You are on page 1of 7

Dynamic stability of grid-connected

photovoltaic systems
C. Rodriguez, Student Member, IEEE, G. A. J. Amaratunga, Member, IEEE

AbstractA mathematical model of grid-connected

photovoltaic energy sources suitable for stability studies is
presented. The power electronic conditioning unit is modelled
from basic power transfer relations. Using this model, it is
demonstrated that there exist two solutions for a given power
output, one of which is unstable. By doing eigenvalue and
eigenvector analysis, dynamic orbits are presented that help
visualize any potential problem that may occur under
disturbances. Simulations are carried out showing instances
where the voltage at the photovoltaic panel collapses, in
particular when operating close to the maximum power point.
Index Terms Eigenvalues, photovoltaic cells, power system
dynamic stability, solar energy.


esidential photovoltaic installations are set to increase

significantly in the United States, Germany, and Japan,
among others. Photovoltaics are particularly attractive as
a renewable source for distributed urban power generation
due to their relative small size and noiseless operation. To
gain wide scale penetration, residential modules in the range
100 to 250W with dc-ac conversion are an attractive option
[1]-[3]. However, there are various concerns associated with
photovoltaic modules, such as the impact of their
interconnection to the grid and the transparent operation of
inverters. Some studies have been carried out on this, for
example [4], but in general there is little information on the
topic. It is of major concern for utilities in deregulated
environments that these devices operate safely and meet
specific standards such as those recommended by the IEEE
and IEC [15], [16]. Fortunately, many of the readily available
commercial inverters comply with these regulations [5], the
disadvantage being their generic nature. In particular,
photovoltaic panels suffer from nonlinear behaviour which a
generic inverter does not take into account. Therefore, we
present a study on the nonlinear characteristics of
photovoltaic modules at constant power aimed at future
development of robust control algorithms for power
conditioning units. Results in dynamic stability of gridconnected photovoltaic modules are presented in an effort to

This work was supported in part by ENECSYS, Cambridge, United

C. Rodriguez (e-mail: and G. Amaratunga (e-mail: are with the Department of Engineering, University of
Cambridge, Trumpington Street, Cambridge, CB2 1PZ, UK.

0-7803-8465-2/04/$20.00 2004 IEEE.

enable low power distributed PV generators to become widely

pervasive and reliable.
First, the power electronic conversion unit is introduced.
The topology presented is very robust and is currently used in
research experiments at the University of Cambridge.
Additionally, it features electrical isolation, which is a
requirement in grid-connected applications in Great Britain.
This topology is then approximated with a mathematical
model in order to apply stability analysis. Although the model
completely eliminates high frequency components resulting
from the switching devices, it characterizes accurately the
dynamic behaviour of the entire system. We then continue
with the stability analysis of a photovoltaic array under
constant power. Finally, some simulation results related to the
stability of solutions are presented.
Fig.1 shows a typical topology for a grid-connected
photovoltaic array with isolation. The first stage of conversion
comprises of a dc-ac-dc converter operated at 50 kHz. In
addition to isolation, the transformer steps up the voltage of
the array (typically around 36 volts) to an acceptable level for
grid interconnection (around 350 volts). The inductance and
capacitance in the dc link filters any ripple resulting from the
rectification stage. In fact, the inductance may be neglected if
one takes into account the leakage inductance of the
transformer. Finally the inverter at the output operates under
sinusoidal pulse-width modulation (SPWM). Control of real
and reactive power is achieved through the magnitude and
angle of the modulating signal.
The power conditioning unit shown in Fig.1 comprises
several switching elements under various control schemes. It
would be excessively complex to characterize the system fully
in order to assess its stability considering the nonlinear nature
of switching functions. Instead, a mathematical approximation
is realized based on the principles of energy conversion, and
considering ideal switching devices only.
First we consider an ideal transformer whose well-known
relations are: N2v1=N1v2, N1i1=N2i2. Consequently the dc
voltage across the PV capacitor is stepped-up to a value of
Nvpv after the diode bridge. Conversely, the current across the
dc link is N times smaller to the one leaving the PV capacitor.

The second approximation is to consider the output inverter

as a true sinusoidal source. Although this is a simplification,
the power transfer is not considerably affected. The
magnitude of the voltage source is proportional to the voltage
in the dc link and is related through the amplitude modulation
index, K, of the PWM scheme. In order for this approximation
to be complete and to satisfy instantaneous power balance, the
current drawn from the dc link has also a sinusoidal
component proportional to the output current.

di pv

I L i pv ( v pv + Rs i pv ) / Rsh

+ 1

L pv

( v pv + Rs ipv )


KCL at the PV capacitor yields,

dv pv

i pv Nidc

C pv


Similarly, KCL and Kirchhoffs voltage law (KVL) at the dc

link results in,
Nv pv Rdc idc vdc

idc Kiout cos ( t + )
Finally, KVL at the output of the inverter yields,
diout Kvdc cos ( t + ) Rout iout vg



where 0 K 1; / 2 / 2 are control variables.

Fig.1. Power conditioning unit for a grid-connected PV array.

The circuit equivalent with the simplifications

aforementioned is shown in Fig.2. We have included the
equivalent model of a photovoltaic array where IL is the light
generated current, ION is the dark diode characteristics of the
photocells, and Rsh and Rs are the shunt and series resistances
of the array respectively.
Kirchhoffs current law (KCL) in the PV terminals yields,

di pv

I L I s exp v pv + Rs i pv + L pv

v pv + Rs i pv + L pv di pv / dt

i pv = 0


where =q/nskT, k=1.3807x10-23 JK-1is Boltzmanns

constant, q=1.6022x10-19 C is the electronic charge, T =
298K is the temperature, and ns is the number of series cells
in the array. Since Lpv and 1/Rsh are very small, it is possible to
neglect the term ( L pv / Rsh ) di pv / dt and we can solve for

Fig.2. Mathematical circuit equivalent of the power conditioning unit.

Equations (2)-(6) constitute a system of nonlinear, timevarying differential equations defining the dynamics of grid
connected photovoltaic modules, and has the form,
x& = f ( x,t )


where x R n is the vector of states, t R+ are time values

greater than zero, and f R+ R R is a vector function.
Hence, an equilibrium of (7) must satisfy,

f ( x, t ) = 0


Strictly speaking, some states will exhibit a periodic

solution. These, nevertheless, can be transported into a new
time-invariant coordinate system, thus satisfying (8). The
details of this procedure are beyond the scope of the present
document and can be found in [14].

Maximum power is achieved when the power curve, I=P/V

is tangent to the PV arrays I-V characteristics. Several
algorithms have been developed in order to operate at this
peak power point [6]-[10].
However, with changing atmospheric conditions the I-V
curve may shift thus creating the possibility of two solutions
for a given set point P*. It is therefore essential to assess the
stability of either point.


Grid-connected photovoltaic modules are characterized by
the constant power injection into the mains. However, for a
given power injection set point P* there exist two fixed points
satisfying equation (8) as is explained below.
For the sake of simplicity we focus first on the dynamics of
the PV array with constant power load and neglect any
resistive component. The simplified circuit is shown in Fig. 3,
where the state vector is defined by, x = [i v ] .

Kirchhoffs laws at both nodes yield,

I L I s exp v + L 1 i = 0

dv p
dt v
Therefore the dynamics of the system are given by,
i C

di 1 1 I L i
= ln
+ 1 v
dt L I s

dv 1 p
dt C v

Fig. 4. I-V characteristics of a PV array and power loading.

The fixed points of the system are found by solving the
system of coupled nonlinear equations,
1 I i
0 = ln L
+ 1 v

This requires a numerical solution, for example, through

We now determine the stability of both solutions by letting

the state vector, x, vary slightly by an interval x, so that the
change in the sensitivity is given by,
x& = Jx
where J is the Jacobian matrix,


Fig. 3. Simplified PV array with output elements.

Fig. 4 shows the I-V characteristic curve for a 170 Wp panel

and three curves at different load levels.

( IL i ) + Is


Cv 2



whose eigenvalues are found through det ( I J ) = 0 .

1,2 =

( J11 + J 22 ) ( J11 J 22 )

+ 4 J12 J 21


capacitance is introduced in the circuit for the purpose of

filtering and is in the order of mF. Therefore the ratio L/C is
in the order of 0.001 and the roots of the characteristic
(16) polynomial of (14) are real. As a result, stability of solutions
is assessed by relation (20) as depicted in Fig. 5.

Let us assume that the radical is positive. Then the system will
be stable if,

( J11 + J 22 ) + ( J11 J 22 )

+ 4 J12 J 21 < 0

Since the radical is assumed to be positive, then

( J11 + J 22 ) < 0 for the system to be stable. Therefore,

( J11 + J 22 )

( J11 J 22 )


+ 4 J12 J 21


> ( J11 J 22 ) + 4 J12 J 21


which is equivalent to,

( J11 + J 22 )

J11 J 22 > J12 J 21


Substituting the values in (14), knowing beforehand that

v 0; i I L , and following some manipulation results in,
v2 >


[ IL i + Is ]

Fig. 5 shows the stability of the solutions for a load of p =


A. Phase Portrait Analysis

Assuming we have real valued eigenvalues and
eigenvectors, the dynamical orbits can be studied through the
phase portrait. A stable node is that with two negative
eigenvalues. In this case, the eigenvectors point into the node.
A saddle node has one negative and one positive eigenvalues
and the eigenvectors point into and out of the node
respectively. If both eigenvalues are positive then it is an
unstable node and the eigenvectors point out of it [11].
According to the Hartman-Grobman theorem [11], the
direction of the eigenvectors for nonlinear systems is valid in
a relatively close neighbourhood to the fixed points, while
they may curve in an outer region. Fig. 6 shows the phase
portrait in the state space of the PV array where a saddle node
(considered unstable) and a stable node are present. From the
figure we can observe that any state with a voltage higher to
the one for the saddle node solution will eventually converge
to the stable solution. In the opposite case, the voltage will
eventually collapse. In fact, since the inductance is very low,
the dynamics of the states are confined to the I-V
characteristics of the PV array, that is, any initial condition
will swerve towards the I-V curve in a vertical direction. To
make the analysis complete, the saddle node will be a stable
solution if and only if the initial state is along its stable

Fig. 5. Stability of solutions using criterion (20).

We finally discuss the positive-definiteness of the

discriminant in (15). Following an algebraic procedure it can
be proved that the argument will be non-negative under the
following conditions,
i > IL + Is

i < IL + Is

L C p

C L v2
L C p

C L v2


v2 >

p L
2 C

Fig. 6. Phase portrait of photovoltaic array solutions.


v2 <

p L
2 C

The stable basin or region of attraction for this case can be

defined as follows,

In practice, the inductance is due only to the intrinsic

parameters of a cable and is in the order of H, whereas the

B ( x ) = x R 2 lim x ( t ) x*stable = 0

where x*stable is the stable solution. Consequently,


B ( x ) = x R 2 x2 > x2* _ unstable

2 _ unstable

where x


is the voltage of the saddle node.

It is important to observe that the regions of attraction

depicted in Fig. 6 will change when all the states and elements
in the power conditioning unit are taken into account. It is not
possible to carry out graphical analysis in this case, and we
must rely upon numerical methods.
As an example consider the following operating conditions.
The light generated current of a PV array with 72 cells in
series, at 1000 W/m2 of irradiance is IL = 4.7 A, the saturation
current of the diode is Is = 9e-11 A. The constant power load
is drawing p = 130 W. The series inductance and shunt
capacitance are L = 1H, and C = 10 mF respectively.
Through Newton-Raphson we find the two solutions are
i1=4.6997; v1=27.6612 and i2=2.9691; v2=43.7837. The
eigenvalues corresponding to the first solution and their
respective eigenvectors are: e11=-6.54x109; e12=16.97, and
v11=[-1 0]T; v12=[0 -1]T. The eigenvalues corresponding to
the second solution are: e21=-1.06x106; e22=-86.83 and their
respective eigenvectors: v21=[-1.0 0.0]T; v22=[0.6834 -0.73]T.
These are shown in Fig. 6 in the phase plane with their
respective directions.

f 2
1 f 2
x1 C pv x3
C pv


N f3
= dc ; 3 =
Ldc x4
x2 Ldc x3


K cos ( t + )
f 4
1 f 4
x3 Cdc x5


f 5 K cos ( t + ) f5
= out
Notice that the states directly affecting the Jacobian matrix
are only the PV array voltage and current.
The system parameters are the following: Rs = 0.0819 ,
Rsh = 72k, Lpv = 1H, Cpv = 10mH, Rdc=0.1, Ldc=1mH,
Cdc=400F, Rout=0.1, Lout=10mH, transformer ratio N = 15.
The systems fixed points (state 5 is actually a periodic
solution) and control parameters in steady state are listed in

B. Stability Analysis of Entire Converter

We now extend the analysis to include the whole converter.
The Jacobian matrix of f in (7) is defined as,





f n

f n

Since the Jacobian is time-varying, the eigenvalues can be

obtained for an entire period T = 20ms resulting in values
with half the period. However, the first eigenvalue is constant
(25) with a real part equal to e11 = -1.146x106 for fixed point 1 and
e21 = 6.38x109 for fixed point 2. Therefore, only fixed point 1
is stable.

where the state vector x is denoted by,


All simulations were carried out with the software EMTP.

(26) The converter includes all stages with ideal switching devices.
The set-points K and are determined through phasor
analysis and the state values. In addition, a PID controller is
Consequently the non-zero partial derivatives of the Jacobian
included to track the set-point.
matrix are,
x = i pv v pv idc vdc iout


1 +

L pv I L + I s (1 + Rs / Rsh ) i pv v pv / Rsh Rsh

L pv


L pv Rsh I L + I s (1 + Rs / Rsh ) i pv v pv / Rsh


Case 1) The power injected to the grid is 130 W. At time

instant t = 2s, the grid voltage magnitude decreases by 300
(27) volts for 200 ms. Fig. 7 and Fig. 8 show the voltage and the
current across the photovoltaic array.


Fig. 9. PV array voltage with a fault duration of 60 ms.

Fig. 7. PV array voltage with a fault duration of 200 ms.

In this case, the fault is cleared faster and the system

doesnt lose its stability and returns to its original state.

Fig. 8. PV array current with a fault duration of 200 ms.

The photovoltaic array is operating at its stable point when

the disturbance occurs. The voltage drops sharply causing an
inrush current to flow. When the fault is cleared after 200 ms
the original state cannot be re-established, causing the voltage
to droop and eventually collapse. Notice however, that since
the inverter is still connected to the mains, the voltage at the
dc-link is maintained at approximately 325V. Therefore the
voltage at the PV terminals does not go to zero but rather
stays at 22V due to the transformer turns ratio as shown in the
Figure. At this point the photovoltaic array is injecting real
power into the grid (100W only) but the reactive elements are
absorbing a great amount of reactive power.
Case 2) The power injected to the grid is 130 W. At time
instant t = 2s, the grid voltage magnitude decreases by 300
volts for 60 ms. Fig. 9 and Fig. 10 show the photovoltaic array
voltage and current respectively during the transient.

Fig. 10. PV array current with a fault duration of 60 ms.

Extensive numerical analysis has been carried out showing

that under many types of disturbances the system states return
to its original values. It is important to note, however, that the
system is more prone to losing stability when operating close
to the maximum power point due to the change in the regions
of attraction as shown in Fig. 11. The voltage and current are
shown for a power output of p = 150 W and a fault duration
of 60 ms. We observe a similar behaviour as in Fig. 7 and Fig.
8 but with a shorter fault duration time. In this instance,
however, the system is not capable of re-establishing the
original conditions.

Fig. 11. PV array voltage and current for power p =150W and a fault duration of
60 ms.

[6] J.H.R. Enslin, M.S. Wolf, D.B. Snyman, W. Swiegers, Integrated

photovoltaic maximum power point tracking converter, IEEE Transactions
on Industrial Electronics, Vol. 44, No. 6, pp. 769-773, 1997.
[7] I.H. Altas, A.M. Sharaf, A novel on-line MPP search algorithm for PV
arrays, IEEE Transactions on Energy Conversion, Vol. 11, No. 4, pp. 748754,1996.
[8] E. Koutroulis, K. Kalaitzakis, N.C. Voulgaris, Development of a
microcontroller-based photovoltaic maximum power point tracking control
system, IEEE Transactions on Power Electronics, Vol. 16, No.1, pp. 4654, 2001.
[9] C. Hua, J. Lin, C. Shen, Implementation of a DSP controlled photovoltaic
system with peak power tracking, IEEE Transactions on Industrial
Electronics, Vol. 45, No. 1, 1998.
[10] H.S.H. Chung, K.K. Tse, S.Y. Ron Hui, C.M. Mok, M.T. Ho, A novel
maximum power point tracking technique for solar panels using a SEPIC or
Cuk converter, IEEE Transactions on Power Electronics, Vol. 18, No. 3,
pp. 717-724, 2003.
[11] A. Medio, M. Lines, Nonlinear Dynamics: A Primer, Cambridge
University Press, 2001.
[12] D.P. Atherton, Stability of Nonlinear Systems, John Wiley and Sons,
Research studies press, 1981.
[13] P.C. Parks, V. Hahn, Stability Theory, Prentice Hall, 1993.
[14] J. Kato, A.A. Matynyuk, A.A. Shestakov, Stability of Motion of
Nonautonomous Systems, Gordon and Breach Publishers, 1996.
[15] IEEE Std 929-2000, IEEE Recommended Practice for Utility Interface of
Photovoltaic (PV) Systems.
[16] IEC 61727, Characteristics of the utility interface for photovoltaic (pv)
systems, 1995-06. (New revision is under development).

We have presented a mathematical model suitable for
stability analysis that includes the nonlinear behaviour of gridconnected photovoltaic modules. Utilizing the model we have
shown there exist two solutions for a specific power injection
into the grid mains, one of which is a saddle node and
therefore unstable in practical terms. Moreover, eigenvalue
analysis was introduced to define regions of attraction that
determine the dynamics of the converter states.
Simulations including the entire power converter were done
to support the mathematical analysis. Results showed that the
system is more susceptible to instability under high loading
levels, i.e. when operating close to its maximum power point.
This is mainly due to the small margin available in order to
withstand any disturbance.
Further research focuses on the determination of stability
margins and operating limits, as well as the development of
better control strategies to cope swiftly with disturbances in
the grid.
[1] S.W.H. de Haan, H. Oldenkamp, E.J. Wildenbeest, Test results of a 130
W AC module; a modular solar AC power station, IEEE Fist World
Conference on Photovoltaic Energy Conversion, Vol. 1, pp. 925-928, 1994.
[2] R.H. Wills, F.E. Hall, S.J. Strong, J.H. Wohlgemuth, The AC photovoltaic
module, Twenty Fifth IEEE Photovoltaic Specialist Conference, pp. 12311234, 1996.
[3] B. Kroposki, R. DeBlasio, Technologies for the new millennium:
photovoltaics as a distributed resource, IEEE Power Engineering Society
Summer Meeting, Vol. 3, pp. 1798-1801, 2000.
[4] Li Wang, Ying-Hao Lin. Random fluctuations on dynamic stability of a
grid-connected photovoltaic array, IEEE Power Engineering Society
Winter Meeting. Vol.3, pp.985-989, 2001.
[5] A. Woyte, R. Belmans, J. Nijs, Testing the islanding protection function of
photovoltaic inverters, IEEE Transactions on Energy Conversion, Vol. 18,
No. 1, pp. 157 162, 2003.

Cuauhtemoc Rodriguez Scalise (S96) was born in Mexico City in 1978. He

obtained his B.S. with honours in Electronics and
ITESMMonterrey, Mexico, in 2000. He then joined the
American-based company Symtx, where he worked as
a design engineer. In 2003 he graduated from the M.
Eng degree in electrical engineering from McGill
University, Montreal, Canada. His research focused
on power system stability and load flow analysis. He
is currently a PhD candidate at the University of
Cambridge, UK, where his main interest falls in the
interconnection of photovoltaic sources to the electric

Gehan Amaratunga (M 90) . obtained his B.Sc from Cardiff University and
PhD from Cambridge, both in EE. He has held the
1966 Professorship in Engineering at the University
of Cambridge since 1998. He currently heads the
Electronics, Power and Energy Conversion Group,
one of four major research groups within the
Electrical Engineering Division of the Cambridge
Engineering Faculty. He has worked for 20 years on
integrated and discrete electronic devices for power
conversion; and on the science and technology of
carbon based electronics for 15 years. His group was amongst the first to
demonstrate integration of logic level electronics for signal processing and high
voltage power transistors in a single IC ( chip). His current research on
integrated power conversion circuits for connecting solar modules directly to the
AC grid draws directly on his research in power ICs . This work on novel solar
inverter technology is currently being commercialised through a start up
company, Enecsys Ltd. He also leads an active research effort in novel solar cell
technologies. His group has developed a new approach to enhancing the
performance of low cost polymer solar cells by combining semiconducting
polymers with carbon nanotubes.
He has previously held faculty positions at the Universities of Liverpool (Chair
in Electrical Engineering), Cambridge, and Southampton. He also held the UK
Royal Academy of Engineering Overseas Research Award at Stanford
University. He has published over 300 journal and conference papers.