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IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON POWER ELECTRONICS, VOL. 15, NO. 2, MARCH 2000
A Comprehensive Study of Neutral-Point
Voltage Balancing Problem in Three-Level
Neutral-Point-Clamped Voltage Source PWM
Nikola Celanovic, Student Member, IEEE, and Dushan Boroyevich, Member, IEEE
Abstract—This paper explores the fundamental limitations of
neutral-point voltage balancing problem for different loading conditions of three-level voltage source inverters. A new model in DQ
coordinate frame utilizing current switching functions is developed
as a means to investigate theoretical limitations and to offer a more
intuitive insight into the problem. The low-frequency ripple of the
neutral point caused by certain loading conditions is reported and
Index Terms—Neutral-point voltage balancing, space vector
modulation, three-level converter.
INCE it’s introduction in 1981 , the three-level neutralpoint-clamped (NPC) voltage source inverter (VSI), Fig. 1,
has been shown to provide significant advantages over the conventional two-level VSI for high-power applications.
The main advantages are as follows.
1) Voltage across the switches is only half the dc bus voltage.
This feature effectively doubles the power rating of VSI’s
for a given power semiconductor device. Moreover, this
is achieved without additional, often cumbersome, hardware for voltage and current sharing.
2) The first group of voltage harmonics is centered around
twice the switching frequency , . This feature enables further reduction in size, weight, and cost of passive
components while at the same time improving the quality
of output waveforms.
On the other hand this topology also has its disadvantages.
1) Three-level VSI’s require a high number of devices.
2) The complexity of the controller is significantly increased.
3) The balance of the neutral-point has to be assured.
The three-level VSI was first considered with respect to highcapacity high-performance ac drive applications . To this day,
it remains the area where this topology is most widely used
–, –, , and . Other interesting applications of
Manuscript received March 10, 1999; revised September 22, 1999. Recommended by Associate Editor, F. Z. Peng.
The authors are with the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA,
Publisher Item Identifier S 0885-8993(00)02327-9.
Fig. 1. Circuit schematic of a three-level VSI.
this technology include static VAR compensation systems ,
, HVDC transmission systems , active filtering applications, as well as applications in power conditioning systems for
superconductive magnetic energy storage (SMES) .
The neutral-point (NP) voltage balancing problem of
three-level NPC VSI’s has been widely recognized in literature. Various strategies have been presented, and successful
operation has been demonstrated with a dc-link voltage balance
maintained. In addition, some of the proposed algorithms avoid
the narrow pulse problem , , minimize losses by not
switching the highest current , or share the balancing task
with front-end converters as in .
NP control for the carrier-based PWM has been studied
in –. In , the switching frequency optimal PWM
method is introduced. This method controls the NP by, essentially, adding the zero sequence voltage to the inverter output.
This work was extended in , where the authors propose an
analytical method for analysis of the NP potential variation,
show some limitations of the NP control, and also deal with the
dc-link capacitors design issues. In , the authors analyze
the stability of the NP control based on an insightful dynamic
model of the NP control they developed.
This paper discusses the issues of NP control from the space
vector modulation (SVM) point of view. In addition, the broader
range of inverter operating conditions is addressed, and a new
mathematical formulation of NP balancing problem is given.
Furthermore, low-frequency NP voltage ripple, normalized with
the output current and the size of the dc-link capacitors, is given
for all operating conditions.
0885-8993/00$10.00 © 2000 IEEE
Fig. The reference vector may be synthesized using the space vector modulation (SVM) of the three switching state vectors that are nearest to the reference vector at every sampling instant. Large vectors do not affect the NP balance because they connect the phase currents to either the positive or negative dc rail. The ones that do are summarized in Table I. NEUTRAL POINT CURRENT MODULATION Generally. possible amplitude of undistorted sinusoidal phase voltages that . Small vectors come in pairs. or can of the inverter. and the maximum amplitude of the output phase voltages. 3. Shown in Fig. represent inverter output line voltages in two-dimensional ( . and the NP remains unaffected. From (2) and (3). duty cycle of the large switching state vector. These vectors. where the relative duration of positive and negative small vectors in a pair is usually adjusted in order to compensate for the error in NP. or neutral ( ) point of the dc link. represented by the reference voltage space vector (1) where the modulation index is the ratio between the desired . Each phase be connected to either the positive ( ). Due to circular symmetry of the three-phase . the noncontrollable component from the medium vector. and the controllable component from the small vectors. Medium vectors connect one of the phase currents to the NP making the NP potential dependent in part on the loading conditions. is producing line voltages . 3. called switching-state vectors. The other one. TABLE I NEUTRAL POINT CURRENT i DIFFERENT SPACE VECTORS FOR III. They are the most important source of the NP potential unbalance.CELANOVIC AND BOROYEVICH: COMPREHENSIVE STUDY OF NEUTRAL-POINT VOLTAGE BALANCING PROBLEM 243 II. ) plane. connecting the phase current with the negative sign. duty cycle of the medium switching state vector. The controllable component of the NP current can be selected by adjusting the . . . 2. the reference vector is synthesized as (2) (3) Fig. will be considered. . In this paper. Switching state vectors of three-level VSI. where duty cycle of the small switching state vector. 2. 2. Not all the vectors affect the NP balance. Synthesis of V in outer small triangle region. The majority of the NP voltage balancing schemes used in SVM relies on some form of manipulation of small vectors in a pair. will be called a negative small vector. and are produced by switching different states . Each vector in a pair generates the same line-to-line voltages. the task of three-level VSI’s is to synthesize the desired output phase voltages . the phase output is connected to the neutral point. also shown in Fig. and for example. The nearest three vectors are selected by locating the reference vector in one of the four small triangles illustrated in Fig. switching state pon. only the case can be generated. the duty cycles are (4) (5) (6) The NP current in outer small triangle has two components. In this case. A small vector that connects a phase current to NP point without changing the sign of the current will be referred to as a positive small vector. which results in the current disturbing the NP voltage balance. 3. 3. it is sufficient to consider only the case shown in Fig. 2. as system. PRINCIPLE OF OPERATION All available voltage space vectors for three-level VSI’s are shown in Fig. negative ( ). For the outer small triangle shaded in Fig.
affect the NP current. the medium vector to the NP current is for . 2. since two small vectors increase the control authority over the NP current. used in different sectors. as shown in Fig. One way to represent how different in different switching state vectors. are continuous. 15. these functions have discontinuous first derivatives at the boundaries of the small triangles and waveshape dependent on the modulation index.244 IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON POWER ELECTRONICS. The NP-current can be found from Table I as (7) The expressions for the other outer small triangle (2)–(7) are symmetric. the duty erence vector sweeps through successive . and the NP current that those vectors produce. and the neutral point current contribution from the medium vector is . This is clearly a more the small vectors favorable situation compared with (7). Synthesis of V in inner small triangle. using this representation the NP current produced by medium vectors can be represented as (19) (16) (17) (18) The inner small triangle region is the most advantageous for the NP voltage balancing because only the small vectors. . For example. is to introduce current switching functions. . they are the duty cycles of different switching state vectors sectors. and become periodic functions of time. respectively. Synthesis of V in middle small triangle region. index ( ) is In other words. 6. 4. . and the controllable component. . In a steady state. From (7) it is obvious that the NP current consists of . 5 is defined by (14) (15) Fig. Although the duty cycle functions in Fig. that for . and it is reasonable to expect inverter to operate in this region only during startup and/or transients. The SVM in the inner triangle region shown in Fig. In further text. . Unfortunately. the medium . NO. is more favorable for balancing the NP voltage since two small vectors are available. (13). MARCH 2000 relative duration of the positive ( ) and negative ( ) small . are used. and for is the duty cycle of the medium vector opn. and the duty cycle of the vector ( ) is . Therefore. 2. the relative duration of posivectors within tive and negative small vectors will be called current modulation . in this region the dc-link voltage is poorly utilized. For . is the duty It can be seen from Fig. the medium switching vector. Note that NP current produced by the small vectors depends not only on the . cycle of the medium vector pon. 4. 6. . the voltage and reference vector (1) has constant amplitude. sectors. The reference vector is synthesized in the region as (8) (9) (10) (11) (12) The NP current for this small triangle is given by (13) and are the NP-current modulation indexes for where . Current switching functions define a mapping between the duty cycle of the vectors. VOL. from small voltage switching vector. . the duty cycle of the vector . These additional constraints significantly limit the control authority over the NP current in this small triangle region. but also on the load current and small vector control input duty cycle. and (18) over the output voltage line cycle. . shown in Fig. As the refrotates with a constant angular speed. The contribution of for . The full set of vector NP current is mapping functions for the medium vectors is given in Table II. IV. 5. cycles Due to the selected SVM strategy. Fig. those that allow full control of the NP current (18). The middle small triangle region. from the application of the noncontrollable component. for . LOW FREQUENCY RIPPLE IN NEUTRAL POINT CURRENT Steady-state low-frequency ripple in the NP-current is caused by periodic variation of the components in (7).
all these pieces can be combined into a single expression valid for the NP current over the entire line cycle a synchronously rotating. – . it is convenient to transform (20) into (21) where the -axis is aligned with the voltage reference vector. Small vectors’ switching functions are shown in Tables III and IV. This can by done by transforming the phase currents (20) In order to simplify the analysis of the NP current under different loading conditions. TABLE II CURRENT SWITCHING FUNCTION FOR MEDIUM VECTORS TABLE III CURRENT SWITCHING FUNCTION FOR S SMALL VECTORS TABLE IV CURRENT SWITCHING FUNCTION FOR S SMALL VECTORS By extending this reasoning to small vectors and all six sectors a set of current switching functions can be defined for small vectors as well. In a steady state. and are constant and represent .CELANOVIC AND BOROYEVICH: COMPREHENSIVE STUDY OF NEUTRAL-POINT VOLTAGE BALANCING PROBLEM 245 Fig. Duty cycles of SVM for modulation index m = 0:8. . 6. Finally. reference frame.
all the NP control schemes for SVM-based PWM schemes appear to use some form of manipulation of the redundant small vectors. by the weighing factor quadrature weighing factor. Similarly. three distinctive approaches to the control of NP might be as follows. V. Similarly. resulting from application of medium vectors. . ) is indicated by a dashed line. Note that (22) is essentially the composite expression combining (7). VOL. NO. The other set of weighing factors when only negative small vectors are used (i. can be found by multiplying the direct current by the direct . and will produce much larger low-frequency (LF) ripple than the direct component current. The weighing factors for medium vectors are periodic functions with zero average value over a line cycle. For carrier-based PWM modulation. ) is indicated by a solid line. Note that the difference between the phase voltages of two small vectors in a pair is. One set of weighing factors when only positive small vectors are used (i. . NP BALANCE CONTROL There seems to be equivalence in the NP balance control mechanism between carrier-based. (13). 8 for These four weighing factors depend not only on small vectors duty cycles and the current switching functions that are determined by particular type of SVM used. These factors are given in Fig. large means large disturbance from middle vectors.. and currents are constant and the NP current from medium vectors naturally balances over a line cycle. . rent. respectively. This means that in the ideal steady-state case. This seems to be another proof of the duality of the two PWM methods. Note that the ratio of active and reactive weighing factors is opposite for medium and small vectors. active and reactive components of the load current. Two distinct sets of trol inputs weighing factors are given in Fig. 15. in fact. NP current. and so on. 7. MARCH 2000 Fig. 7. all the control schemes appear to be based on the same concept: they all use some form of manipulation of output zero sequence voltage. and quadrature. Finding the size of the LF ripple under these conditions will be used to help determine the size of the dc-link capacitor for a given NP voltage ripple.e. 1) Passive “control. and the controllable current produced by the small vectors. NP current resulting from application of small vectors depends on “controllable” direct and quadrature weighing factors multiplying the direct. and small means small control authority over NP from small vectors. Between these two extreme cases the weighing factors can be controlled by adjusting current modulation indexes. On the other hand.. This confirms the fact that it is much easier to suppress the LF ripple in the NP when the load has a high power factor. 8. but also on the conand as defined earlier. and the quadrature current . Regarding NP balancing control for SVM. The NP current in this formulation still consists of noncontrollable current produced by the application of the medium vector. Weighing factors for medium vectors for m = 0:8. load cur. 2.246 IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON POWER ELECTRONICS. By substituting (21) into (20). and small means small disturbance from middle vectors. and SVM-based PWM schemes. Large means large control authority over the NP current through the manipulation of current modulation indexes of small vectors.” where the positive and negative small vector is selected alternatively in each new switching . These factors are given in Fig. and with the restriction to NTV. It is apparent for the case when the modulation index that quadrature component of the current will be weighed much more heavily. the zero sequence voltage. the NP current can be expressed as (22) where . and (18) into one matrix equation valid over the full line cycle of the output voltage.e.
and often require measurement of the amplitudes of the phase currents as well. The benefits of these schemes is that they do not have the ripple at half the switching frequency. Still. these schemes require measurement of the voltage unbalance in the NP. crease the switching losses due to introduction of additional switching states. Based on that information. This benchmark can then be used to evaluate the performance of other NP control methods. and some variations of these control schemes can balance the NP exactly. In general. 8. 9. Unfortunately. . they all in- Fig. This method can work only in the case of perfectly balanced load and perfectly balanced PWM scheme. which is unlikely to happen in practice. 247 Weighing factors for small vectors for m = 0:8. Region where LF ripple can be suppressed. and may be less robust than the hysteresis type control schemes. the small vectors that will move the NP voltage in the direction opposite from the direction of unbalance can be selected. 2) Hysteresis type control is perhaps the simplest and most popular closed loop NP control scheme. This method would have difficulties to recover from line or load transients . 3) Active control schemes that control the current modulation indexes m and m . The downside of this method is the current ripple at half the switching frequency. cycle.CELANOVIC AND BOROYEVICH: COMPREHENSIVE STUDY OF NEUTRAL-POINT VOLTAGE BALANCING PROBLEM Fig. This method requires the knowledge of the current direction in each phase. this “control” method can be used to establish a benchmark for NP controller performance.
A new and general model in the DQ coordinate frame was introduced as a way to investigate the theoretical and practical limitations of NP balancing problem regardless of the type of SVM used. producing LF voltage ripple in the NP. 10. Additionally. 10. This should provide sufficient guidelines to size the dc link capacitors for any expected operation mode and desired neutral point voltage ripple value. CONCLUSION In this paper. The essential parameter in this computation is the normalized charge ripple. LF ripple current flows into the NP. The first graph shows the normalized NP charge ripple for the passive control of NP voltage balance. amplitude of the phase currents. The second graph shows the best that can be done using hysteretic and/or control of current modulation indexes. ( the comparison of capacitor sizes for the feedback NP control and the case with passive NP control is summarized in Fig. VI. and allow 1% voltage ripple V) in the NP. 10. Results presented in this study should clarify the tradeoffs between the size of the dc-link capacitor. 2. while for the operation with purely reactive power the benefits of feedback NP control diminish. This region is given as a shaded area in Fig. 9. NP balancing was investigated for all possible operating conditions of a three-level VSI. The shaded region represents the same ripple-free area as the one given in Fig. regardless of control scheme. The size of the dc-link capacitors required for given NP voltage ripple and the amplitude of the phase current can be computed from (22). 11. the control authority over the NP current is limited. The greatest savings in the size of capacitor can be achieved when the inverter is predominantly supplying active power. 9. For that case. peak phase current. The size of that ripple is determined mostly by the size of the dc-link capacitors. and the NP balancing method. . 15. NO. Consider an example with 1800 V dc-link voltage and A. IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON POWER ELECTRONICS. and the output power factor. and load power factor (23) Fig. and that the unity power factor load represents the most favorable case. 11.248 Fig. VOL. the NP voltage can be balanced in every switching cycle for a modulation index as high . Capacitor sizes for specified NP ripple with and without NP control. given in Fig. for every modulation index . it should be obvious that. the low-frequency ripple of the neutral point voltage caused by all possible loading conditions was reported and quantified. MARCH 2000 Normalized amplitude of the LF charge ripple. size of the NP voltage ripple. and the region where exact balancing can be achieved in each switching cycle must exist. Peak-to-peak value of low frequency charge ripple in the NP divided by the amplitude of output phase current is given in Fig. as If the converter happens to operate outside the shaded region. Note that the graph is symmetrical. For modulation index . From the analysis in the previous section.
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