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Investigation of a Low-Cost Grid-Connected Inverter for Small-Scale Wind Turbines Based on a Constant-Current Source PM Generator

David M. Whaley1 *, Gurhan Ertasgin1, Wen L. Soong1, Nesimi Ertugrul1, James Darbyshire2, Hooman Dehbonei2, Chem V. Nayar2
2 1 University of Adelaide, Adelaide Curtin University of Technology, Perth AUSTRALIA *

Abstract This paper describes a novel low-cost grid-connected inverter for small-scale wind turbines based on a highinductance PM generator operating in a constant-current output mode. The PM generator is connected to a switchedmode rectifier (SMR) which consists of an uncontrolled rectifier and a switch. The combination of the high-inductance generator and uncontrolled rectifier produces a constant dc current. The switch is used to modulate this current and produces an output current whose fundamental component is a full-wave rectified sinewave and is in-phase with the grid voltage. A line-frequency commutated H-bridge inverter and LC output filter is used to produce a sinusoidal output grid current. The concept is verified using simulations and experimental results.

modelled by a resistor (see Fig. 1). The back-EMF voltage source has a voltage and frequency which are both proportional to speed. As the speed increases, the opencircuit voltage increases linearly but the short-circuit current stays constant as both the back-EMF and the inductive reactance are proportional to speed.
back-EMF voltage E = k inductance L I V output current, I short-circuit current R load 0
high-inductance generator: constant current source

21 1

low inductance generator: variable voltage source

open-circuit voltage

output voltage, V

I. INTRODUCTION A. Small-Scale Grid-Connected Wind Turbines The growing demand for electricity is of grave concern, when considering pollution and fossil fuel exhaustion issues; as such, alternative renewable energy sources must be considered, of which wind power is especially promising. Small-scale wind turbines (<10 kW) based on permanent magnet (PM) generators are a convenient means for local power generation in rural areas and developing countries. These wind turbines operate over a wide speed range, which maximises their ability to capture power from the wind. The electrical output power can be stored locally in batteries or, in cases where a utility power grid is nearby, a gridconnected inverter (GCI) can be used to feed the generated power into the local power grid. The use of a GCI is an elegant solution which avoids the need for bulky and high maintenance local energy storage. Two major limitations with existing GCI designs for small-scale wind turbines are: a limited operating wind speed range over which power can be extracted from the wind turbine, and, the complexity and hence high cost of the power electronics and controls. This paper addresses these two issues by proposing two novel concepts : firstly, a high inductance PM generator which acts as a constant current source over a wide wind speed range, and secondly, a low-cost switched mode rectifier/inverter combination which takes the generator current output and feeds this into the grid. B. High Inductance Permanent Magnet Generators A simplified model of a PM generator consists of a backemf voltage source and series inductance, and its load can be

Fig. 1. PM generator simplified equivalent circuit (left), and output voltage versus current locus with a resistive load (right) at two speeds.

In conventional low-inductance PM generators, the output current is small compared to the short-circuit current and the output voltage is close to the open-circuit voltage, and hence proportional to speed. The resulting large voltage variation with speed complicates the design of the GCI. In a high-inductance PM generator, the output voltage is small compared to the open-circuit voltage and hence the output current is close to the short-circuit current. The machine acts as a constant current source providing the opencircuit voltage is significantly greater than the output voltage [1]. C. Conventional Grid-Connected Inverters The PM generators used in wind turbines generally have low inductance and can be modelled as a variable-voltage, variable-frequency AC source. The grid-connected inverter needs to convert this into a sinusoidal, grid frequency output current which is synchronised with the grid voltage. Two example topologies for grid-connected inverters using conventional low-inductance PM generators are shown in Fig. 2. Figure 2 (a) shows an early grid-connected inverter topology based on a current-source inverter (CSI) [2], which produces a square-wave output current that requires substantial harmonic filtering to meet the grid total harmonic distortion (THD) standards. A more recent current-controlled, pulse-width modulated (PWM) voltage-source inverter (VSI) topology [3] is shown in Fig. 2 (b). The topology in Fig. 2 (b) can only operate over a limited wind speed range as the dc link voltage needs to be greater than the peak grid voltage to produce a sinusoidal output current waveform. A dc/dc converter can be added

1-4244-0136-4/06/$20.00 '2006 IEEE


between the rectifier and inverter to maintain a constant dc link voltage, even at lower wind conditions, but this also adds extra cost and complexity.

Fig. 2. Grid-connected inverter topologies with conventional low-inductance PM generators, showing (a) early grid-connected square-wave CSI, (b) current-controlled VSI.

difference is that a high inductance PM machine is used as the current source, avoiding the need for a bulky dc link inductor. A simple control algorithm is proposed based on using the grid voltage as a reference. The switching of the unfolding circuit and the wave-shaper PWM signal is controlled by the zero-crossings of the grid voltage. The main advantages of the proposed inverter are: simplified circuit topology and control requirements; the elimination of large, expensive inductors and unreliable dc link capacitors; and the potential to operate over a wide wind speed range. E. Simulation Model The inverter system was simulated using PSIM and the grid-connected circuit model is shown in Fig. 4. A MOSFET was used for the SMR switch and thyristors for the output inverter H-bridge.

D. Proposed Inverter Topology The proposed concept is based on using a high-inductance PM generator which acts as a current source, with a switched-mode rectifier (SMR) and inverter (see Fig. 3). A current source output from the generator is attractive as the grid-connected inverter output is a controlled current.

Fig. 4. PSIM inverter circuit model, showing the PM generator, rectifier, current wave-shaper, H-bridge inverter, voltage-source load, PWM signal generator, modulation index controller, and zero-crossing detector. Fig. 3. Proposed grid-connected inverter topology, showing circuit diagram and control block diagram.

The SMR consists of an uncontrolled rectifier and a switch. The combination of the uncontrolled rectifier and high inductance generator acts as a dc constant current source (see Fig. 1). With the constant current input, the switch acts as a current chopper (or wave-shaper) in which the output current is linearly related to the switch duty-cycle. High-inductance generators have been used in the past with SMRs to generate a controllable dc output current. Examples include the use of high-inductance wound-field [4] and interior PM [5] generators for automotive applications, and a surface PM generator [1] for a small wind turbine. In all these cases a dc current output was desired for battery charging purposes and so the duty-cycle of the SMR was kept constant under steady-state conditions. For this grid-connected inverter application, the duty-cycle of the SMR is modulated to produce an output current which has the shape of a full-wave rectified sinewave and is synchronised with the grid voltage. This output current is then fed through a line-frequency commutated inverter (also known as an unfolding circuit) and an LC filter, to produce the desired sinusoidal output grid current (see Fig. 3). The proposed topology has similarities to that given in [6], which describes a three-phase PWM CSI. The main

F. Paper Layout The layout of the paper is as follows: section II describes the experimental test arrangement, and sections III and IV describe the resistive load and grid-connected results, respectively. II. EXPERIMENTAL TEST ARRANGEMENT This section describes the PM generator, and the power electronics and controls hardware used to obtain the experimental results. A. PM Generator and Dynamometer An outer-rotor surface PM machine used in Fisher & Paykel washing machines was selected for the test generator. These have high inductance due to their use of a concentrated stator winding. Its torque rating is consistent with a several hundred watt wind generator. The generator used had been rewound to produce an output voltage compatible with 24 V battery charging. An example of a Fisher & Paykel machine is shown in Fig. 5 (a). The machine shown is similar but not identical to the test generator. During the testing, the high-inductance PM generator was driven by a 5 kW dc machine. Figure 5 (b) shows the measured and calculated PM generators dc output current versus output voltage characteristics. This was measured at various speeds when


operating into a resistive load through a three-phase rectifier. The calculated results were obtained based on the measured parameters of the delta-connected PM generator as shown in Table 1. These parameters were used in the generator and rectifier models shown in Fig. 4, and the rectifier was loaded with a variable resistive load. The calculated results show a good correspondence with the experimental results and give confidence in the simulation model. They are also similar to the idealised characteristics shown previously in Fig. 1. The generator is a reasonable approximation to a constantcurrent source when the dc output current is above about 18 A. This corresponds to a peak output voltage limit of about 20 V at 600 rpm, and 40 V at 1000 rpm.
25 DC Current (A) 20 15 10 5 0 0 25 50 75 DC Voltage (V)
1000rpm 800rpm 600rpm 400rpm 200rpm

The inverter was controlled by a micro-controller which used the zero-crossings of the grid voltage to generate the wave-shaper PWM signal and thyristor trigger pulses. A PWM switching frequency of 4 kHz was used. The PWM signal was based on a duty-cycle look-up table whose pointer was reset at positive grid zero-crossings. Adjustment of the modulation index (ma) of the PWM waveform allows the output current magnitude and hence power to be controlled. III. RESISTIVE LOAD OPERATION The simulation and experimental testing was conducted in two parts. In this section, testing of the inverter with a resistive load is described. In the next section, testing with a voltage source load was then performed. A. Resistive Load Simulations Figure 7 shows the simulation results using the model shown in Fig. 4 for the PM generator at 500 rpm for an RC load of 0.93 // 2000 F. The waveforms shown include the input, wave-shaper output, unfolding circuit output, and the inverter output currents. These waveforms indicate the correct operation of each inverter stage.


(a) (b) Fig. 5. (a) Photograph, and (b) current-voltage locus of PM generator. Solid lines show simulations, whilst points represent measured experimental data. TABLE 1 MEASURED PM GENERATOR PROPERTIES Parameter Stator Connection Pole Pairs Short-Circuit Line Current Back-EMF constant, k Phase Inductance, L Phase Resistance Maximum Torque Value Delta 24 16 Arms 0.0668 V/rpm 2.87 mH 0.519 9.08 Nm

B. Power Electronics and Controls Implementation The SMR was constructed using a line frequency, threephase uncontrolled rectifier and a high-current MOSFET. As the generator stator currents are continuous at high speeds, the rectifier does not need a high-frequency switching capability. The unfolding circuit was constructed using thyristors and pulse transformers were used to drive the gates. The semiconductor devices are rated at 40A. Sections of the inverter are shown below in Fig. 6.
1 2 4 3

Fig. 7. Calculated inverter currents showing the input, wave-shaper, unfolded, and output current.

The effect of the inverter modulation index (ma) variation is observed in Fig. 8, where the output current is directly proportional to ma. With a voltage source load the output power would be proportional to ma. Figure 8 also shows that the current THD is increased by reducing ma.
100% 75% 50%

5 Fig. 6. Sections of the inverter hardware, showing the: (1) wave-shaper, (2) rectifier, (3) thyristor / MOSFET driver circuits, (4) micro-controller, (5) thyristor H-bridge inverter (unfolding circuit). Fig. 8. Calculated inverter output current for modulation indices of 100%, 75% and 50%.


B. Preliminary Testing Preliminary tests on the circuit were carried out with two power sources. Firstly, a dc power supply and series inductance was used to simulate an ideal constant current source, and secondly, the PM generator was used. Figure 9 shows various inverter current waveforms using both the dc power supply with series inductor (a), and the PM generator (b), as constant current sources, under the same test conditions shown in Fig. 7. The waveforms seen are the: (1) rectifier, (2) wave-shaper, (3) unfolding circuit, and (4) inverter output currents. The measured results show a good correspondence to the calculated waveforms of Fig. 7, and give confidence in the simulation model.
(1) (2)

C. Constant Input Current Assumption For high quality grid output current waveforms it is necessary that the input current be relatively constant at the peak output voltage. This condition is satisfied when the peak output voltage is much less than the open-circuit voltage. Consider a load resistance of 1 . With ma = 100%, Fig. 10 indicates a peak current of about 17 A at low output voltages. The peak output voltage is thus about 17 V. The voltage-current loci indicate that changing the PM generator speed from 500 rpm to 1000 rpm, increases the open-circuit voltage from 45 V to 90 V, but has little effect on the shortcircuit current.
25 20 15 10 5 0 0 500rpm 20 1000rpm R =5



DC Current (A)


DC Output Voltage (V)







Fig. 10. Simulated IV locus of generator for speeds of 500 and 1000 rpm (from Fig. 5b) including output load lines for two values of load resistance.

Fig. 9. Measured current waveforms (a) using a dc power supply and series inductance, (b) using the PM generator at 500 rpm. Scales are (a) 2 A/div, and (b) 20 A/div. The zero position for each waveform is indicated by the small arrow on the left.

The waveforms seen in Fig. 7 illustrate the key principles of the inverter, i.e. the power source acts as a current source, and the wave-shaper acts as a PWM current chopper which produces a waveform whose fundamental component is a full-wave rectified sinewave. The action of the H-bridge inverter is also illustrated, and the final output current is closely sinusoidal. The PM generators rectified output current has a high frequency ripple component due to the bridge rectifier. It also shows a lower frequency 100 Hz ripple component due to the output voltage variation causing an input current variation (see Fig. 5b). The effect of the input current variations is to cause the amplitude of the PWM wave shaper output to be rather noisy and to cause some distortion of the output current. Figure 7 also shows that the input current ripple in the PM generator case does not greatly affect the load current nor the current THD; see Table II for a detailed comparison of the two current source cases.
TABLE II INVERTER PERFORMANCE FOR EACH CURRENT SOURCE dc power supply 2.03 A 0A 1.26 A 1.52 W 3.7 % PM generator (500 rpm) 21 A 8.8 A 12.8 A 152 W 4.0 % PM generator (1000 rpm) 22 A 4.4 A 13.8 A 178 W 3.0 %

Figure 11 illustrates the measured input and output currents for these two speeds. Increasing the speed clearly makes the input current more constant. Note that the peak input current does not change much, but the ripple is reduced. This slightly increases the average input current and hence the output current. The higher speed also significantly improves the output current THD, from 4% to 3% (see Table II).

scale: 10A/div (a)

scale: 10A/div (b)

Fig. 11. Measured inverter input (top) and filtered output (bottom) currents, for generator speeds of (a) 500 rpm, and (b) 1000 rpm. Scales are 10A/div.

RMS current input Current ripple (input) RMS current output Output power Current THD

Consider an example where the constant current assumption breaks down. Let us increase the load resistance by a factor of five to 5 (see Fig. 10). With an ideal constant current source input, the peak output voltage should increase by a factor of five to about 85 V. However at 500 rpm the open-circuit voltage is only 45 V and so the constant current input assumption will break down. This case is illustrated in Fig. 12 showing both simulated and measured results for the input and output current waveforms for a load resistance of 5 , which show a good correspondence. Note the filter capacitor was reduced by a factor of 5 to maintain the same filter time-constant.


scale: 10A/div (a) (b) Fig. 12. Inverter input (top) and output (bottom) current for RL = 5 // Cf = 100 F. (a) shows the simulation and (b) shows the measured results.

waveforms are given in Fig. 14. Removing the load resistance causes the inverter current to flow through the autotransformers leakage inductance into the mains. The extra inductance causes the inverter current to lag the voltage by about 27 (power-factor ~ 0.89). This can be corrected by appropriately adjusting the control timing. The current waveform also shows greater harmonic distortion. This could be partly related to resonance between the filter capacitance and the transformer leakage reactance.
voltage current

IV. EXPERIMENTAL GRID-CONNECTED TESTING In this section the grid-connected operation of the inverter was tested. Due to the low voltage generator used, this was experimentally simulated by using an autotransformer to provide a reduced-voltage ac voltage source load. The autotransformers leakage reactance also conveniently provided some inductance to filter the output current (see Fig. 3). The grid-connection was performed in two stages. The inverter was initially operated into a resistive load. The magnitude of the output voltage of the inverter and autotransformer were made equal and it was verified that the two voltages had the same phase. The intermediate gridconnection stage involved connecting the autotransformer in parallel with the resistive load. In this case, ideally the autotransformer should provide zero current and the output power of the inverter should still be absorbed by the load resistance. The pure grid-connection stage involved removing the load resistor and hence feeding the inverter output power into the grid. A. Preliminary Grid-Connected Inverter Results Figure 13 (a) shows the inverter, grid and resistive load currents for the intermediate grid-connected stage. The resistive load current waveform is a scaled version of the sinusoidal grid voltage waveform shown in Fig. 13 (b). Ideally the grid current should be zero in this situation, however in practice it supplies the difference between the slightly distorted inverter output current waveform and the resistive load current waveform.

Fig. 14. Measured inverter output voltage and current for the pure gridconnected case. Scales are 10V/div (voltage), and 5A/div (current).

The effect of varying the filter capacitance, grid voltage and modulation index are studied in the following sections. B. Effect of Grid Voltage Variation The inverter current was monitored for rms grid voltages of 11, 13, and 15 V, see Fig. 15. It is seen that increasing the grid voltage causes the output current to decrease in magnitude and the THD to increase. This is because the generator is shifted toward the voltage source region and its output current shows increasing ripple. The grid voltage (secondary of autotransformer) THD may be related to the current THD due to the transformer leakage reactance.

Fig. 15. Inverter output currents (left) and grid voltages (right) for the purely grid-connected case, showing the effect of increasing the grid voltage. The grid rms voltages are 11 V (top), 13 V (middle) and 15 V (bottom). Scales are 10A/div.



Fig. 13. Intermediate grid-connected case measurements, (a) shows the inverter and grid currents (top) and the resistive load current (bottom), and (b) shows the grid voltage. Scales are (a) 10A/div, (b) 5V/div.

The pure grid-connected case was obtained by removing the load resistance. The resulting grid voltage and current

Figure 16 shows the inverter current THD as the grid voltage is increased. This experiment was first performed whilst maintaining a constant filter capacitance (Fig. 16a), and was repeated whilst adjusting the filter capacitance (Fig. 16b) to obtain the lowest THD for each grid voltage. The large current THDs occur in the constant capacitance case, as the filter inductance is increased by increasing the grid voltage (increasing turns ratio). Hence the filter capacitance was varied during the repeated tests, to reduce the THD.


25 20 Current

25 20 Current

15 10 5 Volatge 0 0 5

15 10 5 0 0 Voltage

Grid Voltage (V)





Grid Voltage (V)





Fig 16. Inverter current and voltage THD vs. grid voltage, for (a) constant filter capacitance (600 F), and (b) various capacitances (300-2000 F) to minimise current THD.

C. Effect of Modulation Index Variation The PWM modulation index was varied for the pure gridconnected case, and the effect on the inverter current is seen below in Fig. 17. The filter capacitance and grid voltage were kept constant, and hence the output power should be linearly proportional to ma.

VI. CONCLUSIONS This paper proposed a novel grid-connected inverter for a small-scale wind turbine based on a high inductance PM generator combined with a switched-mode rectifier (SMR) and line-frequency commutated H-bridge inverter stage. The key results are: the high-inductance PM generator must be designed to have a rated output voltage which is much smaller than its open-circuit voltage at maximum speed, in order for it to act as a constant current source; the control of the SMR is straightforward as its output current is linearly related to duty-cycle; it was experimentally demonstrated that a controllable magnitude ac sinusoidal output current could be obtained when operating into both a resistive and voltage source load (simulating grid-connected operation); simulations and experimental testing was used to examine the effect of varying the filter capacitance and output power on the inverter current THD. In future, it is planned to use a higher voltage PM generator to demonstrate rated voltage grid-connected inverter operation, to integrate a maximum power point tracker in the controller, and to perform field testing on a small-scale wind turbine. During this study, the control and LC filter time-constant will be optimised, to minimise the THD, and maximise efficiency over the expected turbine operating range.

THD (%)

THD (%)

scale: 10A/div Fig. 17. Measured inverter output current for modulation indices of 100% (top), 80% (middle) and 60% (bottom) for the pure grid-connected case.

The effect of the modulation index variation is seen in Fig. 18. Figure 18 (a) shows the current and voltage magnitude response to the ma variation, whereas Fig. 18 (b) shows the resulting current and voltage THD. For an ideal constant current source, the inverter current is expected to vary linearly with the ma; however Fig 18(a) shows that the measured inverter output current is slightly larger than expected, and that the grid voltage decreases slightly with decreasing inverter current. The increased current at low values of ma is caused by the PM generator output current increasing slightly with reduced loading. The inverter voltage reduction is likely related to the regulation of the auto-transformer.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT This work was supported by an Australian Research Council Discovery grant, DP0342874. The technical support from the Electrical and Electronic Engineering workshop staff in the construction of the test rigs and machine set-up is gratefully acknowledged. REFERENCES
[1] D.M. Whaley, W.L. Soong and N. Ertugrul, Investigation of switched-mode rectifier for control of small-scale wind turbines, Proceedings of IEEE Industry Applications Society Annual Meeting, 2005, Vol. 4, pp. 2849-2856. Z. Chen and E. Spooner, Wind turbine power converters: a comparative study, Proceedings of the IEE Power Electronics and Variable Speed Drives, (IEE Conf. Publ. No. 456), Sept. 1998, pp. 471-476. H. Huang and L. Chang, "Energy-flow direction control of gridconnected IGBT inverters for wind energy extraction," presented at Electrical and Computer Engineering, 2000 Canadian Conference on, 2000. D.J. Perreault and V. Caliskan, Automotive Power Generation and Control, IEEE Transactions on Power Electronics, Vol. 19, Issue 3, May 2004, pp. 618-630. C.Z. Liaw, D.M. Whaley, W.L. Soong, and N. Ertugrul, Investigation of Inverterless Control of Interior Permanent-Magnet Alternators, IEEE Transactions on Industry Applications, Vol. 42, Issue 2, MarchApril, 2006, pp. 536-544. A. Bendre, I. Wallace, J. Nord and G. Venkataramanan, A current source PWM inverter with actively commutated SCRs, IEEE Transactions on Power Electronics, Vol. 17, Issue 4, July 2002, pp. 461-468. T. Wildi, Electrical Machines, Drives, and Power Systems, 5th ed., Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2002.




Current & Voltage (PU)

1 0.8 0.6 0.4 0.2 0 0 20



THD (%)



Modulation Index (%)
40 60 80 100
0 0 20

Modulation Index (%)





Fig. 18. (a) measured and expected inverter current and grid voltage magnitudes (normalised to values at 100% modulation index), and (b) measured current and voltage THD, vs modulation index.