyen, 2012). However, utility standards
Engineering, The University of Sydney, Room 329, Bldg. J03, NSW 2006, and manufactures’ data sheets are only concerned with
Australia. Tel.: +61 0401538737.
the full load condition.
E-mail address: yang.du@sydney.edu.au (Y. Du).

0038-092X/$ - see front matter Ó 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Y. Du et al. / Solar Energy 94 (2013) 182–194 183

PV systems incorporate power electronic interfaces, lute amplitude of the harmonic component changes are rel-
which generate a level of harmonics (Papaioannou et al., atively small compared with THD changes. This solves the
2009), potentially leading to current and voltage distor- confusion about the high THD concerns under low power
tions. The harmonics of current or voltage waveform are levels. More detailed discussion is given in Section 4. The
the summation of various higher frequency sinusoidal com- analysis results in Section 3 are validated by comparison
ponents that are an integer multiple of the fundamental fre- with measurement from actual PV inverters.
quency. These harmonics have a large impact on A series of odd harmonics are fund which cannot be
operational efficiency and reliability of the power system, completely explained by the factors usually examined in
loads and protective relaying (Jain and Singh, 2011). Due such cases. The DC-link voltage ripple is identified to be
to the fast growth of PV installations, concerns are rising the causes of these harmonics, a time-varying model is pro-
about harmonic distortion introduced by PV inverters to posed in Section 5 to analyze this phenomenon.
the grid. To analyze and design the PV inverter, the DC-link volt-
The degree of current THD, as a percentage of the fun- age is assumed as constant in the conventional model of a
damental current, varies significantly with the real power PV inverter. However, this is not always the case. For sin-
output of the inverter (Chicco et al., 2009). The current gle-phase grid connected inverters, the AC instantaneous
THD becomes higher at a low power output level, espe- output power exhibits a pulsation at the double-line fre-
cially for generated power below 20% of the rated power, quency. Under steady insolation conditions, the DC output
such as during morning or evening time. Many researchers voltage of the PV modules is controlled to be constant at
have reported this phenomenon and tried to find the the maximum power point (MPP). Hence, the power pulsa-
causes. The quantisation and resolution effects of the mea- tion caused by single-phase power generation is converted
surement devices in the control system has been pointed into the static stored energy on the decoupling capacitor,
out as one of the causes (Infield et al., 2004). Another and voltage ripple at the double-line frequency can be
explanation is that the closed-loop current controls, which found at the DC-link (Shimizu et al., 2006). By using large
are intended to minimize the harmonic components, stop electrolytic capacitors, the ripple can be reduced but not
working at a low power output level (Chicco et al., eliminated. However, the electrolytic parts have far more
2009). Some researchers have suggested that the DC-link limited life than the applications (Lahyani et al., 1998),
voltage regulation is highly related to the reference current and need to be avoided.
resolution (Wu et al., 2011). However, the comprehensive In a single-stage inverter as shown in Fig. 1a, a large
and systematic analysis of the formation process of the har- power decoupling capacitor has to be used to realize an effi-
monics in the PV inverter output current is missing. cient MPPT process. Hence, the constant DC-link voltage
The conventional model of current control structure assumption can be adapted for modeling the inverter, and
(Twining and Holmes, 2003) is widely used to design the this model is linear. However, the two-stage inverter as
control loop and to analyze the control stability. However, shown in Fig. 1b, the power decoupling capacitor is placed
there is no harmonic information included in this model, at the high voltage DC-link. In this topology, a larger volt-
and the effects of the control scheme on the harmonic per- age ripple is allowed to present across a DC-link in order to
formance cannot be found by using this model. A general minimize the decoupling capacitor (Hu et al., 2010), hence
model modified from a conventional control structure dia- the constant DC-link voltage assumption is not valid.
gram is introduced in Section 2 to analyze the harmonic The harmonic transfer through three-phase bridge con-
formation process. The ‘harmonic impedance’ concept verters is investigated in (Jiang and Ekstrom, 1997), and it
(Twining and Holmes, 2003) is used to quantitatively calcu- is found that the voltage second harmonic on a DC-link
late the harmonic amplitude caused by each source. This is produces a third harmonic on the AC side. However, the
important because of the growing concern of harmonics fifth, seventh, and a series of odd harmonics are also found
generated by these devices, and their effect upon other in the output current frequency spectrum caused by the
equipment. DC-link voltage ripple (Wang et al., 2011). The explana-
The current harmonics are measured from PV inverters tion of this phenomenon cannot be found in previous
installed in the CSIRO microgrid. The field measurements research. Many methods have been proposed to eliminate
show that, under different operating conditions, the abso- the current harmonics caused by the DC-link ripple

Fig. 1. Block diagram of (a) single-stage inverter and (b) two-stage inverter.
184 Y. Du et al. / Solar Energy 94 (2013) 182–194

without analyzing the harmonics formation process. A spe- Iout

cifically designed PWM control algorithm (Enjeti and Shi-
reen, 1992) is proposed to compensate the DC-link voltage
ripple. In (Brekken et al., 2002), a control technique that
allows for 25% ripple voltage without distorting the output
current waveform is proposed. The cutoff frequency in this VDC Vinv
design is 10 Hz, and it could attenuate the voltage ripple in
the control loop, but the system dynamic performance is
degraded. All these works aim to eliminate the effects of
the DC-link voltage ripple. However, the analytical model
for qualitative information and an understanding of the
relationship between the DC-link voltage ripple and the
output current harmonics is still missing.
A new model of PV inverter is presented that provided
detail relating to the harmonics produced by the DC-link
voltage ripple. The conventional linear model of a grid con- PI PLL Vg
nected PV inverter is modified by adding the representation Iref
of the DC-link voltage ripple. The modified model becomes
a periodical time-varying system. A simulation model is Iref
developed based on the modified model by using Matlab/ Fig. 2. PWM inverter framework with current-controlled feedback loop.
This paper is organized as follows. A general model with
harmonic information is introduced in Section 2. In Sec- current control scheme is used. The inverter is connected to
tion 3 This model is used to analyze the harmonic distor- the grid via a filter. In this paper an inductor is used for
tions under the ‘harmonic impedance’ concept. The field simplicity of analysis. A feedback control with the PI con-
measurement results are shown in Section 4 which are been troller is used for the PWM inverter to force the output
used to explain the high THD phenomenon and validate current lout to track a reference output current lref. The
the analysis result. In Section 5 the double-line frequency phase angle of lref is obtained from the grid voltage Vg
voltage ripple on the DC-link is identified as the cause of via a phase locked loop (PLL). The amplitude of the refer-
a series of odd harmonics. A time-varying model is pro- ence current |Iref| is generated by the voltage control loop
posed to analyze this phenomenon. Simulation results depending on the maximum power point tracking process.
and conclusions are given in Sections 6 and 7 respectively. The design of the voltage control loop varies between dif-
ferent inverter topologies. The generation of |Iref| can be
2. General model of PV inverter found in Twining and Holmes (2003); Zhao et al. (2011).

Since there is no harmonic information included, the 2.2. Conventional model of current regulation scheme
conventional model cannot be used to answer the question
that ‘how does harmonics changes under different power Fig. 3 shows the conventional control structure diagram
levels.’ After re-examine the harmonic formation process, of the current-controlled inverter. This model can be ana-
a general model of PV inverter is introduced by adding lyzed by using conventional linear analysis methods. It
two harmonic sources to the conventional model. can help the designer to tune the controller (Armstrong
et al., 2005) and investigate the control performance and
2.1. Full bridge PV inverter with current control stability (Maknouninejad et al., 2011). The close loop
transfer function is given by following equation:
Fig. 2 shows an example PWM inverter framework with GPI GPWM Ginv Gf Gf
current feedback control. It is the most common structure I out ¼ I ref  Vg ð1Þ
1 þ GPI GPWM Ginv Gf 1 þ GPI GPWM Ginv Gf
used by the commercial products. The inverter includes
four power switches, an output inductor and a DC-link where GPI, GPWM, Ginv and Gf are the transfer functions for
capacitor CDC. VDC is the DC-link voltage which presents the PI controller, PWM, inverter and filter, respectively. In
two cases: with or without voltage ripple. The two different this model, only the fundamental waveforms are consid-
cases are treated separately in Sections 3 and 5. Vinv and Vg ered, harmonic information is needed for the harmonic dis-
are the output voltage of the full-bridge inverter and the tortion analysis.
grid voltage, lout is the inverter output current. The grid
connected inverter output terminal is connected with the 2.3. The modified model with harmonic information
fixed grid voltage, and the inverter input voltage is the pre-
ferred control variable to provide MPP tracking. Only the The modified model based on a conventional current
input voltage and output current can be controlled, hence a control structure diagram for a PWM inverter with har-
Y. Du et al. / Solar Energy 94 (2013) 182–194 185

Grid Voltage



Fig. 3. Conventional control structure diagram of the current-controlled inverter.

Feedback PI control PWM Inverter Filter

S1 S2 S3 S4 S5
Vinv a

Grid Voltage
+Vg harmonics
Vswitch harmonics

S1 S2 S3 S4 S5
Iref GPI GPWM Ginv Gf Iout

S1 S2 S3 S4 S5

Fig. 4. Model of current-controlled PWM inverter with harmonic information.

monic information is shown in Fig. 4. This figure shows the noting that the VDC can be either a constant or a time
positions and types of harmonic sources which need to be varying signal, both cases are treated separately in Sec-
added. The upper trace shows how the output current S5 tions 4 and 5.
is generated based on a reference current by the full bridge – S5 is the inverter output current Iout. S5 = (S4  Vg)Gf -
inverter with current control. The second trace shows the  Vg is the grid voltage and may involve voltage harmon-
model of current regulation scheme involving the harmon- ics Vg harmonics. S4  Vg is the voltage difference across
ics information. Compared with Fig. 3, in the PWM sec- the output filter. Where, Gf = 1/(Ls), where L is the
tion the switch harmonic source Vswitch harmonics is added inductance of the filter.
to form a pulse waveform from the sinusoidal signal. This
harmonic source can introduce the character of the PWM, This general model can be used to analyze harmonic dis-
such as the switching frequency and the type of PWM. The tortion for both with or without voltage ripple on the DC-
output current depends on the voltage difference between link.
grid voltage and inverter output voltage. Hence, the grid
voltage harmonic source is added at the inverter section 3. Output current harmonics analysis
in Fig. 4. The waveform of each stage is sketched in the
lowest trace in Fig. 4 and is described as follows: For the single-stage inverter with a very large capacitor,
the DC-link voltage can be assumed as a constant. The
– S1 is the error signal between the reference current and close-form solution of the output current harmonic distor-
the inverter output current, S1 = Iref  Iout = Iref  S5. tion can be derived under the ‘harmonic impedance’ con-
– S2 is the amplitude modulation ratio, S2 = S1GPI, cept. This concept is based on the well-established linear
where the transfer function of the PI controller is technique, it is used in this section to investigate the har-
GPI = kp + ki/s. kp is the proportional gain and ki is monic variation under different power levels.
the integral gain. The model in Fig. 4 is linear when VDC is a constant
– S3 is the gate signal generated by the PWM generator. value and therefore different frequency components can
S3 = S2GPWM + Vswitch harmonics, where GPWM = 1/Cpk be analyzed separately. The output signal is the superposi-
and Cpk is the peak value of the carrier signal. tion of all signals, however, for summating harmonic com-
– S4 is the inverter output voltage Vinv, S4 = S3Ginv. S3 is ponents at the same frequency, the phase angle of each
scaled by the DC-link voltage, Ginv = VDC. It is worth harmonic component needs to be considered. Each har-
186 Y. Du et al. / Solar Energy 94 (2013) 182–194

Table 1
Harmonics represented under ‘harmonic impedence’ concept.
Harmonics in the output current Harmonic impedance
f 1þG G Ginv Gf 
Grid background voltage I out g harmonics ¼ 1þGPI GPWM Ginv Gf V g harmonics (3) Z g harmonics ¼  PI GPWMf
G G 1þG G Ginv Gf 
Switch harmonics I out switch harmonics ¼ 1þGPI GinvPWMfGinv Gf V switchharmonics (5) Z switch harmonics ¼  PIGinvPWM
Gf  (6)

monic component of output current Iharmonics from the PV at high frequency can be filtered out easily, however, this
inverter can be calculated as an individual harmonic source requires an appropriate design otherwise it will cause
Vharmonics divided by its harmonic impedance Zharmonics. power losses and stability problems.
V harmonics It can be found from (5) that the switch harmonics is not
I harmonics ¼ ð2Þ related to the reference current. In other words, if the
Z harmonics
Vswitch harmonics is constant, the harmonic components will
The harmonic sources include grid voltage harmonics, not change as the inverter output power level varies.
switch harmonics, reference current harmonics, etc. The
harmonic impedance can be obtained by calculating the 3.3. DC-link voltage variation due to MPPT
gain of a close-loop transfer function at the harmonic fre-
quency. This impedance provides a simple measure of har- As shown in Fig. 1a, the PV array output directly con-
monic sensitivity of a current regulation scheme (Twining nects with the DC-link in the single-stage PV inverter.
and Holmes, 2003). The DC voltage variation also changes The input voltage of the interfacing converter is the pre-
the harmonic impedance. The DC-link voltage ripple can ferred control variable to provide MPP tracking (Suntio
be another harmonic source which will be treated in Sec- et al., 2010). The DC-link voltage varies according to the
tion 5. The harmonic distortion caused by each source is I–V curve of the PV modules. For other inverter configura-
calculated separately as follows; the relationship between tions, there is also the possibility of changes in the DC-link
each distortion and the output power level is given. voltage.
Based on (1), this variation has no effect on harmonic
3.1. Grid background voltage distortion sources, but the inverter transfer function Ginv will change,
hence, the harmonic impedance also will change. Accord-
The output current is generated by the voltage difference ing to the PV I–V curve, the voltage maximum power point
between the inverter output voltage Vinv and the grid volt- which equals to VDC decreases as the PV generated power
age Vg across a filter. If the grid voltage contains harmon- decreases, so the harmonic component caused by grid volt-
ics, it becomes a harmonics source for the output current. age will increase. This conclusion is verified by the simula-
The field measurement results show that the grid voltage tion result of a realistic example which is shown in
harmonics may vary from one location to another but they Section 6.
do exist at all times, especially the low order harmonics
which are hard to filter out. A number of control methods
3.4. Other causes of harmonics
to suppress the current distortion caused by the grid volt-
age harmonics are proposed (Abeyasekera et al., 2005;
Quantization and resolution effects, limitations of sens-
Wang et al., 2010).
ing accuracy, and positioning of the sensor have all been
According to Fig. 4 the harmonic of output current
mentioned as causes of harmonics by other researchers.
caused by the grid voltage harmonics and the harmonic
impedance are listed in Table 1. It can be seen in (3) that
current harmonics due to the grid voltage distortion has
no relationship with the inverter output power level. One
realistic example of calculating the harmonic components
caused by the grid voltage distortion is given in Section 6.

3.2. Switch harmonics (high frequency)

The unipolar PWM is chosen as an example for analysis

and simulation. The switch harmonics generated by the
unipolar PWM are at double switch frequency. According
to Fig. 4, the harmonic component in the output current
caused by switch harmonics and the harmonic impedance
are shown in Table 1. This switch harmonics which appear Fig. 5. Harmonic spectrum of signal from PLL block.
Y. Du et al. / Solar Energy 94 (2013) 182–194 187

Table 2
Harmonic variation as PV output power decrease.
Factors Grid voltage distortion Switch harmonics DC-link voltage variation PLL
Harmonic amplitude Constant Approximately constant Increase VDC decrease) Decrease proportional to PAC
According to (3) (5) Fig. 16 Fig. 5

The reference current can contain harmonics both from the

front voltage control loop in a dual loop control algorithm
or from the PLL block. In the simulation result, the har-
monic spectrum is measured directly at the output of the
PLL block as shown in Fig. 5. This harmonic distortion
appears at a very high frequency, and it may be filtered
out easily by the output filter. The dead time of the switch- PV
ing signal also causes harmonics in the output current modules
(Seung-Gi and Min-Ho, 1991).

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3.5. Harmonic variation as PV output power decrease
Fig. 6. Locations and orientations of some PV generators.
The possible causes of the harmonics which summarized qffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi
P1 2
in this section is been investigated individually. Since the n¼2 I n
THD ¼  100% ð7Þ
model is linear, only one cause is adjusted and all the other I1
causes remain unchanged. Some general conclusions for where I1 is the magnitude of the fundamental frequency
harmonic distortion when the inverter output power is (50 Hz) component of the current, and In is the nth order
decreasing are listed in Table 2. harmonic current. All the data are recorded at the same
The switch harmonics and PLL caused harmonics only moment, and therefore the PV generators share the same
appears at high frequency. The high order harmonics can ambient temperature and solar insolation. The different
be attenuated by the filter of the inverter, hence it will cause power levels are caused by the different orientations of
very limited impact to the power system. The utility only some PV systems. Fig. 6 shows locations and orientations
regulates the low order harmonics, for example less than of some PV generators. The measurement was carried out
the 50th order. As analyzed in this section, the harmonic in the middle of a cloudy day, the daily global solar expo-
amplitude will increase when the output power of the inver- sure was 4.8 kWh/m2 and the ambient temperature was
ter decreases. This is mainly caused by the DC-link voltage 26 °C.
variation. Table 3 shows the measurement results which include:
PV output power, inverter rated power, ratio of actual
4. Measurement of harmonic distortion at the CSIRO power output and rated power (P/Pr), and THD of the cur-
microgrid rent calculated by using Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) up
to 50th order harmonics. The inverters are commercial
A field measurement is carried out at the CSIRO micro- products with single-stage topology from SMA (SMA,
grid to validate the aforementioned correlation between 2005), which are numbered from 35 to 47, and their name-
harmonic distortion and PV output power levels. The phe- plate capacity is either 1000 W or 1500 W, as indicated in
nomenon of high THD values at low power levels is the third row of the table. According to the datasheet, this
explained, and the harmonic amplitude of several low type of inverters use the same topology as shown in Fig. 2.
order harmonics is shown. The measurement system’s digital outputs are 16-bit, which
The CSIRO microgrid laboratory is located at the represents a potential 65,536 different values across the cur-
CSIRO Energy Centre, Newcastle, Australia. This micro- rent measurements range. For this PV inverter the quanti-
grid consists of distributed generation sources, on-site stor- sation effect is minimal. As shown in Fig. 7, the data can be
age, a single point of common coupling to the utility grid divided into three groups based on power levels, represent-
and real-world loads in the form of offices, labs and work- ing full load, half load and light load conditions.
shops (Cornforth et al., 2011). It can be seen from Fig. 7 that THD of the inverter with
A total of 13 PV inverters which operate at different low power output is up to around 20 times higher than the
power output levels are connected to the grid in parallel inverter with high power output. It is also been highlighted
by distribution over the three phases. Actual waveforms in Table 3 as bold values. This phenomenon is reported in
are captured at 8000 samples per second and THD is calcu- Infield et al. (2004); Chicco et al. (2009); Du et al. (2011);
lated from the equation: Hernandez et al. (2011).
188 Y. Du et al. / Solar Energy 94 (2013) 182–194

Table 3
PV output power and current THD.
Inverter no. 38 43 46 37 40 41 47 39 35 42 45 44 36
PV output power (W) 654 1481 46.7 655 1450 1450 93.5 1465 1465 1434 109.1 46.8 639
Rated Power (W) 1000 1500 1000 1000 1500 1500 1500 1500 1500 1500 1500 1000 1000
P/Pr (%) 65.40 98.74 4.68 65.5 99.67 99.67 6.23 97.7 97.7 95.6 7.27 4.68 63.9
Current THD (%) 2.59 2.74 20.77 1.85 2.11 4.19 35.93 4.77 2.55 3.37 17.52 21.74 1.87

90-100 P/Pr(%) 60-70 P/Pr(%) less than 10% P/Pr

Current THD (%)

Inverter No.

Fig. 7. Current THD of the PV inverter under different operating condition.

THD is the ratio which refers to instantaneous funda-

mental components. The higher THD shows that the wave-
form is more different to a pure sinusoidal waveform than
the one with lower THD. The voltage THD is widely used
in utility standards to regulate voltage distortion, however,
extra attention needs to be paid when using current THD.
In the Australian standard (AS_4777-2005) and IEEE 929-
2000 standard (IEEE_929-2000), the current THD is lim-
ited to less than 5% and compliance tests specify full power.
Instead current THD, the total demand distortion
(TDD) is used to regulate current harmonics in IEEE
519-1992 (1992). The current TDD is calculated as below:
P1 2
n¼2 I n
TDD ¼  100% ð8Þ
IL Fig. 8. Low order harmonic component amplitudes under three different
power levels.
where IL is the maximum demand load current. The equa-
tions for THD and TDD differ only in the denominator.
Unlike the denominator of THD, IL is a constant value changes. Hence the high current THD at low power levels
for certain device or appliance. The term TDD is intended shown in Fig. 7 may not be a serious problem unless the
to regulate the harmonic amplitude regard to its power sinusoidal shape of the current waveform is required for
capacity. It is understandable that the larger electrical de- some applications, such as metering and protection.
vice can be allowed to generate more harmonic distortion Although there is no standard specify the waveform distor-
than the smaller one. These two types of regulations ap- tion requirement for the inverter under part-load opera-
pears in the standards by using THD and TDD are actually tion, there is a possibility that the harmonic amplitude
referring the same parameter – the amplitude of harmonics. violates the harmonics limitation. Analysis of harmonic
For example, the sum of harmonic amplitudes of 5% THD distortion for the inverter under different operating condi-
measured at full load condition is exactly equals to 5% tion is needed.
TDD for the same device. Ultimately, the utility only in- The low order current harmonic components amplitude
tend to regulate the harmonic amplitudes of each device are measured for three different power levels which are
with considering their power capacity to ensure the grid indicated by P/Pr (65.4%, 11.5% and 4.68%) as shown in
performance. Fig. 8. The harmonic amplitude changes as the power level
The harmonic amplitude is calculated to evaluate the changes. It can be seen that the 3rd and 7th harmonic
harmonic distortion. It is shown in Figs. 7 and 8 that amplitudes increase, in absolute terms, as the power level
although the current THD is many times higher than it is decreases. The field measurement results show the same
under full-power operation, the changes of harmonic abso- trend as the analysis results which are given in the end of
lute amplitude are relatively small compared with the THD Section 3. Hence, the analysis result is validated. DC-link
Y. Du et al. / Solar Energy 94 (2013) 182–194 189

voltage variation due to MPPT is the major cause of the Capacitor

harmonic amplitude increase. But the 5th harmonic ampli- discharging
tude decreases. This may be caused by the quantization and 2P o

resolution effects of the measurement. This paper intends PAC

to explain the harmonic variation trend under different Po
power levels, the quantitative analysis will be carried out
in the future work. 0
5. Model of PV inverter with the DC-link voltage ripple Vmax

It can be seen from the previous section that only the
grid voltage harmonics could possibly cause low order har- Vmin
monics in the output current. However, there is a series of VDC

odd harmonics appears in the output current especially for
the two-stage inverter, although there is no harmonics pre- 0
0 π/ 2 π 3π/ 2 2π
sents in the grid voltage. This phenomenon is also reported
in Darwish et al. (2011); Wang et al. (2011) which indicate Fig. 9. Waveform of output power and DC-link voltage within one line
that there is an unidentified harmonics sources apart from period.
these causes which summarized in Section 3. However fur-
ther analysis has not been provided. For two-stage inverter, According to Eq. (9) that the voltage ripple amplitude de-
there is a design flexibility that allow relatively large ripple pends on both Po and VDC. For the single-stage inverter,
on DC-link, since it will not affect the MPPT efficiency. In the capacitor voltage and PV voltage are the same. Since
the situation where a double-line frequency voltage ripple the VDC is cancelled out in Eq. (9) for this case, the voltage
appears on the DC-link, this ripple could be the cause of ripple varies as PV current changes. For the two-stage in-
current harmonics and this needs to be verified. The cur- verter, the DC-link voltage is controlled separately by the
rent control loop is analyzed to identify the characteristics second stage. The voltage ripple Vrip decreases as the out-
of the output current spectrum. put power level Po decreases. This section focuses on ana-
lyzing the harmonic caused by a certain amount of voltage
5.1. Amplitude of the DC-link voltage ripple ripple.

In single-phase inverters, a voltage ripple at double-line

frequency can be found on the DC-link. This is because of 5.2. Model of inverter with the DC-link voltage ripple
the unbalance of the instantaneous DC input and AC out-
put power. The AC output instantaneous power, PAC, con- Fig. 10 shows the model of the inverter which is based
tains a pulsation at double-line frequency. The DC output on Fig. 4 and has taken into account the DC-link voltage
power of PV modules is controlled to be relatively constant ripple. The inverter transfer function Ginv in Fig. 4 is
at MPP for a given solar insolation. Hence, the power pul- replaced by the section under the triangle shading which
sation caused by the single-phase power generation is con- is a sinusoidal signal Vrip at double-line frequency on top
verted into static storage energy on the decoupling of the DC component VDC. Since the voltage ripple is
capacitor CDC. time-varying, the transfer function for this section cannot
The double-line frequency oscillation of the output be derived. In McGrath and Holmes (2009) the authors
power will introduce a ripple voltage on the DC-link volt- point out that close-form solutions cannot be derived when
age with the same frequency but phase-shifted. Fig. 9 the harmonic ripple components are not neglected. How-
shows the waveforms of output power and DC-link voltage ever, numeric solutions can be evaluated for any particular
in one line period. The DC-link voltage waveform is com- operating condition by using this model.
posed of a double-line frequency voltage ripple on top of a The harmonic characteristics of the output current in
relatively constant voltage VDC. The peak to peak value of Fig. 10 can be identified by qualitatively analyzing the sim-
the DC-link voltage ripple, Vrip, derived as Eq. (12) in plified loop model. The section under the triangle shading
Krein et al. (2012), is used and rearranged as (9) in this is also known as the amplitude modulation, the feedback
paper. loop with unit delay is shown in Fig. 11, where Z1 denotes
Po the delay of a unit sample period. Compared with Fig. 10,
V rip ¼ ð9Þ in this simplified model several linear blocks are left out.
2pfC DC V DC
Due to the system linearity, the signal frequency character-
where f is the utility frequency 50 Hz, CDC is the DC-link istics will remain the same. An analysis method in sound
capacitor, and Po is the inverter output power. The atmo- processing research (Kleimola et al., 2011) is used to ana-
spheric variables such as the solar insolation and the ambi- lyze this simplified time-varying system. Two discrete-time
ent temperature can affect the voltage ripple amplitude. sinusoidal signals Iref[n] = cos (xon) and Vrip[n] = cos (2xo-
190 Y. Du et al. / Solar Energy 94 (2013) 182–194

Switch Grid Voltage

Harmonics +Vg harmonics

S1 S2 S3 S5
Iref GPI G PWM Gf I out

Vrip V DC


Fig. 10. Model of inverter with the DC-link voltage ripple.

y½n ¼ cosðxo nÞ½cosð2xo nÞ þ V DC   cosðxo ½n  1Þ

 ½cosð2xo ½n  1Þ þ V DC ½cosð2xo nÞ þ V DC 
þ cosðxo ½n  2Þ½cosð2xo ½n  2Þ þ V DC 
Iref [n]=cos(w0 n)
Z  ½cosð2xo ½n  1Þ þ V DC ½cosð2xo nÞ þ V DC 
 cosðxo ½n  3Þ½cosð2xo ½n  3Þ þ V DC 
Vrip [n]=cos(2w0 n)
 ½cosð2xo ½n  2Þ þ V DC ½cosð2xo ½n  1Þ
Fig. 11. Amplitude modulation in unit delay feedback.
þ V DC ½cosð2xo nÞ þ V DC  ð13Þ
This amplitude modulation in a feedback loop generates
a series of odd harmonics. The first product term in (13) is
n) are used as an example. The output signal y[n] can be analyzed as an example. According to Euler’s formula, this
written as the reference signal cos (xon) minus the delayed term can be expressed as the sum of sinusoids with angular
output signal y[n  1] then multiplied with the amplitude velocity xo and 3xo, which is the fundamental and 3rd
modulation section under the triangle shading, which is harmonics.
cos (2xon) + VDC.
y½n ¼ cosðxo nÞ½cosð2xo nÞ þ V DC 
y½n ¼ ½cos ðxo nÞ  y½n  1½cos ð2xo nÞ þ V DC 
1 1
¼ cosðxo nÞ½cos ð2xo nÞ þ V DC   y½n ¼ cosðxo nÞV DC þ cosð3xo nÞ þ cosðxo nÞ ð14Þ
2 2
 1½cosð2xo nÞ þ V DC  ð10Þ
5.3. Output spectrum formation via frequency shifting and
The initial condition, y[n] = 0, for n 6 0, xo is the angu- summation
lar velocity of a signal at the fundamental frequency, VDC
is a constant value. It worth noting that, in practice, the According to the modulation property of Fourier trans-
delay element requires memory, at any point in time n, form that multiplication in the time domain is equivalent to
we need to store y[n  1] so that it can be used in the com- convolution in the frequency domain, the output spectrum
putation y[n]. The y[n  1] is: of Fig. 11 is evaluated. The convolution process can be
illustrated by taking the under shading section in Fig. 11
y½n  1 ¼ ½cosðxo ½n  1Þ  y½n  1  1½cosð2xo ½n  1Þ as an example, which transforms to a convolution integral
þ V DC  ¼ cosðxo ½n  1Þ½cosð2xo ½n  1Þ þ V DC  in the frequency domain:
yðxÞ ¼ I ref ðxÞ  ½V rip ðxÞ þ V DC 
 y½n  2½cosð2xo ½n  1Þ þ V DC  ð11Þ Z þ1
¼ I ref ðlÞV rip ðx  lÞdl þ V DC
Substitute (11) into (10) 1
Z þ1
y½n ¼ cosðxo nÞ½cosð2xo nÞ þ V DC   cosðxo ½n  1Þ  I ref ðlÞdl ð15Þ
 ½cosð2xo ½n  1Þ þ V DC ½cosð2xo nÞ þ V DC 
Fig. 12 illustrates this process graphically, Fig. 12a is the
þ y½n  2½cosð2xo ½n  1Þ þ V DC ½cosð2xo nÞ representation of (14) in the frequency domain, the output
þ V DC  ð12Þ spectrum of Fig. 12a is used as the input signals for
Fig. 12b which simulates the recursive process of the feed-
This feedback expression can be expanded into an infi- back loop. The upper trace shows the input signal Iref(x)
nite summation of products given by: spectrum, the second trace shows the spectrum of
Vrip(x) + VDC. The next three traces show the positively,
Y. Du et al. / Solar Energy 94 (2013) 182–194 191

-3w -w DC w 3w -5w -3w -w DC w 3w 5w

Spectrum of I ref (w)

Spectrum of V rip (w)+VDC

Iref (w) convolved with Vrip (+w)

Iref (w) convolved with VDC

Iref (w) convolved with Vrip (-w)

Spectrum of output y (w)

-3w -w DC w 3w -5w -3w -w DC w 3w 5w

(a) (b)
Fig. 12. Output signal spectrum of amplitude modulation formed via frequency shifting and summation.

none and negatively shifted input spectrum, while the lower tracks the reference. The simulation result of this schematic
trace shows the superposition of the frequency-shifted diagram is verified to match the experiment result (Trigg
spectrum. and Nayar, 2006). The specifications for the Simulink
It can be seen in Fig. 12b that the resulting spectrum model are shown in Table 4. The inverter used in the sim-
consists of 3rd and 5th harmonics. Further expanding ulation is been designed to be similar to the one used for
(13) and substituting with sinusoidal signals leads to the measurements. The parameters which can be obtained
conclusion that the resulting spectrum is an infinite sum- from the product specification are chosen for this simula-
mation of odd harmonics. The frequency domain convolu- tion, such as the power capability, input and output volt-
tion can be transformed back to the time domain and then age. However, the inverters installed in the CSIRO
the Fourier series can be obtained for the output signal. microgrid are commercial products and the control param-
However, it is not practical to use (13) to determine a eters stored inside the internal processor are not available
closed-form analytical solution in the feedback loop, to the public. The realistic values for these parameters
because of the infinite summation. This verified the hypoth- are chosen, and a sensitivity analysis shows that different
esis that the DC-link voltage ripple causes a series of odd control parameters do not greatly affect the harmonic
harmonics. characteristics.
The simulation of the modified model in Fig. 10 is
6. Simulation results shown in Fig. 14. In order to allow for reproducible
research, the Simulink models are available from the corre-
The simulation of the single-phase PV inverter is shown sponding author upon request. The harmonic sources can
in Fig. 13. This model, developed by using the Matlab/Sim- be set independently, and the comprehensive effects of all
ulink SimPowerSystems toolbox, comprises components harmonics can be analyzed through a graphical user inter-
such as the power stage (full-bridge inverter) and elements face (powergui). The switch harmonics are simulated by a
such as inductors, capacitors and resistors. The program- series of high frequency sinusoidal signals for the switch
mable voltage source is used to simulate the AC grid with frequency 20 k Hz. The grid harmonics are simulated by
the ability to inject the voltage harmonic distortion. The a series of low frequency sinusoidal signals. In Fig. 14 only
current control scheme is used to ensure the output current the first three odd harmonics are added, but it can be easily
192 Y. Du et al. / Solar Energy 94 (2013) 182–194

Fig. 13. Conventional simulink model for PV inverter.

grid voltage harmonic distortion is set as zero, hence the

Table 4
Specifications of the 1 kVA inverter. low order harmonic caused only by the DC-link voltage
ripple. The other parameters are set as shown in Table 4,
Parameter Label Value Unit
and the DC-link ripple is 47.3 V in this case. Fig. 15b shows
Rated Power Pr 1 kVA
that the simulation result of proposed model matches well
Rated output frequency f 50 Hz
Rated output voltage Vg 240 V with the inverter simulation result Fig. 15a which has been
DC-link capacitance CDC 100 lF proved matches the experimental results (Trigg and Nayar,
DC-link voltage VDC 600 V 2006). A series of odd harmonics can be found in Fig. 15,
Filter inductance L 8.35 mH and this validates the characteristics of the harmonic spec-
Switch frequency fsw 20 kHz
trum described in Section 5. This simulation result proves
Proportional gain kp 0.06 N/A
Integral gain ki 800 N/A the DC-link voltage ripple generate a series odd harmonics
in the output current. Both models are run in Matlab/Sim-
ulink on the same computer, the modified signal model is
expanded to any frequency and set separately based on the 20 times faster than the model in Fig. 13.
local power quality. The amplitude of the DC-link voltage By using the modified model, the effect of the DC-link
ripple can be calculated based on (9) or measured directly voltage variation on the harmonic impedance which is
from the DC-link. PLL harmonics can be set as the results mentioned in Section 3.3, is verified. The DC-link voltage
shown in Fig. 5. has been set as three different valves (a. VDC = 400 V, b.
A comparison of the switch model simulation in Fig. 13 VDC = 500 V, c. VDC = 600 V) and the DC-link voltage
and the modified signal model in Fig. 14 is carried out. The ripple is set as zero. Substituting the parameters from
reference current Iref is set as 5 A for both models and the Table 4 into the loop transfer function (3):

Fig. 14. Simulink model for proposed current control scheme.

Y. Du et al. / Solar Energy 94 (2013) 182–194 193

Fig. 15. Simulation results from conventional model and proposed representation.

Bode Diagram light load conditions, the VDC decrease as long as Pac
decreases, so the harmonic components caused by the grid
-30 voltage should increase.
Magnitude (dB)

System: a
-40 Frequency (Hz): 150
System: b
Frequency (Hz): 150
Magnitude (dB): -50.4
Magnitude (dB): -52.4

-60 System: c 7. Conclusion

Frequency (Hz): 150
Magnitude (dB): -54.1
In this paper, a general model which modified from a
-80 conventional control structure diagram, has been intro-
90 duced to analyze the harmonic formation process. By using
this model the conclusion is found that several low order
45 harmonic amplitudes increase when PV inverter output
Phase (deg)

c power decrease. This conclusion has been validated by
0 the field measurement results. This model can be used to
design an inverter with better power quality performance.
For example, if the harmonic amplitudes at low power lev-
els need to be reduced, the designer should focus on atten-
3 uation of the harmonic distortion from the grid voltage
Frequency (Hz) rather than other harmonic sources, or increasing of the
DC-link voltage.
Fig. 16. Bode plot of current control scheme under different DC-link
The main finding of this work is a new time-varying
model that is capable of analyzing the harmonic character-
istics of a two-stage inverter and showing their dependence
s on the DC link voltage. Since this paper is mainly focused
I out gharmonics ¼ Vg harmonics
8:35  103 s2 þ 36s þ 4:8  105 on analyzing the variation and characteristic of the har-
ð16Þ monics, a detailed quantities analysis of the harmonic for-
mation process will be addressed in future work.

The Bode diagram of (16) is shown in Fig. 16. The loop

gain can be read from Fig. 16, and the harmonic impedance Acknowledgements
is the reciprocal of this gain. The harmonic impedance for
the DC-link voltage levels a, b, c are 331, 416 and 506 The authors are grateful for the assistance of Mr. Tim
respectively. The harmonic components are calculated for Moore who supervised the experimental work supporting
the three different voltage levels, by assuming the 3rd har- this study and to Dr. John Ward for critical remarks.
monic component is 1% Vg (230V  1 = 2.3 V). As shown The work presented in this paper was funded by CSIRO
in (4), the 3rd harmonic components in the output current under an OCE scholarship. The CSIRO Microgrid was
are 2.3/331 = 6.95  103A, 2.3/416 = 5.52  103 A and partly funded by the Australian Department of Environ-
2.3/506 = 4.54  103 A respectively. In other words, the ment, Water, Heritage and the Arts under Grant No.
large DC-link voltage (c. VDC = 600 V) shows a better per- RDG 08-29. The authors would like to thank the anony-
formance at attenuating the grid voltage distortion. For mous reviewers for their helpful comments.
194 Y. Du et al. / Solar Energy 94 (2013) 182–194

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