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LVDC Microgrid Perspective For A High Efficiency Distribution System

Conference Paper · September 2014

DOI: 10.1109/TDC-LA.2014.6955283


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Andres Felipe Moreno Eduardo Mojica-Nava

SIEMENS Colombia National University of Colombia


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LVDC Microgrid Perspective For A High Efficiency
Distribution System

Andres F. Moreno Eduardo Mojica-Nava

Department of Electrical and Department of Electrical and
Electronics Engineering Electronics Engineering
National University of Colombia National University of Colombia
Carrera 30 No. 45-03 Carrera 30 No. 45-03
Bogota, Colombia Bogota, Colombia
Email: Email:

Abstract—A direct current distribution microgrid represents a evolving electrical grid. The main focus is on control strategies
practical solution to efficiency problems of existing AC electrical of the DC bus voltage and power management. The remainder
grid. It can integrate more effectively different forms of renewable of the paper is organized as follows: An analysis result on
energy sources such as photovoltaic cells, wind generators and efficiency of DC distribution system compared with current
fuel cells. This scheme has specific issues given its DC nature AC system is provided in Section 2. Section 3 makes a review
in regards to efficient operation and protection systems. Addi-
tionally, control methods commonly used to integrate distributed
about concepts, topologies, control and protection aspects of
generation and loads into a microgrid with energy storage ele- DC microgrids. In Section 4 further analysis of the control
ments must be adapted accordingly to the DC own requirements. methods developed for DC MG is performed. Finally, Section
Main topics of this scheme are currently being developed and 5 draws a conclusion and point out research opportunities and
researched, whereby a survey on the principal research projects future trends.
and prospective on DC distribution microgrids is presented.
I. I NTRODUCTION A. AC system versus DC system
The integration of renewable energy to the modern electri- Edison and Westinghouse struggle defined the predominant
cal system as a sustainable way to supply the energy demand technology for use electric energy [3]. AC became the standard
has many issues to solve. The main problem is to convert the because it has several advantages over DC at generation,
existing infrastructure to a smart grid which improves the use transmission and distribution level [4]:
of non-dispatchable sources such as photovoltaic energy (PV),
wind generation (WG), and fuel cells (FC) [1]. The electrical • Voltage transformation: easier to elevate and lower the
grid is a system of generation, transmission and distribution of AC voltage even near to the load
energy in form of alternating current (AC) [2]. The reason of
• Circuit breaker protection: periodic zero voltage cross-
such system is the ease of voltage level transformation and the
ings facilitate the extinction of fault currents.
inherent AC nature of the rotating machine driven by fossil or
hydro energy, thus it is not conceived for the renewable energy • Voltage stability: AC voltage decoupled from active
sources (RES). power allows controlling it by means of reactive
RES have characteristics that make them more difficult to
use: PV highly depends on atmospheric conditions to produce • Bulk generation characteristics: the alternating inher-
useful energy and even with ideal conditions this energy needs ent rotating machine driven by fossil energy.
to be stored. It is an inherent direct current (DC) source
of energy due to its DC response and the common use of However, at present some of the DC advantages over
batteries. Wind power generators have an alternating response AC become more relevant, specially at the distribution and
but it is inconstant depending on the wind speed which is consumption level [4], such as:
an uncontrollable and unpredictable variable, then the more
• Incorporation of renewable energy resources and en-
practical form of using its energy is converting the AC into
ergy storage: such as PV, FC, batteries provides na-
DC power. Other RES such as FC has similar characteristics.
tively DC power, which means avoiding one conver-
They are naturally DC forms of producing energy. In addition,
sion step to AC on each device.
there is a limitation on the concentration of renewable energy,
given that those resources are distributed in wide areas, then • Modern lighting and electronics: eliminating rectifier
the energy production must also be in distributed manner. step to provide power to devices which use DC.
This paper shows the main advances and projects on DC • Power quality: the reduction of power electronic con-
microgrids as a key technology for practical integration of verters decreases the distortion caused to the voltage
distributed and renewable energy sources into the present signal in the point of common coupling (PCC).
by Osaka University, as well as output power from PV and
different capacities and efficiencies for PV converter, grid
converter and load converters. The total energy consumption
is 84.4 MWh per year, and a PV generation of 27.6 MWh
per year, the simulation shows that the overall power losses
in the DC microgrid are about 7.1% lower than in the AC
microgrid. The sensitivity analysis indicates that the effect of
efficiency of load converters has a large effect on total losses
(1% less efficiency causes more than 10% more losses). The
grid converter has also an important effect on losses, with a
slope of about 9%. The most interesting result is regarding the
capacity of the PV system, the authors define a lower limit to
improve the efficiency of the distribution system at about 11
kW. More DG contributing power over this limit is expected
to improve the results on efficiency.
A significant data processing simulation is presented in [9].
The model includes real data of house consumption in the
UK, PV and WG models comprising atmospheric conditions, a
Fig. 1. DC System with PV. Adpated from [8] storage model of lead-acid batteries and a charging/discharging
controller. The main objective is to optimize the percentage of
use of PV and WG to reduce the total energy consumption and
For those reasons, several DC or hybrid AC-DC distribution peak-hour power variation. The result is an optimal microgrid
systems are being proposed, for example as high availability constituted by 12 x 12 houses with one renewable unit per
solutions in data centers [5] [6]. household (83% PV and 17% WG), which reduces power peak
fluctuation in 12% and further 4.6% if include storage batteries.
B. Efficiency in DC System The total energy consumption was reduced by 16%.
Power efficiency in transmission and distribution is defined Those results show clearly the impact on the losses reduc-
as the ratio between total power delivered to the consumers and tion when a DC distribution system is applied, basically due
the total power produced by the generators. This is a measure to the feasibility to integrate RES and ESS in the microgrid.
of losses caused by lines and transformation stages in the grid.
AC system has in addition a few more variables involved in the C. Distributed Generation in Microgrids
total efficiency such as total harmonic distortion (THD) caused
by the characteristics of loads or the effect of inductance of A good strategy to improve energy efficiency is to produce
lines and loads causing reactive power flow [7]. In DC system, it as close as possible to the consumers in a distributed form.
there is only active power, voltage and current involved in This reduces energy losses in transportation and conversion
efficiency. Several case study papers have performed efficiency and is highly compatible with RES, due to the fact that many
analysis regarding to the DC distribution microgrid in a local renewable energies are distributed in wide areas. Commonly
facility [4] [8]. used renewable energy sources (PV and WG) heavily depend
on environmental variables, thus it is practical dispose them in
In [4], the authors compare a distribution system avoiding distributed manner having more stable average conditions and
line impedance effects and modeling the efficiency of conver- pursuing a more effective energy catchment [10].
sion stages in several conditions for residential use of energy
(heating, ventilation, lighting, home electronics, laundry, etc.), The problem in a distributed scheme of generation is
and having the possibility to integrate a distributed generation coordination: every part of the grid should contribute in the
device (such as fuel cell) into the bus bar of a microgrid. They total energy consumption and be managed in order to maintain
consider four different cases: 1- AC distribution without DG; quality in the PCC. As shown in Figure 2, each source of
2- DC distribution without DG; 3- DC distribution with fuel energy is connected to a common point, and their interface is
cell; 4- AC distribution with fuel cell. This study shows that power electronics which adapt the signal produced by the DG
residential DC distribution by itself is disadvantageous due to electrical conditions in the PCC. This is done by managing
to the inefficient bulk rectification at the entrance of the DC active and reactive power, frequency, and voltage to work
bus (first conversion step from utility AC to DC showed in properly in parallel [11].
Figure 1 as grid converter) when only loads are connected to 1) AC Microgrid: The integration of DG into an AC bus
the MG. However, if local DG as a fuel cell is connected to has been widely studied as a microgrid based on parallel
the distribution bus, the efficiency is worst in the AC case due connected inverters (represented by DGs, loads, and ESS in
to the conversion from DC to AC required to connect the fuel Figure 2). Main characteristics of this approach are:
cell to the bus. They conclude that when using DC distribution
the efficiency improves only in case of the presence of a DG • Every DG is connected to the bus via an inverter,
in the Microgrid. synchronized in frequency and phase to maintain the
bus voltage in the PCC.
A simulation for a system with 20 residencies and a 30 kW
PV system is compared with an AC and a DC Mictrogrid in [8]. • Control of active power and reactive power in inverters
The authors consider data for electric consumption measured is managed by power electronics.
Fig. 3. DC Microgrid with DG and ESS
Fig. 2. AC Microgrid with DG and ESS

2) DC Microgrid: The advantages of a DC microgrid were

• Depending on the type of DG, it may need more posed in [15], as a way to throw off the many problems
converters (e.g. AC-DC-AC in a WG) associated with the AC based distributed generation system.
Some of the main characteristics stated are:
The principal control method used in AC microgrids to
• Each power supply connected with the DCMG can be
control the parallel connected inverters is droop method [12].
operated autonomously because they control only the
This method emulates a traditional high voltage AC (HVAC)
DC-grid voltage.
power system with parallel synchronous generator, assuming
predominantly inductive line impedance (neglecting the re- • When the AC utility grid falls abnormal or fault con-
sistive component). Thus, active power can be controlled by ditions, the DC-grid system is switched to stand-alone
variations in frequency, while reactive power can be controlled operation in which the generated power is supplied to
by variations in voltage magnitude [13]. The droop method is the loads connected to the DC bus.
resumed by the following equations:
• Changes in the generated power and the load con-
sumed power can be compensated as a lump of power
in DC grid.
ω − ωref = −kp (Pmax − Pref ) (1) • The system cost and loss can be reduced because only
E − Eref = −kq (Qmax − Qref ) (2) one AC grid connected inverter is needed(AC Grid
connected inverter unit in Figure 3).
where ω and E are frequency and voltage magnitude The DC nature of the renewable energies can be comple-
respectively; Pref and Qref are active and reactive power set- mented with the also DC nature of almost all energy storage
points settled based on technical and/or economical require- technologies (batteries, flywheels, supercapacitors) to create
ments; Pmax and Qmax are the maximum power outputs of a more efficient microgrid using the advantages of a DC
the DG; ωref and Eref are the desired microgrid frequency distribution bus. These concepts will be further developed in
and the PCC voltage magnitude respectively; and kp and kq section III.
are the droop slopes (both positive quantities).
Nonetheless, the above mentioned assumption is not so
valid for low voltage (LV) systems, because of the significant This section presents the most significant concepts about
effect of RI voltage droop. Thus, complementary levels of general microgrids adopted by a DC perspective.
control need to be applied in order to achieve voltage regula-
tion and load sharing [14]. A. The CERTS Microgrid
The fully decentralized control of an AC microgrid is The Consortium for Electric Reliability Technology So-
complex because it is necessary to coordinate inverters and lutions (CERTS), defines a microgrid concept specifically
to control P , Q, f , E simultaneously. Those are inherent designed for the integration of distributed energy resources
conditions in an AC system which makes difficult the practical into the electrical system [16]. The CERTS microgrid is an
integration of distributed generation units into the existing aggregation of microsources and loads operating as a single
electrical grid. system, each one of them based on power electronics to
provide flexibility and controlled operation. Its key features
are presented as follows.
1) Presentation to the grid: The MG appears to the utility
grid as a single controlled unit which behaves as a model
citizen of the grid. This means it can benefit the grid by
reducing congestion with energy storage systems or load
shedding. The power electronics of the MG interface to the
grid should be designed so it behaves as a constant impedance
load, a modulated load, or a dispatchable load.
2) Microsource control: Each DG or EES connected to
the MG has a controller which controls power flow, regulates
voltage at the PCC, and achieves load sharing. This controller
has a fast response to self-adapt when load changes and
must use only local voltage and current measurements to
achieve its control objectives. These requirements establish a
fully decentralized scheme of control without communication
between controllers.
3) Grid connected and islanded modes of operation:
In normal operation, the grid shares the load with the DG
present in microgrid. When an event occurs on the utility
grid, the MG disconnects itself and operates in islanded mode.
Then microsources must adapt to share de load and maintain
the power quality to the loads. A load shedding capability
should be implemented to give priority to critic loads and
suspend non-essential loads in islanded mode. There must be
implemented a transition scheme to reconnect the MG when
the utility grid is back to normal.
4) Plug and play capability: Decentralized control implies
that no central process is needed for the operation of the
microgrid. The design must consider the capability of adding
microsources or loads without changing control and protection
Fig. 4. DC-link types: (a) monopolar, (b) bipolar, (c) homopolar
units already present in the MG.


There are three basic types of DC-links, as in the HVDC The operation of a DC microgrid consist of the coordinated
transmission systems [17], adapted to LV distribution levels. running of distributed generators, energy storage systems, and
The adoption of one of them implies considerations of costs, grid connection interface to provide power to loads in the bus.
regulations, and practicality. This operation implies power quality assurance, stability to
connection or disconnection of loads or microsources, and the
• Monopolar DC-Link: Uses one single conductor and correct transition between modes of operation of the microgrid.
ground-return. It is used for its simplicity and low
cost, but with the drawback of the undesirable ground Unlike the AC system, in the DC microgrid there is no need
return current (Figure 4a). to control frequency or angle, which improves controllability
and reliability by reducing variables to control [18]. The main
• Bipolar DC-Link: Two conductors operating at a control variable is the DC voltage in the PCC, adjusting
positive and negative polarity. The ground-return is dynamically the set points of voltage or current to compensate
also used but in normal conditions the current flows load variation. However, the DC bus voltage is not a global
through the two conductors, thus the earth current is variable due to the impedance of the lines, which creates
null. It is the most common configuration of DC-link differences in voltage between the sources (DGs) and thus,
(Figure 4b). induces circular currents which need to be avoided. In addition,
the uncertain position of loads with respect to generators
• Homopolar DC-Link: Two or more conductors oper- makes difficult to compensate losses caused by uncertain line
ating at the same polarity. The ground-return is used impedances, and consequently ensuring the correct voltage at
to close the circuit. The inconvenience of the ground the load connection point.
current is its problem, but with the advantage of less
insulation requirement (Figure 4c). Coordination between ESS and grid connection interface is
crucial, since in the islanded mode of operation the weakness
Further characteristics of these topologies can be found in of DG units can cause voltage flicker or collapse. Then, ESS
[11]. must be utilized to maintain power quality and also the control
Fig. 5. Equivalent circuit of two parallel-connected DC power supplies

scheme must ensure the proper coordination of ESS and DGs

to provide power to critical loads.
The above mentioned control strategy on a decentralized
scheme must be executed by the local controllers on each
microsource connected to the MG. There may be communi-
cations between controllers or not, but must be satisfied the
main restriction: the absence of a central unit essential to the
correct operation of the microgrid. To get a reliable and flexible
operation and plug and play capability, is convenient to avoid
a central unit, such that the microgrid can be set with any
combination of elements always ensuring a correct operation.
Fig. 6. Currents, voltage references, and output voltages on a two DG droop
A. Control Strategies controlled DC microgrid. At 0.5 s the load increases from 0 to 666,7 W
causing voltage drop
1) Droop control architecture: DC droop control is an
adaptation from AC droop exposed in chapter II. It has been
developed in recent years and is highly used in decentralized consumption; then at 0.5 s a load of 15 Ω is connected, causing
controllers to achieve load sharing and reduce the circular a current through the load resistance of near 6,7 A. Then
current in paralleled converters. the voltage drop occurs even when the reference correction
is performed. The reason is the line impedance not considered
Figure 5 shows the representative connection of two DG
in the formulation of droop control.
units and one load. The droop control method consists on
linearly increasing the voltage reference as the output current The efects caused by considering line impedances different
increases [19]. to zero, such as voltage deviation and current sharing degra-
vo∗ = vref − RD ∗ io (3) dation are noticed and the limitations of this method become
evident since it is not capable of assuring power quality to the
where io is the output current, vref is the ouput voltage
reference at no load, and RD is the virtual output impedance,
which is designed to limit the maximum voltage drop, such Several solutions have been proposed to this problem. In
that [20], it is proposed a low bandwidth communication system to
RD ≤ (4) share information between controllers and adjust the voltage
iDCf ullload deviation. In [21], it is analyzed the effect of changing the
∆VDCmax is the maximum allowed voltage drop. When the proportional compensation of droop control by a PI scheme,
load iDC increases, so does ∆VDC = vref − vo∗ , then the showing a modest improvement in the load sharing accuracy.
controller must increase vref to compensate the drop over vo∗ . Finally, a very interesting unification of droop method for
AC and DC microgrids is presented in [22], where is shown
Although droop control is widely used as decentralized the power flow between an AC bus and a DC bus through a
load sharing method, it has two inherent problems. As the converter.
conception of load sharing is made by the assumption of negli-
gible line impedances, the real situation means a degraded load Droop control method is usually complemented with higher
sharing capability. Also, the method cannot control the voltage levels of control to improve the results. Those conceptions are
deviation at the load due to the fact that those impedances are called hierarchical and are discussed in the next section.
uncertain [20].
2) Hierarchical control architecture: In [19], it is proposed
Figure 6 shows voltages and currents of a circuit config- a hierarchical scheme, in which three levels are defined:
uration as in Figure 5 with a voltage reference on each DG
of 100V and a switched load resistance of 15 Ω. From 0 to • Level 1 comprises local microsource control of DC
0.5 s the load resistance is disconnected, so there is no power bus based on droop strategy.
• Level 2 requires a central controller, which measures centralization in the control task. Additionally, there has not
the electrical variables in the load and compares it been studied the effect of complex topologies in which the
with the voltage reference, then send the error to all uncertain impedances become variable in time (e.g in the event
the DG units to compensate for the voltage deviation of a fault clearance) and how the droop control responds to
caused by Level 1. those changes.
• Level 3 is in charge of managing the power flow, often Other schemes mentioned before, such as DBS have lack in
considering cost of dispatch and priority on use of theoretical deepness and have not considered other elements
DGs. of distributed generation. At the same time, they have been
limited to simplistic cases of two DGs, and have not introduced
This approach is similar to the AC MG case of imple- complex topologies to test the method in an scenario of more
menting several levels of control [13]. The problem is that realistic distribution microgrid.
centralized component is required defying the requirement for
flexibility. Solving these challenges could have a great impact in
distribution technology and may produce practical results to
3) DC bus signal control architecture: DBS is a name for help solving urgent needs such as reducing waste of energy in
a scheme of control of using charge/discharge thresholds to cities, or the problem of isolated populations with many power
schedule individual sources in a distributed way, which induces outages. This could be an important contribution to smart
DC bus voltage level changes to realize the communications building and smart grid implementations in Latin America and
between difference source/storage interface converters [23]. the rest of the globe.
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