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A Modular Multilevel Inverter Using Single DC Voltage Source for Static Var Compensators

Firman Sasongko1 and Pekik Argo Dahono2

School of Electrical Engineering and Informatics, Institute of Technology Bandung Jl. Ganesha 10, Bandung 40132, Indonesia
1 2

firman@konversi.ee.itb.ac.id pekik@konversi.ee.itb.ac.id

Abstract Multilevel inverter has emerged as a new solution of power converter for high power applications. Many efforts have been done to obtain the best performance of multilevel inverter to provide the need of power converter for high-power mediumvoltage applications. Multilevel inverter using modular-cascaded topology with single dc voltage source is presented in this manuscript. Inverter topology, features and control method will be discussed. Simulation and experimental results for static var compensator application are included to verify the effectiveness of the proposed method.

alternative solution to achieve a simple structure converter with a fast control response for high-power applications. The concept of multilevel converters has been introduced since 1975. Since then, various multilevel converter topologies were proposed [10][13]. These converters are suitable for high-power medium-voltage applications. The main advantage of multilevel converter is that high output voltage can be obtained without series connection of switching devices. Moreover, better output waveforms can be obtained without the need of high switching frequency Keywords Modular multilevel inverter, control system, static operation with the associated high switching losses. Several inverter topologies are available today for var compensator. multilevel output voltage operation [10][12]. Diode-clamped multilevel inverter, especially the three-level inverter, also I. INTRODUCTION Reactive power compensation has become an indispensable known as neutral-point clamped (NPC) inverter, has found requirement to provide a better power system performance [1], wide application in high-power medium-voltage (MV) drives. [2]. Var compensator system has three major roles: improving This inverter topology has some drawbacks such as additional the transient stability, damping the power oscillation, and clamping diodes, complicated PWM switching pattern design, supporting the grid voltage to prevent voltage instability. In and possible deviation of neutral point voltage. Another recent years, static var compensators are preferable to their apparent multilevel topology is the multilevel flying-capacitor traditional counterpart of using rotating synchronous inverter which evolved from the two-level inverter by adding condenser and mechanically switched capacitors or inductors dc capacitors to the cascaded switches. However, this inverter [3][6]. Static var compensator provides faster time response topology has some limitations including the need of a large to absorb or generate the reactive power. The advances of number of dc capacitors with separate pre-charge circuits and power electronic devices, analytical tools, and micro- complex capacitor voltage balancing control problem. Cascaded H-bridge (CHB) multilevel inverter is one of the computer technologies has create the more sophisticated popular converter topologies used in high-power mediumpower converter to be used for static var compensator and voltage applications. It is composed of a multiple units of other high-power applications. single-phase H-bridge power cells. The H-bridge cells are Multilevel system is especially important in high-power applications such as Flexible AC Transmission System normally connected in cascade on their ac side to obtain (FACTS). At present, most of FACTS controllers that have medium-voltage operation and low harmonic distortion. In been installed worldwide are using conventional two-level practice, the number of power cells in a CHB inverter is inverter modules that are interconnected by using a special mainly determined by its operating voltage and manufacturing design multipulse transformer [7][9]. In order to reduce the cost. The use of identical power cells leads to a modular switching losses, the inverter switching devices are switched structure, which is an effective means for cost reduction. In at the fundamental frequency. The transformer is configured this inverter topology, however, a number of isolated dc in such a way so that certain low-frequency harmonics are sources for each H-bridge cell are needed. Thus, a complex eliminated. The output voltage is controlled by adjusting the control method is required to ensure voltage balance in each dc voltage of the inverter with the consequence of slow dc capacitor [13]. In this paper, a new modular multilevel inverter topology control response. Thus, a multilevel inverter may become an based on cascaded H-bridge cells is proposed. Neither

complicated transformer nor separate dc sources are required. A single dc source is used for the whole single-phase H-bridge cells. High output voltage is accomplished by the use of identical single-phase transformer connected in series at the ac side. Each cell output voltage can be controlled using phase difference between each leg. The output voltage harmonics are minimized by controlling the phase differences of Hbridge cells. By using fundamental switching frequency, all H-bridge cells have identical device rating and utilization factor. The proposed inverter topology and also control scheme for static var compensator are presented. Simulated results show the effectiveness of the proposed multilevel inverter for static var compensator application. II. PROPOSED TOPOLOGY Multilevel inverter can be considered as a series connection of several ac voltage sources as shown in Fig. 1. In most applications, the resultant of the voltage must be adjustable in magnitude and low in harmonic contents. In high-power applications, PWM switching operation is avoided because of switching losses problem. Thus, the inverter switching devices must be operated at fundamental frequency. To comply with these constraints, the following methods can be chosen: i) Controlling the dc voltage and using a special connection transformer to reduce the harmonics. ii) Controlling the devices gating signals to produce a staircase waveform which control the output voltage and reduce harmonic contents. The first method is simple but the response is slow because of large time constant of dc circuit. Moreover, a special transformer connection is necessary. The second method is more promising because of faster control response by using controlled switching of inverter legs. Separate dc sources are necessary if no galvanic isolation provided in the ac side. Using many large dc electrolytic capacitors is prone to failure. Therefore, using single dc capacitors with galvanic isolated system is preferable here. Several choices are available to use transformer as a galvanic means. A special connected transformer can be used to reduce the harmonics, which however, different transformers have to be used if the number of levels is changed. Thus, modularity of the system cannot be achieved.
V1 V2 V3 V4 V5 Vout V2 V3 Vout

The preferred system is the one without custom-made transformer. An ordinary transformer can be used to reduce the harmonic contents by controlling the gating signals of the inverters. Reference [13] proposes the gating pattern as the one shown in Fig. 2 which produced a staircase waveform. However, utilization factor of each level is different and so does the losses of each level and cooling system requirements. A. Circuit Arrangement Fig. 3 shows the topology of the proposed modular multilevel inverter discussed in this paper. All single-phase Hbridge inverter and transformer are identical, therefore, can be considered as one module for each level. A single large dc capacitor is connected in parallel on dc side. IGCTs or IGBTs can be used as the switching devices. In practice, a small LCL filter is usually connected on the ac side to reduce high-order harmonics. As the output voltage levels increase, the filter may be omitted. The proposed method produces a staircase waveform by controlling the phase angle differences among inverter levels. In general, for N H-bridge cells, the optimum phase angle difference is 60o/N which associated with the order of harmonic contents of (1) For example, in three-, four-, and five-cell system, the required phase angle difference is 20o, 15o, and 12o respectively. By using N = 5, the minimum harmonic order is 29 which can be eliminated easily by a very small filter.



-5Vdc va1 va2 4 3 2 1 5 -5 -4 -3 -2 -1


V1 V2 V3 V4

va3 va4 va5

V4 V5 V5

Fig. 1. Series connection and phasor diagram of several voltage sources.

Fig. 2. Output voltage of cascaded multilevel inverter.




vN2 vN2 vN3




vN1 = v1 - v2

Vdc -Vdc

vN4 vN3

vN5 5Vdc vN4

Fig. 4. Signal waveform of each inverter leg in each cell.

It can be seen from (2) and (4) that the output voltage varies linearly to cosines of 2. This feature has the advantage to generate a simple switching control scheme. C. Comparative Evaluation In order to clarify the performance of the proposed modular multilevel inverter system, a conceptual design of static var compensator with 10 MVAR rating is used. It is assumed that the static var compensator is designed to operate on mediumvoltage of distribution system (20 kV). The proposed multilevel inverter design is then compared to the ones using quad-series [9] and cascaded [13] inverter systems. Using the most advanced power switching devices with rating up to 6kV/6kA, the dc source voltage can be as high as 3.1 kV. Table I shows performance comparison among the three types of static var compensator.

van 12o -5Vdc n


Fig. 3. Modular cascaded multilevel inverter and its waveform.

B. Output Voltage Control Inverter cell output voltage of the proposed multilevel inverter is determined by phase difference of each leg. Each single-phase H-bridge inverter is operated under quasi squarewave mode as shown in Fig. 4, ensuring the same utilization factors of each level. The effective output voltage is controlled by adjusting the angle. The effective fundamental voltage of each cell can be defined as ( ) (2)

Aspects Voltage level Capacitor DC voltage Transformer Converter construction Utilization factor Power switch Control strategies DC unbalance problem Response time THD

For N H-bridge cells, the general expression of phase output voltage can be obtained as [( ) ( ))] ( ) ( (3)

Inverter Topology Quad-series Cascade Proposed 11 21 21 1 15 1 3100 V 3100 V 3100 V Complex 15 configuration single phase S P = 1:2 1:1 S YP = :2 Identical but not Identical Identical modular and modular and modular equal 24 angle No Medium 8.7% unequal 60 angle and MI Yes Fast 6.6 7.2% equal 60 and angle No Fast 3.6 7.6%

where h is odd harmonic number only. For N = 5, using transformer ratio of 1 : r, the phase-to-phase effective fundamental output voltage is ( ) (4)

III. CONTROL METHOD A static var compensator can be considered as voltage source converter which connected in parallel to the power grid through series inductance as shown in Fig. 5. The line resistance is usually very small and can be neglected. The objective of multilevel inverter control system is to ensure dc voltage and reactive power flow at a desired command. When the inverter voltage vi is higher than grid voltage vg, inverter current will lead the voltage by 90o (reactive power injection). On the contrary if the inverter voltage vi is smaller than grid voltage vg, then inverter current will lag the voltage by 90o (reactive power absorption). Thus, controlling the inverter voltage magnitude means controlling the reactive power flow. Although theoretically var compensator does not exchange active power to the grid, the inverter internal losses will cause the capacitor voltage to deviate from its nominal value. By adjusting the phase angle between inverter and grid voltages, the active current will flow in/out to keep the dc voltage constant.
Vdc vi ii vg

(7) From (7), the active and reactive power control can directly be determined by active and reactive current provided a constant grid voltage. Therefore, controlling the reactive current iiq alone is sufficient to control reactive power to the grid. Moreover, to keep a constant dc voltage by controlling active power flow, only the active current iid need to be controlled. Thus, a fast current controller is desirable in this method to achieve the system with fast dynamic time response. A. Static Var Compensator with Proposed Multilevel Inverter The complete control system and block diagram of the proposed static var compensator is shown in Fig. 6. There are two reference values in this system, which are the dc voltage reference and q-axis current reference which proportional to reactive power q. The control system will then produce * and * commands, which will control the active and reactive power respectively. The *and * angle can be obtained from d- and q-axis voltage references as ( ) ( ) ) ( ) (9) (8)

Static Var Compensator
Vg Leading Reactive Power Ii Vg Vi Charging Vg Vi VL Discharging Ii jLCIi Vi Ii jLCIi

Power Grid

Lagging Reactive Power Vi VL Vg


Fig. 5. Static var compensator model and its operation modes.

The circuit equation for three-phase system as in Fig. 5 can be written as [ ] [ ] [ ] (5)

In dq synchronous reference frame, this equation can be written as follows: [ ][ ] [ ]


where K is a topology characteristic constant and r is the transformer ratio. The K value will be unique for each cell numbers as in (3) with h = 1. For N = 5, K is equal to 7.45, while for N = 3, K is equal to 4.49. The inverter output voltage must be synchronized to the power grid voltage. For this purpose, a phase locked loop (PLL) circuit is used to obtain the grid voltage angle . This angle will be used for all dq transformation process. The dc voltage reference is compared to the actual dc capacitor voltage which then will be processed by a PI controller to generate the d-axis current reference . The actual d- and q-axis currents, which obtained from inverter currents using dq transformation, are then compared to the reference values and the PI current controllers will compensate the errors. The output of the current controllers is the desired d-axis and q-axis inverter output voltages. By using a look up table, the required and angle can be determined. B. Decoupled Current Control The plant block diagram as shown in Fig. 6 implies that the d- and q-axis currents cannot be controlled independently. To solve the coupling problem, a feed-forward technique as shown in current controller block diagram of Fig. 6 is used. The actual output currents Iid and Iiq are multiplied by the line reactance LC to produce additional signals to cancel out the coupling effects. By using this method, the d-axis currents can

where is system frequency; the subscript d and q are daxis and q-axis voltage/current component respectively. Because the grid voltage vector is always aligned with daxis voltage component vgd, the q-axis component of grid voltage vgq is always zero. The instantaneous active and reactive power in dq synchronous reference frame can be expressed as [14]

Power Grid

Iid* Iid

vg abc

Current Vgd Controller Gcd

Vgd Vid*

1 sLC Iid

Inverter Multilevel Modular

GVdc Vdc*




Control System

ii abc ii vi
Modular Multilevel Inverter

Vdc* * *
Switching Modulator

Vdc Iiq









1 sLC


Proposed Static Var Compensator System

Iiq* = q*/Vg

Fig. 6. Proposed static var compensator system and its control block diagram.

be controlled independently as shown in Fig. 7. The control method for q-axis current has the same approach. The inverter is assumed to have a unity gain, so the inverter output voltage Vid is equal to the voltage reference Vid*.
Vgd + LCIiq Iid* Vgd + LCIiq

KC +




1 sLC


C. DC Capacitor Voltage Control Single dc capacitor is used in the proposed system. A simple control system is required to maintain dc voltage level. By avoiding the resonance condition between dc capacitor and line reactor, reduction of the dc voltage fluctuation can be achieved. A simple right-hand rule can be used to determine the required capacitance for single capacitor circuit with nominal reactive power of QVAR [13] as follows: (14)

Fig. 7. Decoupled current control block diagram.

From Fig. 7, the transfer function of d-axis current can be determined as ( ) ( ) (10)

The dc capacitor voltage may deviate from its nominal value because of overall losses in the inverter. The regulation factor of dc voltage is defined as (15) This factor may range from 5-20% practically. Using the regulation factor of 10% in the 10 MVAR of static var compensator system connected to 20 kV of distribution system, the required capacitance C is 8.28 mF for 3.1 kV nominal dc voltage. If the total system losses can be expressed as D, then the inverter active power flow can be defined as (16) The instantaneous dc capacitor voltage can be written as (17)

The damping ratio C and undamped natural frequency nC can be obtained as follows: (11)


By using critically damped control response, the damping ratio is C = 1 and the current control gain KC and time constant TC can be determined as V/A with ms (13)


where Vdc is the average dc voltage and vdc is the dc voltage ripple. From Fig. 6, (16) and (18), the block diagram for dc voltage control can be depicted as in Fig. 8 assuming an ideal current control with unity gain. From Fig. 8, the transfer function can be obtained as ( ) ( ) (19)


The damping ratio dc and undamped natural frequency ndc are given by (20)


Fig. 9. Simulated results when the reactive power is step changed.


By using critically damped control response, the damping ratio is dc =1, leading to control system parameters as follows: (22)

IV. SIMULATION RESULTS To verify the proposed multilevel inverter topology as static var compensator, the simulation using 7-level inverter was carried out. The system configuration and system parameters are shown in Fig. 6 and Table II. The system is connected to low-voltage distribution system of 380 V and controlling a 5 kvar of reactive power flow. The utility voltage is assumed to be balanced three-phase system with constant magnitude and frequency.
Vgd Vdc* D Vdc 1 sCVdc ~ Vdc


Fig. 10. Simulated result of DC capacitor voltage when the reactive power is step changed.

Kdc +

Kdc sTdc



Fig. 8. DC capacitor voltage control block diagram. TABLE II SIMULATION PARAMETERS

System Voltage VG Var Rating QVAR DC Voltage Vdc Interface Inductance LC Source Impedance LS Cell Number N DC Capacitor C Regulation Factor Transformer Turn Ratio r

380 V 50 Hz 5 kvar 97.7V 12% (11 mH) 2% (1.8 mH) 3 8.337 mF 5% 1:1

The simulation results of the proposed static var compensator can be seen from Figs. 910. The system has the capability to inject/absorb 5 kvar of reactive power. Fig. 9 shows the phase voltage and current of the proposed multilevel inverter when the reactive power is change from 2 kvar leading to 5 kvar leading and finally to 5 kvar lagging. The inverter voltage reacts instantaneously whenever the reactive power reference is changed suddenly. Although the reactive power reference changes from injecting to absorbing mode, the inverter voltage can adapt the reactive power demand with fast time response. The dc voltage can be kept constant at approximately 97.7 V and only a small distortion occurs when the reactive power is changed, as can be seen from Fig. 10. The selection of regulation factor will affect the distortion in the capacitor voltage.

V. EXPERIMENTAL SYSTEM To further validate the proposed system and its control strategy as a static var compensator, a prototype of seven-level modular inverter has been built and carry out the experiment based on Table II parameters. The control system will be implemented in dSPACE (DS1104) platform which has MPC8240 250 MHz core processor with DSP TMS320F240 as slave. The controller can provide a powerful system for floating point numbers calculation. For real time evaluation of the control system, a Graphical User Interface (GUI) will be designed using MATLAB/ Simulink and dSPACE platform as can be seen in Fig. 11. The previously explained control scheme will be automatically processed and run in DS1104 via PCI card slot. The GUI platform will provide the input references such as reactive power and capacitor voltage references, and also shows the system parameters continuously, e.g. the system voltage, inverter voltage and current, phase angle, injected reactive power and dc capacitor voltage.

In general, the proposed topology has the advantages of its modularity, equal utilization factors among inverter blocks and simple control procedure. As a single dc capacitor is used, neither unbalance problem nor complex controllers are existed. Thus, the proposed modular multilevel inverter provides some features with which very applicable to low-cost high-power applications. REFERENCES
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[6] [7]



[10] Fig. 11. Experimental control system.

VI. CONCLUSION This paper has proposed a modular cascaded multilevel inverter. Inverter topology, switching pattern and control system for static var compensator have been presented in detail. The simulation results show that the proposed multilevel inverter has a fast dynamic response to inject/absorb reactive power to/from the system. With the proposed control system scheme, the control response can be adjusted as desired. Moreover, the dc voltage can be maintained at a constant level under dynamic condition.

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