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406 IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON POWER DELIVERY, VOL. 22, NO.

1, JANUARY 2007

Overcurrent Protection on Voltage-Source-Converter-


Based Multiterminal DC Distribution Systems
Mesut E. Baran, Senior Member, IEEE, and Nikhil R. Mahajan, Student Member, IEEE

Abstract—This paper proposes a protection scheme which uti- (CBs) and converter action [6]. Protection becomes more chal-
lizes modern voltage-source converters as fast-acting current-lim- lenging for multiterminal dc lines, as dc CBs are needed to iso-
iting circuit breakers. This paper investigates the main challenges late the faulted section of the system. Recently, there have been
of detecting and localizing a fault, and interrupting it as quickly as
possible in a multiterminal dc system. A system protection scheme advances toward the development of dc CBs [7]–[10]. In a re-
consisting of smart relays associated with converters has been de- cent HVdc application [1], an insulated-gate bipolar transistor
veloped. The protection relays monitor local quantities to detect (IGBT)-based dc CB was utilized.
and isolate disturbances/faults. It is shown that overcurrent-based Furthermore, the new semiconductor devices used in the
schemes can be adopted for these relays to meet the fast response new converters have the capability to limit and interrupt fault
requirements. The effectiveness of the proposed protection scheme
is illustrated through simulations. currents [8]. Therefore, it is possible to integrate fault-current
handling capability within the new converters and have them
Index Terms—DC distribution, power-electronic converters,
behave similar to fast-acting current limiting CBs (i.e., limit and
protection.
interrupt the fault current [11]). With this new functionality for
converters, a new challenge emerges, that the protection scheme
should also be able to detect and locate faults more quickly. To
achieve this goal, this paper proposes a new protection system
NOMENCLATURE using relays embedded into the converters. The application
CDCCB Capacitor dc circuit breaker. considered is power distribution on a ship. It is shown that by
ETO Emitter turnoff device. adopting overcurrent-based schemes for these relays, this type
PEBB Power-electronic building block. of system can be protected against faults on the dc lines. It is
also shown that these converter-based relays can detect and
SES Shipboard electrical system.
isolate faults quite fast, on the order of a few milliseconds.
VSC Voltage-source converter.
II. DC SYSTEM PROTECTION
I. INTRODUCTION
The basic task of the protection scheme proposed here is the
same as any other protection scheme—detect and locate any dis-

T HE emergence of voltage-source converters (VSCs) that


use self turnoff power-electronic devices makes dc dis-
tribution an attractive alternative for medium- and low-voltage
turbance that can occur on the system and isolate the affected
area quickly. The prototype system considered for this study is
shown in Fig. 1. It is a revised version of the system considered
distribution in special applications. Present day applications in- by the U.S. Navy for SES [12], [13], and it represents a generic
clude dc ties between two systems at medium-voltage levels [1], multiterminal dc distribution system. The system has two ac
[2], and dc distribution for industrial parks, space, and shipboard sources (generators) feeding the dc line through rectifier con-
electrical systems (SESs) [3], [4]. verters. The boost-type voltage-controlled bridge rectifiers are
One of the main limitations of present day VSCs is that their rated at 4 MW each, and they convert the 4160-V, three-phase
fault current withstand is much lower than that of thyristor- ac voltage to 7 kV dc. In this system, the dc line is a short cable
based converters, typically twice the nominal current rating of (100 m). Sectionalizers have been placed on the middle of the
the converter [5]. Hence, faults on a dc line fed by the VSCs line so that only one side of the line would be out of service
must be limited and interrupted much faster than those on a con- during a fault on the dc line. The loads are supplied through the
ventional HVdc system. dc buck converters or inverters.
Protection of the dc lines requires special consideration. For For protection of such a system, relays and protection devices
a simple two-terminal dc line with two converters, protection is should be placed on the system to detect faults, interrupt fault
usually achieved by a combination of ac-side circuit breakers current, and isolate the faulted part of the system. These design
issues are addressed in the following subsections.

Manuscript received May 25, 2005; revised January 24, 2006. This work was A. Protection Devices
supported by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) under Award N000014-00-1-
0475. Paper no. TPWRD-00315-2005. To provide protection for system components (generators,
The authors are with the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, converters, and loads), the conventional approach would be to
North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695 USA (e-mail: baran@ncsu.
edu; nikhilmahajan@ieee.org). put CBs at the input and output of the converters in order to fa-
Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/TPWRD.2006.877086 cilitate unit protection for each device.
0885-8977/$20.00 © 2006 IEEE

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BARAN AND MAHAJAN: VSC-BASED MULTITERMINAL DC DISTRIBUTION SYSTEMS 407

it serves [14]–[17], no protection device is needed at the


load side. There is no need for a CB on the source side ei-
ther, since the inverter does not feed a fault on the source
side assuming a nonregenerative load (except the input
filter capacitor).
4) DC converter load side zone: Similar to the inverter, the
dc–dc buck converter, when properly designed, can pro-
vide overcurrent protection on the load side. Further-
more, if the dc–dc converter is of the two stage type, as
shown in Fig. 10, the input side switches can also pro-
Fig. 1. Prototype dc distribution system with CBs. vide fault isolation on the source side. Hence, with this
functionality, there is no need for a protection device at
either terminal of the dc-dc converter.
The alternative approach, which has been considered here, Capacitor Protection: When a fault occurs on the dc line, the
is to use the converters themselves for fault current interrup- capacitors connected to the dc line (such as the filter capacitors
tion. In [11], for example, it has been shown that VSCs used at rectifier output, and inverter and the dc–dc converter inputs)
for dc distribution can limit fault current and interrupt it and, start to discharge with a very short time constant and contribute
hence, they can be used as current-limiting CBs. Furthermore, to high fault currents. Therefore, the capacitors connected to the
converters have overcurrent protection on the power semicon- dc buses of converters demand special attention in the form of
ductor switches to protect the switches when the current through their own protection. Protection of the capacitors is typically
a switch gets close to its limit. Therefore, this switch level pro- done at a hardware level by way of snubbers [17] which limit
tection employed on the converter can serve as a backup over- the rate of discharge current. The snubbers, however, do not in-
current protection relay. terrupt fault current. To limit and interrupt the discharge cur-
Hence, in this study, the CBs are assumed to be embedded rent during a fault, a protection device is needed. For the proto-
within the converters. As a result, the protection zones defined type application, a CDCCB has been employed [8] as shown in
by them will not be device based, and Fig. 2 illustrates the main Fig. 3.
zones defined by embedded CBs on the prototype dc system. Without the snubber, the time constant of the capacitor dis-
Note that there will be four main zones. charge current will be around 10 s. Hence, the CDCCB should
1) DC zone: The dc line supplies power to all of the loads also be very fast in order to effectively protect the capacitor from
and, therefore, it is the most critical component for pro- extreme stresses and destruction [16], [17]. In [5] and [8], it is
tection. It is also the one that is exposed the most to the shown that indeed an ETO-based CDCCB can be used to turn
faults/damage. Note that since the switches in the con- off and interrupt fault current in less than 10 s, thereby meeting
verters will be conducting the fault interruption, the pro- the requirement set forth.
tection zone is defined by the switches of the converters The operating principle of the CDCCB is based on the in-
that are connected to the line side of the rectifiers, in- herent current sensing of the ETO [5]. The measured current is
verters, and the dc converters. The zone, therefore, in- compared to a 2.1-kA threshold (maximum limit of the DCCB
cludes not only the dc line but also the dc rails of the con- kA). When the capacitor current crosses this threshold, a
verters connected to the dc line, as the figure illustrates. hard turnoff is initiated which limits the current from further in-
Note that to protect the dc line itself by using conven- crease and interrupts the current in 3–7 s, thus protecting the
tional schemes; we would need a CB at every connec- capacitor satisfactorily. Fig. 4 illustrates the capacitor discharge
tion point, as illustrated in Fig. 1. The proposed scheme current limiting using the CDCCB. This case corresponds to
eliminates these extra CBs. the discharge of the rectifier output capacitor on the prototype
2) Rectifier ac side zone: A protection device is needed system in Fig. 2, and the simulation is done using EMTDC soft-
at the source side terminals of the rectifier to provide ware [19], [20]. As the figure illustrates, the fault at s
protection against faults on the input filter elements of causes the capacitor discharge current to rise very rapidly, and it
the rectifier, as these elements are upstream of rectifier crosses the threshold level of 2 kA in about 4 s, at which time,
switches. Fig. 2 illustrates this small zone. In terrestrial the CDCCB interrupts the fault current. As the figure illustrates,
applications, the protection device at the rectifier input this is a very effective method of discharge current limiting. Its
would usually be an ac CB. However, for the prototype use is warranted here for two reasons: 1) to limit the amount of
system considered, fuses have been chosen instead of energy to be dumped by the capacitor to the dc cable and 2) to
CBs, as Fig. 2 illustrates, mainly since the fault in this limit the discharge currents that will flow through the converter
protection zone will be permanent rather than tempo- switches following a fault since if they are not limited, the high
rary. Thus, there is no need for a fast reclosing capability discharge currents can damage the switches.
that the CB can provide. Also, the compactness of fuses
is an important advantage for the shipboard systems. B. Fault Monitoring and Protection
3) Inverter load-side zone: The inverters are tapped off the
dc line to supply power to the ac loads. Since the in- For detecting faults and operating appropriate protective de-
verter can provide overcurrent protection for the loads vices, a protection system consisting of relays integrated with

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408 IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON POWER DELIVERY, VOL. 22, NO. 1, JANUARY 2007

Fig. 2. Zones for the prototype dc system without separate CBs.

Fig. 3. CDCCB protection.

each VSC has been considered. The goal here is to provide au-
tonomy to the relays so that they can take fast action. The chal-
lenge to be addressed here is to provide enough intelligence for
the relays to ensure that they will make correct decisions. The
details about these relays embedded in the rectifier, buck con-
verter, and the inverter are given below.
1) Rectifier Relay: The faults on the dc line are the most se-
vere faults on the system. In the prototype application, the pri-
mary concern is the bus fault (short-circuiting of the two termi-
nals of the dc line) since it will cause high fault currents from
the rectifiers.
The smoothing capacitors at the output terminals of the rec-
tifier will react to a dc bus fault first and start discharging very
fast, as the bus fault will cause the dc bus voltage to collapse
very fast. As pointed out in the previous section, that is why the
capacitors need a very fast acting device, such as CDCCB, to
limit and interrupt this high discharge current.
A typical bridge-type boost rectifier (with antiparallel diodes) Fig. 4. Capacitor discharge current during a fault and its interruption by
will also feed high current to the fault, as the rectifier will act like CDCCB. (a) Capacitor discharge. (b) Zoom-in of (a).
a diode bridge once the dc terminal voltage collapses. Hence, the
rectifier diodes need to be replaced with turnoff devices in order overcurrent protection scheme: if I_R passes a threshold value
to be able to interrupt the current before it gets too high [11]. and stays above it for a certain amount of time, it assumes that
To detect the faults on the dc side of the rectifier, the relay there is a fault on the dc side of the rectifier. To improve the secu-
monitors the dc output current I_R shown in Fig. 5 and uses an rity of this scheme, the relay also monitors the dc bus voltage,

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BARAN AND MAHAJAN: VSC-BASED MULTITERMINAL DC DISTRIBUTION SYSTEMS 409

Fig. 7. Fuse operation.

The relay also monitors the input ac line currents I_A, I_B, or
I_C, to decide whether the fault is on the dc or ac side. If the fault
is on the ac side, the output current I_R will not rise. Hence, by
Fig. 5. Zones around the rectifier.
monitoring ac-side currents, the relay detects ac-side faults and
turns off the rectifier switches in order to isolate the fault. Note
that this action does not interrupt the ac-side fault current. The
ac-side faults are interrupted by the fuse, as illustrated below.
Rectifier Fuse: As pointed out above, fuses at the source side
of rectifiers are needed to protect the rectifier ac zone shown
in Fig. 5. The fuse provides the primary protection for the L–L
faults and the three-phase faults on the ac source side of the rec-
tifier. The fuse will not operate for ground faults, as the system
is high resistance grounded. The fuse also provides backup pro-
tection for the rectifier relay.
The fuse should be fast enough so that the upstream protec-
tion does not trip before the fuse blows, and it should be slow
enough so that the downstream protection has enough time to
operate. Since the downstream protection in this case is much
faster than the operation times of a fuse, coordination of the
fuse with the downstream relay of the rectifier PEBB is not a
problem. For the prototype system, the current profiles are: 1)
the nominal line current is about 450 A (rms), 2) the startup
current is about 1.5 kA (rms) for about 5–10 ms (due to initial
capacitor charging via rectifier PEBB), and 3) the fault current
level is about 10–30 kA (depending on the fault being after/be-
Fig. 6. Fault current limiting by the rectifier. (a) Generator currents. (b) Recti- fore the source inductor). Hence, a 500E-rated fuse is appro-
fier current. priate for this application, and the EJO-1 type 9F62 fuse from
GE has been considered for the prototype system.
and checks whether the voltage drops below 80% of its rated To demonstrate the fuse operation, a fuse model was devel-
value. When both the overcurrent and low-voltage conditions oped for EMTDC/PSCAD to represent the fuse melting and
are satisfied, the relay sends a trip signal to the rectifier to inter- clearing. A phase A–B fault at the rectifier input terminals has
rupt the current and isolate the rectifier from the dc line. been simulated, and the results are shown in Fig. 7. As the figure
Simulation results for a dc bus fault are shown in Fig. 6. Fol- shows, following the fault at s, the line currents
lowing the fault at , the bus capacitor discharges into I_A and I_B start increasing and they are limited only by the
the fault with a very short time constant as seen in Fig. 4, and source impedance. At , the fuse clears as it has
the CDCCB limits and interrupts the discharge current in less dissipated enough energy for clearing, and at s, at the
than 10 s. Meanwhile, the generator also starts contributing to first zero crossing of I_A and I_B, the fault currents have been
the fault current as seen by the I_A, I_B, I_C, and I_R in Fig. 6. interrupted. Hence, the fuse interrupts the current in about half
When I_R exceeds the threshold of 1.75 kA at s, a cycle (about 10.4 ms), as desired.
the relay detects and identifies a primary dc-bus fault as seen in 2) Inverter Relay: Commonly used three-phase bridge-type
Fig. 6(b), as by this time, the bus voltage has already collapsed. inverters have been considered here for the prototype system.
The relay then sends a trip signal to turn off the rectifier switches These inverters can be used to provide overcurrent protection
in order to interrupt the fault current. for the load-side faults [11], [14]–[17] with minimal revisions.
Note that the fault current here is limited and brought down This is because, unlike the rectifier, the antiparallel diodes of the
to zero by the rectifier switches in a controlled manner (within inverter do not freewheel the current during a load-side fault.
20 s) in order to limit the transient recovery voltages across the Fig. 8 shows the zones of protection associated with the in-
switches to an acceptable level (see [11] for details). verter. The inverter relay monitors the input and output currents

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410 IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON POWER DELIVERY, VOL. 22, NO. 1, JANUARY 2007

Fig. 8. Protection zones around the inverter.

, and , , , to detect and localize the faults. Note that


the relay is responsible mainly for the faults in the load zone,
as the upstream faults in the source zone are interrupted by the
rectifiers.
To illustrate the fault current interruption by the inverter, an
overcurrent scheme is considered (although other more secure
schemes are possible [14]–[17]). The inverter relay monitors
the input current , and when the current passes the threshold Fig. 9. Fault current limiting by the inverter. (a) Inverter current profile during
limit, the relay assumes the fault. At the same time, if any of the a fault. (b) Output voltages.
output currents pass the corresponding threshold value, the fault
is localized as the load-side fault.
Note that since the system is high resistance grounded, the
first ground faults are not disruptive and, hence, only the line
and three-phase faults are considered for the prototype system.
Simulation results for a three-phase fault at the load terminals
of the inverter are given in Fig. 9. The three-phase fault causes
the output voltage to collapse and, correspondingly, the current
starts to increase. When the input current crosses the threshold
of 2.5 kA and stays above the threshold, the relay detects the
fault and turns off the switches of the inverter to interrupt and
isolate the fault. Note that the current decreases slowly to zero,
rather than being chopped when the switches are turned off.
This is due to the fact that the antiparallel diodes provide a free-
wheeling path for the load current after the turnoff. As a result,
there is very little transient recovery voltage on the switches.
Note also that monitoring the output currents helps the relay to Fig. 10. Zones around buck converter.
localize the fault (i.e., identify whether the fault is downstream
or internal to the inverter).
Note that the load considered here is passive. If there is a zone as Fig. 10 illustrates. The protection scheme considered for
motor load that can regenerate, a diode on the input dc bus is this relay is similar to that of the inverter. The relay monitors
needed to prevent reverse current feed to a source-side fault. the input current , output current , as well as transformer
3) Buck Converter Relay: dc–dc buck converters can also currents and . The relay detects the existence of a
perform fault-current interruption when properly designed [11]. fault when crosses a threshold (0.5 kA). The relay localizes
A buck converter with an isolation transformer provides enough the fault to the load side when the output current crosses the
flexibility for this purpose, and it is considered for the prototype threshold (2.5 kA) along with a simultaneous increase in .
application. The converter in Fig. 10 uses an isolation trans- The simulation results are shown in Fig. 11 for a bus fault at
former with a 5:1 turns ratio to help buck the primary 7-kV dc the load-side terminal at . The fault causes the cur-
voltage to 800 V dc. Note that the switches do not use antipar- rent to increase as shown in Fig. 11(a). At ,
allel diodes, and this facilitates fault-current interruption and the relay detects the fault as crosses the threshold of 0.5
isolation by turning off all of the switches as will be illustrated kA. Also, at , the currents and cross the
here. threshold of 2.5 kA as shown in Fig. 11(b). The relay thus iden-
The protection relay for the buck converter is mainly respon- tifies the fault as the load-side bus fault. The protective action
sible for detecting and interrupting the faults in the load-side taken by the relay is to turn off the converter switches.

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BARAN AND MAHAJAN: VSC-BASED MULTITERMINAL DC DISTRIBUTION SYSTEMS 411

Coordination: Coordination between relays is needed to pro-


vide selectivity (i.e., only the protective device closest to a fault
should operate to isolate the faulted part of the system [6]). On
the prototype system, for example, coordination is needed be-
tween the rectifier relay and fuses, between the two rectifier re-
lays, and the rectifier relays and the load converter (inverter and
buck converter) relays. This coordination can be achieved by
adopting the same techniques used for coordinating overcurrent
protection devices as described in the following.
• Coordination Between Rectifier Relay and Fuse
As shown earlier, coordination between the rectifier relay
and the fuse is achieved by the proper selection of the fuse.
The fast action fuse selected for the rectifier takes 10–100
ms (depending on fault current) to interrupt and isolate the
ac zone faults, whereas the relay detects and interrupts the
dc zone faults in about 0.5 ms. Therefore, the relay coordi-
nates with the fuse by detecting and interrupting faults in
its protection zone much faster than the source-side fuse.
• Coordination Between Rectifier Relays
Since multiple rectifiers feed the dc line, when there is a
fault on the ac side of a rectifier, the other rectifiers will
feed the fault also, as the rectifier switches can carry the
bidirectional currents. Hence, coordination between recti-
fier relays is needed so that when a fault is in the ac zone
of one of the rectifiers, only the relay of the corresponding
rectifier interrupts the fault.
For this coordination, we propose to employ an interface
diode on the dc side of the rectifier shown in Fig. 5. This
diode will prevent the reverse dc current flow through the
rectifier and, thus, it will eliminate the need for coordina-
tion among the rectifier relays.
• Coordination Between Rectifier and Buck-Converter Re-
lays
The rectifier relay needs to coordinate with the relays of
the load converters (buck converters and inverters). The
coordination is facilitated by the fact that the rated current
of load converters is much lower than that of the rectifiers.
For the prototype SES, for example, the normal current of
the buck converter is 200 A and, therefore, the threshold for
its relay is set to 500 A (2.5x). Since the threshold of the
Fig. 11. Fault current limiting by a dc–dc buck converter. (a) Secondary dc bus
fault detection. (b) Secondary dc bus fault locating. (c) Diode freewheeling. rectifier relay is 1.75 kA, the big difference in thresholds
provides sufficient margin for coordination between these
two relays.
Backup: On the prototype system, local backup protection
The action of hard turnoff of the switches interrupts the cur-
and the remote backup protection provide protection when the
rent from the primary side immediately, but the current on the
primary protection fails. Remote backup is the main backup
load side does not cease immediately. The energy stored in the
scheme, and it is based on the fact that power flows from the
output inductor is freewheeled through the diodes of the recti-
source (generators) toward the loads. Hence, the buck converter
fier stage. When this energy is completely dissipated, the fault is
relay provides backup for the inverter relay, and the rectifier
completely interrupted. The freewheeling of the diodes is seen
relay provides backup for the buck converter relay. Finally, the
in Fig. 11(c) from onwards. This freewheeling of the diodes
fuse provides backup for the rectifier, as previously pointed out.
is important in preventing any excessive transient recovery volt-
The overcurrent protection used for the switches themselves
ages on the downstream devices [11].
on the converters provides also a “local backup” feature which is
unique to the dc system considered. This local protection can be
C. Protection Coordination and Backup
considered as a backup relay when the primary relay associated
For the proposed protection scheme to provide complete with the converter fails. For example, if a fault occurs on the dc
system protection, the relays should provide: 1) proper coordi- line of Fig. 2, the rectifier relay provides primary protection. But
nation and 2) backup when a protection relay fails. if the relay fails, the switch level protection on the rectifier then

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412 IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON POWER DELIVERY, VOL. 22, NO. 1, JANUARY 2007

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the Ind. Appl. Conf., Salt Lake City, UT, 2003. His research focuses on the protection of power-
[7] B. Pauli and G. Mauthe et al., “Development of a high current HVDC electronic building blocks. His research interests are
circuit breaker with fast fault clearing capability,” IEEE Trans. Power in the areas of power system protection and transmis-
Del., vol. 3, no. 4, pp. 2072–2080, Oct. 1988. sion and computer-aided system analysis.
[8] Z. Xu and B. Zhang et al., “The emitter turn-off thyristor-based DC cir-
cuit breaker,” presented at the IEEE Power Eng. Soc. Winter Meeting,
New York, 2002.

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