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Multilevel modular converters for off-shore wind farm HVDC

transmission system
Valentin Plyusnin
Under supervision of Prof. Dr. F. Silva
Dep. of Electrical and Computer Engineering, IST, Lisbon, Portugal
April 2014

Abstract - The aim of this work is to design a

decentralized DC capacitor voltage balancing
controller for high voltage multilevel modular
converters in direct current cable transmission
systems within and from off-shore wind farms to
inland. The high voltage direct current (HVDC)
system has been designed to transfer electric
power from off-shore generators to inland
substations. Carried out simulations of 81-level
converter system included the stress testing of
developed decentralized algorithms in order to
confirm their performance. Additional closed loop
power control system has been developed and
implemented. It was demonstrated that the
developed decentralized converter system is able
to balance the capacitor divider voltages and can
operate on a reduced subset of levels to provide
redundancy. Functionality of the whole HVDC
system has been tested by simulation of the
dynamics of its parameters within the specified
The high voltage direct current (HVDC) systems
are becoming more widely used in networks for
electric power transmission and distribution from
off-shore wind farms to inland due to their
advantages in comparison to other solutions.
These systems are characterized by lower losses
and the absence of reactive power problems. This
means that there is no need to use an additional
equipment for correction of power factor or
compensation of reactive power. However, the
necessity of additional equipment for conversion
of electric power generated in AC mode makes

expensive the use of HVDC system on short

distances. When the distance increases larger than
80 km this solution becomes economically
advantageous [1].
The concept of Modular Multilevel Converter
(M2C) [5] is increasingly used in the HVDC
transmission systems since this new design offers
better characteristics and increased efficiency.
Limited working space available on off-shore
stations imposes restrictions on the size of
converters and requires certain design features for
further minimization. Unfortunately, most of the
investigated multilevel converters topologies
(diode-clamped type (NPC), capacitor-clamped
type (flying capacitors)) does not meet these
requirements [2, 5]. Unlike other systems, M2C
satisfies to these requirements due to its modular
structure. Besides this point, a lot of other
important aspects have to be taken into account.
Main requirements are: the fast and independent
control of active and reactive power flow, the
operation without bulky passive filters, the black
start capability and the option of extending the DCnetwork to more than two stations. At severe fault
conditions and disturbances, including short
circuits, the DC-side must be managed fast and
safely [2, 3, 4].
This paper includes 5 sections. A description of
M2C is given in the first part. Second part provides
a description of the proposed voltage control
techniques and introduces a new decentralized cell
selection algorithm to balance capacitor voltages.
In the third section power injection control is
developed. Simulation results are presented in a

fourth section and finally, conclusions are drawn in

the last part.
1. Multilevel Modular Converter (M2C)
1.1. Principle of M2C topology
The modular multilevel converter (M2C) is a
new type of voltage source converter (VSC) for
medium or high-voltage DC power transmission
[4]. Figure 1 presents the M2C circuit topology
which is formed by 2-level cells (SM). These cells
are externally driven in order to obtain the
required multilevel output voltage waveforms.
Each converter half-arm creates discrete voltage
levels between zero and power supply value U. The
sum of both half-arm voltages gives the output
voltage in range of [U, -U].
The N-level converter output voltage is given
by (1), where is a discrete variable (2) and single
cell capacitor voltage uci can be calculated from (3).
uo = U
{ 1 ,

,,0 , ,
,1 }
uci =



1.2. Calculation of M2C single arm parameters

Since a three-phase M2C converter can be
considered a three-phase balanced system, the
single phase equivalent model is here used to
derive transmission power. Furthermore, the
converter output voltages have nearly sinusoidal
waveforms, so it can be approximated by an AC
voltage source (V1), as it is shown on Figure 2, in
which the equivalent circuit of M2C arm connected
to the grid is illustrated.

Figure 2 Equivalent circuit of M2C single arm connected to

the grid

It is important to note that protection chokes

arm inductors, which are inserted in each half-arm
to limit the AC-current whenever the DC-Bus is
short circuited (fault-condition), are not
considered [4], since the circulating current is
usually small enough.

Figure 1b schematically presents an equivalent

circuit for converter arm modelling.

Figure 1a Three-phase schematic of M2C

Figure 1b equivalent circuit of M2C single arm

Current I is given by:

I =

1 V


The AC power flow between the two sources is

given by the following equations [1]:
V1rms V2rms sin


V12rms V1rms V2rms cos



P12 =
Q12 =

The phase difference angle expression (7) can be

obtained from (5) and (6).
= acos (

) + atan2(Q, P) (7)
V2 rms P 2 + Q2

In order to avoid problems in the series

connection of semiconductors in each cell,
according to the manufacturers available power
devices, 3 kV voltage cells were assumed. DC input
and AC output voltages (U and V1rms ) for 81-level
converter (single phase) can be calculated using
Figures 3a, 3b present temporal evolutions at
steady state conditions of output current and

Cell capacitors were designed accordingly to

(8), as in [6].

ic t


According to (8), the maximum displacement

current that flows through the capacitor
corresponds to the arm current, which can be
calculated from [7].
1.3. Lower losses and efficiency of M2C
The efficiency is an important parameter of the
M2C. All power losses have to be identified and
taking into account in simulations. The efficiency of
the M2C can be given by (9), where the input
power (denominator) is represented by the sum of
the output power (Po) and the power losses (Plosses)

Po + Plosses


In this study the losses of the cell DC capacitors

and arm inductors can be included, if significant
[8], by considering the respective resistive terms
associated to the semiconductor on-state
resistances. Therefore, Plosses is a sum of the
semiconductor on-state and switching losses. The
on-state losses (PLon) are characterized by the
semiconductor on-state resistance (Ron) and the
root mean square value of the arm current Irms:
PLon = R on Irms

Figure 3a M2C output current (81-level converter)


As it is shown in [8], the switching losses are

dominant. To evaluate these losses the dissipated
energy in each switching (11) is given as:
Wpc n = Vcemax ipc n

tr +tf


where the semiconductor fall and rise times (tf and

tr) are provided by the manufacturer, Vcemax
corresponds to the maximum cell voltage value
and ipc n (red curve in Fig. 4) is the current that
Figure 3b M2C line-to-neutral output voltage (81-level

flows through the cell in the switch instant.

Since half of the output current flows in each arm

[7], the switching power losses of the
semiconductors are given by:
PT =


= Vcemax Icav


tr + tf


Figure 5 Sigma-Delta control

The developed approach to calculate M2C

losses will be used in section 3 for the
determination of a 25-level M2C efficiency.

Figure 6 Modulator output level (1) and error (2) signals

2.2. Cell capacitor voltage balancing technique

Figure 4 - M2C output current and single cell switching

2. M2C Control Method Description

2.1. Sigma-Delta Modulator
To obtain the desired converter output voltage
level, a Sigma-Delta modulator based on PWM
modulation technique (Fig. 5) is used. In this PWM
modulator the areas of the modulating reference
voltage (vref) and of the scaled converter output
voltage (vout) must be equal during one period,
therefore the error between vref and vout signals is
integrated (13). When the result of (13) exceeds
specified limits, the voltage level is increased or
decreased, as it is shown in Figure 6.
1 TC
v vout dt = 0
TC o ref


The reference voltage is generated in external

control system designed in section 3.2.

A proper cell selection algorithm is necessary

to ensure the cell capacitor voltage tracks a
reference value, together with low switching
frequency for each cell [3].
Capacitors can be charged or discharged
respectively upon the sign of the current that flows
through. Since there are redundant levels (several
cell combinations are possible for the same level
realization), selection of different cells, can be
made based on cell capacitor voltage comparison.
Thus if the current sign is positive, cells should be
ordered increasingly (low to higher capacitor
voltages) and ordered in the opposite if the current
sign is negative. It is important to notice that each
M2C half-arm currents have different signs,
therefore the sorting should be made separately
for each half-arm. As it can be seen in Figure 7,
once the algorithm is implemented, cell capacitor
voltages are maintained within specified margins.
With this voltage balancing centralized
method, all cells voltage need to be compared in
order to obtain an accurate result.

This implies the use of a very sophisticated central

control unit (CCU), capable of making a fast signal

Figure 7 Cell capacitor voltages of 9 level converter

2.3. Decentralized control of the M2C

The new proposed decentralized cell capacitor
voltage control methodology allows to each M2C
cell to define its own control. As a result, each cell
is capable to decide on its respective state based
on the comparison of cell voltage with another cell.
This means that the required input data could be
significally decreased (level, cell voltage, another
cell voltage) resulting in a simplification through
cooperation of the controller unit.
Behavior of the developed algorithm for
decentralized controller can be divided for 2 parts.
In the first part input variables are evaluated.
Current sign is detected and cell voltage
comparison is made. The result obtained in this
part refers to the cell selection, made in pairs of
cells. This decision will be updated in the second
part of the algorithm, which refers to guarantee
the desired converter voltage output level. Second
part decision is based on the evaluation of internal
variables - cell number and counter A. According to
the level desired it is possible to know how many
cells should be in DC voltage mode. Counter A
variable, which is transmitted from cell to cell,
permits to conclude how many cells behind the
evaluated cell are already in this mode. Once
known the cell number, the output level and the
counter A value, the number of cells that should
have already been turned on can be calculated.
With this information, final decision about the cell
state is taken. Figure 8 shows the flowchart of the
decentralized algorithm.

With this new strategy, modular controllers

process a small amount of data each. It is
important to notice that cell voltage comparison
isnt made between random cells, but there is a
specific configuration that guarantees the correct
performance of these controllers. With this
configuration, nearly equal switching frequencies
of each cell were observed.
From [10], it is known that each cell needs
duplex optical-fiber (OF) cables to transmit the
data to the CCU. With this new autonomous cell
concept, only one OF cable is needed to transmit
the information about the desired voltage level.
Tests on single phase converters up to 81 level
were performed. Figure 9 shows that this new
control methodology permits to maintain the cell
capacitor voltages satisfactory balanced even in
unfavorable performance conditions, such as
redundant operation with low switching

Figure 8 - Flowchart of the decentralized algorithm

3. HVDC system
3.1. Calculation of the HVDC system

Figure 9 Low frequency redundant operation of 81 level

M2C with 21 levels

HVDC system consists of a wind farm and grid

circuits (RLe), two M2C converters operating in ACDC and DC-AC modes, two transmission power
cables and DC-Bus capacitors. All these
components are schematically shown in Figure 10.
Some extra power components (i.e. smoothing
coils) are added. In this small example, it is
assumed that 29 turbine wind farm (2 MW each)

generates 56 MW of electric power, which is

transmitted by submarine power cables to the inland substation. The calculated system parameters
are presented in Table 2.
Additional active and reactive power controls
(PQ system) have been developed in order to
minimize the deviations in power values.

3.2. Power injection control

To provide effective HVDC operation the PQ
system must monitor and control the output
currents (i1, i2 and i3) and DC-side voltage (Udc) (Fig.
9). Following the approach described in [1, 6] the
output currents in dq reference frame are obtained
solving the system (14), which describes the
processes of Figure 11.
= id + (L iq + d Udc ed )
= iq + ( L id + q Udc eq )

Figure 10 The schematic HVDC system

Table 2 HVDC system parameters


56 MW

35.5 kV


743.6 A


1051.6 A

7.4 mH



54 MW

35.5 kV


717 A


1014 A

7.2 mH


Figure 11 HVDC grid-side schematic

In (14), d and q are modulation indexes which,

after the transformation to 3-phase reference
frame, will be sent as input signals to the SigmaDelta controller. Active power injected into the grid
depends on the direct current component (id) (15).
The quadrature current component (iq) is related to
the reactive power which should be kept around
zero (15).

M2C 1
N (number of levels)



3047.5 V


11.5 mF

M2C 2

N (number of levels)



3000 V


11.3 mF


p = ed id + eq iq
p = ed id
{q = e i
q = ed iq + eq id
d q


The equivalent M2C model in dq coordinates is

shown in Figure 12. For the DC-side the following
equation is obtained:

= d id + q iq
R eq


DC cable
l (line length)

120 km




0.084 H


72 kV

Ceq (DC-Bus eq. cap.)

0.84 F

Figure 12 Equivalent M2C model in dq reference frame

Once decoupled applying


Hd = (L iq + d Udc ed )
Hq = ( L id + q Udc eq )


multiple input multiple output (MIMO) system in

(14), similarly to [6], single input single output
system (SISO) (18) is obtained.
= id + Hd
{ dt
= iq + Hq


Applying Laplace transform to (14) and (16) results

in transfer functions (19) and (20) which are
represented by block diagrams in Figures 13 and
id,q (s) =
Udc (s) =

Hd + L iq
Hq + eq + L id
q =
d =

sL + R


R eq
( i + q iq ) (20)
s R eq Ceq + 1 d d

Figure 13 Closed loop current control system


Using Park and Concordia transforms on (23) one

can obtain Sigma-Delta input sinusoidal
modulation indexes for each phase.
4. Simulation Results
This section presents HVDC system with PQ
control and 25 level M2C converters modelled in
Simulink environment. The results are presented in
2 separate parts. The first part characterizes the
inland grid-side, while another one refers to the
offshore wind farm-side.
4.1. Grid-side
The simulation results for the output voltage
and current are shown in Figures 15a and 15b. 25level sinusoidal output waveform is obtained by
each arm of the converter. Voltage and current
total harmonic distortion (THD) were of 3.69% and
1.43% respectively. These THD values are
acceptable according to the high voltage
standards, needing almost no filtering.

Figure 14 Closed loop voltage control system on DC-side

C(s) block in Figures 13 and 14 represent the

corresponding current and voltage PI controllers
which are described in [6], so that the respective
gains (Kpi,v, Kii,v) are given by (21) and (22) [6].
K ii = 2n L
K pi = 2 n L R
2 n
2n Td
K iv =
d R eq

Figure 15a Grid-side 25 level M2C converter output

voltages (1-1.08s)


Td =


{K pv = K iv R eq Ceq

The Idref signal in Figure 14 serve as input

reference signal for the current control system (Fig.
13). The output signals of the whole control system
are 2 modulation indexes in dq reference frame

Figure 15b Grid-side 25 level M2C converter output currents


Cell capacitor voltages (Figure 15c) are

stabilized around the reference value after a short
transient. This confirms the reliability of the
developed decentralized controllers.

Figure 15c Grid-side 25 level M2C cell voltages (0-3s)

Figures 15d-15g demonstrate the operation of

PQ control system. After a short transient the
output currents become balanced, and the
converter input voltage (UDC) is stabilized on the
specified reference value. Active power injected
into the grid is regulated to 54 MW. The reactive
power is kept around zero.

Figure 15g Reactive power injected into the grid (0-3s)

4.2. Wind farm-side

Figures 16a-16f demonstrate the wind farmside operation. THD values for the converter
output voltages and currents were of 4.01% and
1.43% respectively.

Figure 15d Grid-side 25 level M2C converter output currents

Figure 16a Wind farm-side 25 level M2C converter output
voltages (1-1.08s)

Figure 15e Underground DC power cable voltage (0-3s)

Figure 16b - Wind farm-side 25 level M2C converter

output currents (1-1.08s)

Similarly to section 4.1, cell capacitor voltages

(Fig. 16c) are balanced after a short transient.

Figure 15f Active power injected into the grid (0-3s)

Figure 16c Wind farm-side 25 level M2C cell voltages (0-3s)

Use of PQ control system provides fast

stabilization of the wind farm-side M2C output
currents at the wind farm active power kept equal
to 56 MW and the reactive power around zero (Fig.

Figure 16d Wind farm-side 25 level M2C converter output

currents (0-1s)

possible to provide the cell autonomy using

decentralized controller units decreasing the
required number of fibre-optical cables.
HVDC system based on two 3-phase 25-level
converters operating in both DC-AC (wind farmcable) and AC-DC (cable-grid) modes has been
designed. Additional PQ control also has been
developed to minimize the deviations of system
efficiencies of the converters were of 99.5% and
99.6%. The obtained current THD were 1.43% for
both converters, while voltage THD achieved of
4.01% for wind farm-side and 3.69% for grid-side.
The usefulness of the designed system has been

Figure 16e Active power injected into the DC power cable


Figure 16f Reactive power injected into the DC power cable


5. Conclusions
In this work an innovative algorithm for
decentralized balancing and control of M2C cell
demonstrated suitable performance of converters
with up to 81 levels and revealed that this new
technique can assure M2C redundant operation
even with low switching frequency. Developed
methodology for decentralized control makes it

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