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T. Kerekes

Photovoltaic Inverters Connected to the Grid

Institute of Energy Technology Aalborg University Pontoppidanstraede 101 9220 Aalborg DENMARK

Institute of Energy Technology Aalborg University Pontoppidanstraede 101 9220 Aalborg DENMARK

R. Teodorescu

U. Borup Powerlynx A/S Jyllandsgade 28 6400 Sonderborg DENMARK

Abstract- Renewable energy sources are getting more and more widespread, mainly due to the fact that they generate energy by keeping the environment clean. Most of these systems have an isolation transformer included, which if excluded from the system would increase the efficiency and decrease the size of PV installations, furthermore it would lead to a lower cost for the whole investment. But there are some safety issues regarding the missing galvanic isolation. This paper is aiming to analyze and compare the most common single-stage transformerless PV inverter topologies for single-phase and three-phase with respect to the leakage current generation. The best results, both for single-phase and three-phase systems, are obtained when the middle point of the input capacitors is connected to the neutral point, thereby minimizing the voltage fluctuations present at the terminals of the PV panel.

the resulting capacitance has values between 50-150 nF/kW, depending on the weather conditions and panel structure. This leads to leakage currents between the panel terminals and ground, depending on inverter topology and switching strategy. The level of the leakage current depends mostly on the amplitude and frequency content of the voltage fluctuations that are present at the PV panel terminals, but it also depends on the value of the parasitic capacitance. [5]
TABLE 1: Leakage current mean levels and corresponding disconnection times (DIN VDE 0126- 1-1)

Leakage current average value (mA) 30 60 100

Disconnect time (s) 0.3 0.15 0.04


As photovoltaic (PV) module prices become cheaper, the reduction of manufacturing costs of PV inverters becomes a must. PV inverters that have an isolation transformer on the grid side, are big in size, therefore making the whole system bulky and hard to install. Topologies that use high frequency transformer in the DC-DC converter have a reduction in the overall efficiency, due to the leakage in the transformer.
A higher efficiency, smaller size & weight and a lower price for the inverter is possible in case the transformer is left out. These transformerless solutions offer all the before mentioned advantages, but there are some safety issues due to the solar panel parasitic capacitance. [1] This resulting leakage capacitance value depends on many factors; some of these are enumerated below: PV panel and frame structure, surface of cells, distance between cells, module frame, weather conditions, humidity and dust covering the PV panel. [5] In [5] it is mentioned that a typical value of 100-200pF was measured between the PV cells and the grounded palm of a person. But in case the surface of the panels was covered with water, this capacitance increased to 9nF, 60 times its previous value. In case of a solar array having a considerable surface,


According to the German DIN VDE 0126-1-1 standard, in case of transformerless PV inverters connected to the grid there needs to be a Residual Current Monitoring Unit (RCMU), which is sensitive for DC and AC currents and can sense DC fault currents. In case the leakage current to ground (peak value) is greater than 300mA, then disconnection is necessary within 0.3s. Otherwise, in case of an instantaneous fault current TABLE 1 should be followed. [8] Elimination of the transformer may lead to DC current injection into the grid which might saturate the power transformers. Injected DC currents are not fault currents, but are due to a small asymmetry between the positive and negative half-wave of the injected AC current. Most standards dealing with utility interconnection have a section regarding the level of the DC current that is allowed to be injected (see IEEE 929-2000, IEC 61727, IEEE 1547, EN 61000-3-2) and
this varies between 0.5 and 1% of the rated current.

1-4244-0714-1/07/$20.00 C 2007 IEEE.



In order to verify the level of leakage currents of different topologies simulations and experimental measurements have been done. Simulations were done using Simulink and PLECS toolbox, used for simulation of electrical circuits within the Simulink environment [7]. All simulation results are based on the general simulation model presented on Fig. 1 for the single-phase topologies. Same filter and grid parameters have been used throughout the simulations, these are listed below: * LCL filter parameters: Lfi=0.7mH - filter inductance inverter side, Lgi=2mH - filter inductance, Cf=2.2pF filter capacitance, Rcfs= 1 mQ -capacitance ESR * Inverter parameters: fsw = 1OkHz * Grid parameters: Vg=22OVrms -grid RMS voltage, f=5OHz -grid frequency, Zg=0.5+1 1e-3 -grid impedance;

DC decoupling has the advantage, that during the freewheeling phases the AC voltage circuit gets disconnected from the DC voltage circuit using a switch (S7). [9] In case of the AC decoupling, switches S5 and S6 are used during freewheeling, thereby increasing the efficiency of the inverter, because the freewheeling through the DC link is avoided. [10]

: : -


0kv l1

Fig. 3: Experimental data for FB with bipolar switching.

- Ground Fig. 1: Single-phase system with parasitic capacitances

[. ,~ 26lmA
4 9V


-= ~~~~~~Ch13 RMeS



Lire f

0.00 VE

gg 150.00%


12Jun 2006

Ii Trig'd

320 v

The leakage capacitances are added to the model in order to be able to simulate the leakage current. Both capacitance values are chosen to be lOOnF [5]. The leakage current is measured between N and Ground. The most widespread single phase topology is the fullbridge one. This topology can be chosen to have bipolar or a unipolar PWM controlled switches. Using unipolar switching strategy the inverter pulses will have twice the frequency that is in case of bipolar switching, therefore the output filter can be smaller, than in case of the bipolar. [6] Fig. 2 presents the full-bridge topology and two of its newer developments that consist in an added DC or an AC decoupling part (grey background).

1h 001.OkV


1 C O kX

OOmsl Al
iii ;0.;;00%

Line F

0.00 V
I2Jun 2D06 1 3:2849

Fig. 4: Experimental data for the FB topology with unipolar switching.



DC -

Fig. 2: Full-Bridge topology, showing the added DC or AC decoupling


For the experimental measurements a three-phase setup was used, made up of a DC power supply, a three-phase Danfoss inverter and filter with a direct connection to the utility grid. In case of the single-phase setup only 2 legs of the inverter have been used. For these single-phase measurements the 1.7kWp PV installation has been used, having the frame of the panels connected to ground, thereby creating a path for the flow of the leakage current. As seen on Fig. 3, representing the experimental scope data in the case of the full-bridge topology with bipolar switching, the PV terminals are fluctuating with the grid frequency and the fluctuations have half the amplitude of the grid voltage. Due to this sinusoidal fluctuation and the low frequency content of the fluctuation, the leakage current towards ground is small. Fig. 3 shows the measurements, where: the inverter voltages are with blue; voltage fluctuations of PV terminal with cyan and ground leakage current with magenta.


The experimental results for the case of the full-bridge topology with unipolar switching are presented on Fig. 4. It can be observed that the PV terminals have a high frequency fluctuation (Vgrid/2 Vdc/2). The leakage current in this case reaches peak values up to 5A. Also in the case of Fig. 4 the measurements shown are: the inverter voltage with blue; voltage fluctuations of PV terminal with cyan and ground leakage current with magenta. Comparing these previous two cases it can be concluded, that the full-bridge topology with unipolar switching is not suitable for transformerless PV systems due to the large leakage current flowing towards ground.

It can be seen that using the NPC topology the voltage fluctuations on the PV panel are very small and the leakage current is below 30mA, which was the lowest level of leakage current where disconnection was necessary, as stated in the VDE 0126 standard.

Much better results regarding the voltage fluctuations present at the PV panel terminals (DC+ and DC-) can be achieved in case the middle point of the input capacitors is connected to Neutral, thereby minimizing the voltage fluctuations. Such topologies are the half bridge (HB) and neutral point clamped (NPC) topology, presented on Fig. 5. The NPC is another widely used single phase topology. Simulation based on this topology have shown promising results, which are presented on Fig. 6.

Most of the single-phase installations were small scale PV systems up to 5-6 kWp. Being a single-phase system meant that there was a pulsating power output, which required big capacitors that increased the cost and decreased the lifetime and reliability of the whole system. With a three phase system on the other hand there is constant power output, which means no large capacitors, leading to improved cost, reliability and lifetime of the whole system. Also the power output of these systems can be higher, reaching up to 10-15 kWp in case of rooftop applications.

Fig. 7: Grid connected three-phase full-bridge topology

Fig. 5: PV arrays connected to grid through a NPC inverter [1]

and three symmetrically displaced sinusoidal signals which are synchronized with the three-phase grid. In the experimental setup, the PV panels have been replaced by DC power supplies, due to weather conditions. TekSto [

Fig. 7 shows the three-phase full bridge system, which is the most simple and widely used topology in case of three-phase systems. To control the switches a simple sinusoidal PWM is used having a modulation technique using 1 triangular wave

+ 3000


Grid current

E 200




Time [s]





Vokage measured
between DC+ and Ground

(D -0.025

F 6i a.06



AAAAAAAA 0.08 Time [s]



Fig. 6: Simulation result for NPC inverter


2.00 A

Ch4E:j5A V

m V 250


Fig. 8: Scope data for DC to earth voltage (channel 4) and grid voltage (channel 2) in case of a transformerless three-phase full-bridge topology


f -145 VI ]27 Nov




This is the reason why the leakage current has not been measured and only the voltages of the DC+ and DC- terminals have been measured. As seen on Fig. 8, the DC-to-earth voltages, shown by channel 4 with color green, has a high frequency content (switching frequency) that can lead to large leakage currents flowing towards ground. Therefore the three phase full-bridge inverter is not suitable for PV inverter solutions due to its large leakage current and the problem with the DC-to-earth voltage.

individually connected to the three-phase grid, having the middle point of the input capacitors connected to the Neutral. Each phase is individually controlled, using a sinusoidal PWM strategy.

Furthermore two other topologies will be investigated using the same simulation tools as described for the case of the single phase topologies. The first topology is made up of a combination of three NPC legs (3xNPC): to each one of the three phases a singlephase NPC leg is connected and controlled individually. Fig. 9 presents the equivalent circuit, the NPC leg is detailed on Fig. 5. The filter is a three-phase LCL filter with capacitors connected in triangle.

Fig. I11: Half-bridge legs used to supply a three phase system

400 -_

+300 _

E 200 -_
100 _ 0.06



0.08 Time [s]






(D -0 .025

0.07 0.08 Time [s] 0.09 0.1

Fig. 9: 3xNPC used for a three phase system

500 _ 400-

-0.05 0.06

Fig. 12: Simulation results for 3-full-bridge split capacitor topology

+ 300

E 200


Also in this case the simulation results, presented on Fig. 12, show that the voltage fluctuation on the PV panel terminals is very small and the leakage ground current is again smaller than 30mA.
0.07 0.08 Time [s]

_ 0.06

0-05 F

All the simulations were done using the same filter parameters, switching-frequency and the grid was set to be pure sinusoidal. The DC input voltage was set to be at 400V for the single-phase topology and 700V for the three-phase
0.07 0.08 Time [s]

CD -0.025-



Fig. 10: Simulation result for 3 x NPC

seen on








promising, with only a few Volts of ripple on the PV terminals and a leakage current below 30mA. The other topology
(3xHB) is similar




presented solution, but in this


half-bridge legs

topologies. In case of the experimental results, for the single-phase setup the PV panels were supplying the DC power, while in case of the three-phase setup DC power supplies were changed for the PV panels. As detailed in TABLE 2, the single phase full-bridge topology (FB) is only suitable in a transformerless PV system in case the applied PWM strategy is the bipolar one, because using unipolar switching, the PV panel terminals are jumping


between Vdc with the switching frequency, that would generate high leakage currents through the parasitic capacitance of the PV panel. Much better results are achieved in case the middle point of the input capacitors is connected to Neutral. This was the case for the NPC topology, in which case the voltage fluctuations present at the PV panel terminals is reduced to a few Volts, leading to very low leakage current. In case of the three-phase topologies, the experimental results have shown that the normal three-phase inverter (3FB) would generate high leakage ground currents, due to the highfrequency voltage fluctuation between Vdc. But there are two other topologies which would be suitable for three-phase transformerless PV inverters. These are the 3xNPC and 3xHB, in which case simulations have shown promising results, leading to low leakage current level that was within the standard requirements.

in case of the 3xNPC and 3xHB topologies simulation results have shown that using these topologies the leakage current is very small, below the 30mA which is set to be the smallest level required for disconnection based on the DIN VDE 01261-1.

Based on the previously detailed comparison and the simulation and experimental results, it can be concluded that the single phase full-bridge topology with bipolar switching is suitable for transformerless PV inverter because the leakage current is much lower than in case of the unipolar switching. The NPC is also a good choice for transformerless PV inverters, due to its grounded middle point, which minimizes the voltage fluctuations present at the PV panel terminals. In case of the three-phase topologies the full-bridge inverter is not suitable for transformerless inverter, due to the large voltage fluctuations, which lead to high leakage current. But
TABLE 2: Comparison of transformerless inverter topologies

[1]. M. Calais, V. Agelidis; Multilevel converters for single-phase grid connected photovoltaic systems, an overview, IEEE 1998 [2]. M. Calais, J. Myrzik, T. Spooner, V.Agelidis; Inverters for singlephase grid connected photovoltaic systems - an overview; Power Electronics Specialists Conference, 2002; 2002 IEEE 33rd Annual, Volume 4, 23-27 June 2002 [3]. J. Myrzik, M. Calais; String and module integrated inverters for single phase grid connected photovoltaic systems - a review; Power Tech Conference Proceedings, 2003 IEEE Bologna, Volume 2, 23-26 June 2003 S. Kjaer, J. Pedersen, F. Blaabjerg, A review of single-phase grid [4]. connected inverters for photovoltaic modules, IEEE Transactions on Industry Applications, Vol.41, Nr.5. Sep/Oct 2005 [5]. H. Schmidt, B. Burger, Chr. Siedle; Gefahrdungspotenzial transformatorloser Wechselrichter- Fakten und Geruchte, 18 Symposium Photovoltaische Sonnenenergie, Staffelstein, Germany 2003. N. Mohan, T.M. Undeland and W.P. Robbins, Power Electronics [6]. Converters, Design and Application, 3rd edition, John Wiley and Sons, 2003 J.H. Allmeling and W.P. Hammer, PLECS- Piecewise Linear [7]. Electrical Circuit Simulator for Simulink, PEDS'99, Hong-Kong, July 1999, Vol.l. pp.355-360 DKE Deutsche Kommission Elektrotechnik Elektronik [8]. Informationstechnik im DIN und VDE, DIN VDE 0126-1-1, 2005 [9]. United States Patent Application Publication, US 2005/0286281 Al, Publication date: 29.12.2005. [10]. European Patent Office, EP 1 369 985 A2, Publication date: 10.12.2003.

Nr. of input capacitors Nr. of switches

FB bip

FB unip


3FB 1 6



I 4

1 4

4 2 1% Vdc < 3OmA

12 6 1% Vdc < 3OmA

Bypass diodes DC to Ground voltage (peak value and frequency) Leakage current (peak values)

Vgrid/2, 50Hz < 30mA

+Vdc, 10kHz
>> 5A

+Vdc, 10kHz

1% Vdc < 3OmA