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Author content

All content in this area was uploaded by Abdulrahaman Otuoze on Jan 08, 2019

Content may be subject to copyright.

* Corresponding author, tel: +234 – 803 – 463 – 8575

VIRTUAL SYNCHRONOUS GENERATOR: AN OVERVIEW

O. O. Mohammed1,*, A. O. Otuoze2, S. Salisu3, O. Ibrahim4 and N. A. Rufa’i 5

1, 2, 4, DEPARTMENT OF ELECTRICAL & ELECTRONICS ENGINEERING, UNIVERSITY OF ILORIN, ILORIN, KWARA STATE, NIGERIA.

3, DEPARTMENT OF ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING, AHMADU BELLO UNIVERSITY, ZARIA, KADUNA STATE, NIGERIA.

5, DEPARTMENT OF ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING, BAYERO UNIVERSITY, KANO. KANO STATE, NIGERIA

E-mail addresses

: 1

mohammed.oo@unilorin.edu.ng,

2

otuoze.ao@unilorin.edu.ng,

3

s.salisu@live.com,

4

reacholaibrahim@gmail.com,

5

nabilarufai@yahoo.com

ABSTRACT

The continuous increase in the penetration of renewable energy (RE) based distributed

generations (DGs) in the power system network has created a great concern on the stability of

the existing grid. Traditional bulk power plants, which are dominated by synchronous machines

(SMs) can easily support system instability, due to the inherent rotor inertia and damping

characteristic, as well as voltage (reactive power) control ability. Nevertheless, converter based

RE has some special characteristics, such as stochastic real and reactive power output, quick

active and reactive power response, small output impedance, and little or no inertia and damping

property thereby causing frequency and voltage instability in the system. To solve this problem,

virtual synchronous generator (VSG) concept was proposed to emulate some of the features of

conventional SG through converter control strategy in order to provide additional inertia virtually.

Different control schemes for VSG has been proposed in literature. Surprisingly, an overview of

these schemes is yet to be efficiently presented. This paper presents an overview of the VSG

control schemes. It provides the concepts, the features of the control schemes and the

applications of VSG. Finally, the crucial issues regarding VSG control schemes and the necessary

improvement that need to be addressed are highlighted.

Keywords: Distributed generation, Synchronous generator, Virtual synchronous generator, Power electronic

converter, Energy storage system, Frequency control

1. INTRODUCTION

The level of distributed generation (DG) resources

and renewable energy sources (RES) envisaged to be

integrated into the conventional grid is tremendously

being explored. The appetite to “Go Green’’ due to

concerns on the dwindling non-renewable energy

sources and the preservation of environment has

forced various countries to devise means of accessing

renewable energy for electric power generation. The

European Union (EU) has given the regulations to

realize a 20% objective from the entire share of

energy from RE sources by 2020 [1] and this has

resulted to an increase in the level of DG. DG has

been the impetus in the transformation of the

traditional vertical grid scheme to a much more

looped and alloyed grid scheme as explained in [2],

Fig. 1 [3] depicts the grid transformation.

The most commonly used renewable energies are the

photovoltaic and wind power; they are

environmentally friendly and abundant. RE has

experienced fast technological growth, which

contributes to their availability at considerably low-

cost [4]. This has resulted in a drastic reduction in

fossil fuel consumption of many countries, which

subsequently maintain a reduced cost than normal

prices and improve the living standard with a greener

environment. Another advantage is their key

participation in support of electrical network in

remote and rural areas electrification [5]. The global

investment in REs in current years as depicted in Fig.

2 shows that wind and solar energy sources have

become more popular renewables in recent years [6].

Nigerian Journal of Technology (NIJOTECH)

Vol. 38, No. 1, January 2019, pp. 153 – 164

Copyright© Faculty of Engineering, University of Nigeria, Nsukka,

Print ISSN: 0331-8443, Electronic ISSN: 2467-8821

www.nijotech.com

http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/njt.v38i1.20

VIRTUAL SYNCHRONOUS GENERATOR: AN OVERVIEW O. O. Mohammed, et al

Nigerian Journal of Technology Vol. 38, No. 1, January, 2019

154

Figure 1: Power network structural transformation from vertical to mesh structure with DG

Fig. 2 Growth in renewable energy investment in the whole world from 2014 to 2015

However, in the near future, power electronic

converters (PECs) based DGs are expected to have a

remarkable influence on sizeable power systems as a

substantial part of the conventional synchronous

generators (SGs) in the systems will be substituted

by PECs based generations [7]. Traditional bulk

power plants, which are dominated by synchronous

machines (SMs) with speed governor and excitation

control, can automatically regulate speed governor to

support frequency instability events, due to the

VIRTUAL SYNCHRONOUS GENERATOR: AN OVERVIEW O. O. Mohammed, et al

Nigerian Journal of Technology Vol. 38, No. 1, January, 2019

155

inherent rotor inertia and damping characteristic, as

well as voltage (reactive power) control [8, 9].

Nevertheless, converter based RES have some

special characteristics, such as stochastic output, real

and reactive power supplied to AC networks, quick

active and reactive power response, small output

impedance, and little or no inertia and damping

property [10, 11]. These RE sources cause

fluctuations in power generation, system frequency

deviations, and voltage rise due to reverse power

from PV generation [8]. Therefore, the increasing

penetration level of DG will have enormous effects on

the dynamic response and power system stability.

The main concern of these DG technologies is

maximization of power supply to the grid while

delivering efficient and operability in case of system

faults and disturbances [7, 12]. Normally, the safe

operation of large centralised power stations is not

threatened by the influence of a few small-size DG

units thus their effects are negligible.

Nevertheless, with large number of higher capacities

DG units, the entire dynamics of power systems are

considerably affected [13]. This scenario has

instigated remarkable research and development on

the methods to control the grid-connected DG via

power converters. Some researchers proffer solution

to this problem through the evolution of droop-based

control systems for microgrids operation dominated

by PECs and converters in a stand-alone operation

[14-17]. In such a technique, the energy storage is

employed in the DG and the converters employ droop

control mechanism to mimic the primary frequency

and voltage regulation features of the synchronous

generator (SG). As such, the converters with DG and

Energy Storage Systems (ESS) can be viewed as

voltage source integrated into the network to support

system voltage and frequency. Converters with

droop control can rapidly share load power in parallel

operation, in that it has no inertia, it has poor

frequency regulation.

In order to enhance the frequency stability of the DG

systems, virtual synchronous generator (VSG)

concept was proposed [2] to emulate the external

features of the SG through converter control strategy

[18], in order to provide additional inertia virtually

[19, 20]. VSG can be developed and implemented for

DG systems by employing short-term ESS and PECs

with efficient control technique which then operates

like conventional SG by exhibiting some amount of

inertia and damping characteristics for short period of

time [8]. This eventually provides the necessary

supports for power system stability in the presence of

large integration of DG systems.

This paper presents an overview of VSG control

mechanisms, it provides the concept, features and

the review of the existing models as well as

highlighting the necessary improvement that needed

to be done for proper control of DGs. The remainder

of this paper is structured as follows. Section 2

discusses the mechanism of synchronous generator

Iinherent stability mechanism and section 3 presents

the concept of VSG. The review of the existing VSG

control mechanisms is highlighted in section 4,

section 5 gives a brief detailed application of VSG and

the related challenges are discussed in section 6

while section 7 concludes the study.

2. SYNCHRONOUS GENERATORS’ INHERENT

STABILITY MECHANISM

It is very important to discuss the essential inherent

properties of a SG that are established to be

very critical in the stability and reliability

operation of a power system, namely: the inertia due

to rotating masses, damping effect due to the

damper windings in the rotor and the speed-droop

characteristics for load sharing [21].

2.1 Inertia Due to Rotating Masses

As the SG rotates, the field and damper windings of

the rotor generate a sinusoidal flux in the air-gap,

which consequently creates an EMF in the armature

terminals. Considering the general swing equation of

the SG dynamics,

In equation (1), is moment of inertia of rotating

masses (turbine and generator rotor), is the

angular speed of the rotor, is the synchronous

speed, , is the mechanical torque,

is the electromagnetic torque and is the damping

torque coefficient. Detail explanation about this can

be found in [22].

2.2 Damping Characteristic of the Damper

Windings in the Rotor

Damping (due to mechanical losses) of rotor is small

and can be ignored for all practical purposes.

Damping is mainly provided by damper or armature

windings in SG. Due to small disturbances, the

generator rotor undergoes speed deviations, the

damper winding plays a crucial role in the restoration

of the rotor synchronism, and it presents the

VIRTUAL SYNCHRONOUS GENERATOR: AN OVERVIEW O. O. Mohammed, et al

Nigerian Journal of Technology Vol. 38, No. 1, January, 2019

156

damping effects in the SG [3, 22]. Upon a fault, the

response of the generator is analysed by breaking

the total period of the fault into three stages termed

as sub-transient, transient and steady state. The

damping effect will only surface during the transient

stage. Whenever the rotor speed is different from the

synchronous speed, the air-gap flux, which is rotating

at the synchronous speed will penetrate the damper

windings thereby inducing an emf and current in

them. The damping torque is therefore produced by

the induced current and subsequently restores the

synchronous speed of the rotor. During sub-

transient state, the damper windings have a

screening effect opposing the changes in armature

flux to penetrate them [22], while the steady-state

stage is a stable state. It can be deduced from

equation (1) that the swing equation in terms of

power can be expressed as;

Upon any disturbance of the rotor from the steady

state point, the rotor either accelerate or decelerate

depending on the nature of the disturbance. If

then will be negative i.e. exclusively

rejecting the acceleration and if the , will

be positive and supporting in rejecting the

deceleration. Subsequently, the rotor will follow the

normal trajectory and synchronism is achieved

without perpetual oscillations [3, 22]. It is worthwhile

to note that the coefficient in physical SMs is not a

constant value but depends on the condition of

operation of the machine. Therefore, using a fixed

value of in a reduced order model will not capture

the performance of SM in the whole operating range

[7].

2.3 Speed-Droop Characteristics for Load

Sharing

Under steady state condition, the rotor speed of SG is

proportional to the frequency of the armature current

and subsequently to the frequency of the terminal

voltage [23] as evident from the following equation;

where; is the SG voltage frequency, is the rotor

mechanical speed, is the number of poles.

Furthermore, considering the swing equation, it is

evident that in an event of an imbalance between the

input mechanical power to the generator and the

electrical output power to the grid, the rotor speed

will change. The speed-load dependence of the SGs

connected in parallel can be represented by the

following curve.

Fig. 3 Speed-droop characteristics of a synchronous

generator

When two generator sets operate in parallel in an

islanded mode, they share the same frequency as

shown in the diagram. If the load in the system

increases remarkably, the additional load will be

shared according to the droop settings of the two

generator sets and their frequency will change to.

Nonetheless, substantial drops in frequency below a

particular threshold values can be dangerous to the

system components. In this case, the adjustment of

the governor reference is required and subsequently

leads to a total generation increase of

and

due

to governor response of the two generator sets

respectively [23, 24].

3. VIRTUAL SYNCHRONOUS GENERATOR

CONCEPT

The VSG principle is based on integrating the

advantages of dynamic converter technology with

those of the static and dynamic operating

characteristics of electromechanical SMs [2]. The

pictorial representation of VSG concept is as shown in

Fig. 4. The three distinct components of VSG are PEC

(which comprises of two power conversion stages,

namely a DC to DC stage and a DC to AC stage), an

energy storage device (battery, supercapacitor,

flywheel, etc.) and the control scheme that controls

the power exchange between energy storage and

power system. This power exchange supports power

system by preventing frequency fluctuations similar

to SG rotational inertial [8, 25]. The VSG is

commonly placed in-between a DG (or DC source)

and the grid [8]. The DC source that goes to the VSG

algorithm performs the function of SG by providing

inertia and damping supports to the grid system.

VIRTUAL SYNCHRONOUS GENERATOR: AN OVERVIEW O. O. Mohammed, et al

Nigerian Journal of Technology Vol. 38, No. 1, January, 2019

157

Fig. 4 Basic configuration and concept of the VSG [8, 25]

This is achieved by active power regulation of the

inverter in inverse proportion of the rotor speed. The

electrical features of the VSG are the same with that

of conventional SG from the network viewpoint, apart

from the high-frequency noise from the power

transistors in the inverter. Due to the presence of an

energy storage system (ESS), the VSG is able to

absorb or inject (charge or discharge) power into the

system. The nominal state of charge (SOC) of the

ESS is suggested to be 50%, and the lower and

upper limits should be 20% and 80% respectively

[7]. When the state of charge of ESS is within the

limits, the VSG is working in its active operation,

when there is excess energy in the system; the VSG

is working on the virtual load operation [8].

The main idea of VSG is to mimic the important

features of a traditional SG by using PEC control.

Therefore, any VSG application involves

approximately a direct mathematical model of a SG

[7]. The choice of any SG model and its parameters

are mainly based on the random choice of design as

demonstrated by several solutions proposed in

literature. Although, the mimicry of the inertial

characteristics and damping features of

electromechanical oscillations are the usual

characteristics of every VSG implementation.

Depending on the required extent of complexity and

accuracy in replicating the SG dynamics, the transient

and sub-transient dynamics of an SG model can be

added or ignored [7]. Moreover, parameters’

selection for VSG applications is not restricted by the

physical design of any conventional SG model,

consequently, the VSG parameters can be chosen to

mimic a particular behaviour of SG model or can be

defined in the course of control system development

to obtain the required characteristics [7]. The power

output of a VSG can be solely represented as follows:

Where; is the output power of VSG, =

, is the nominal grid frequency, represents

the initial power to be transferred to the inverter,

represents the power regulation term of the

VSG, depending on the initial rate of change of

frequency (

), if positive or negative, power will

either be absorbed or injected into the system,

denotes the inertia emulation characteristic of VSG.

Since the rate of change of frequency gives an error

signal, power exchange takes place during the

transient event and stabilizes the frequency. This

brings about the third term in the equation (3),

mimics the damping effect of damper windings in an

SG, and its value must be properly selected to

commensurate with the fluctuations in system

frequency [26].

Although, the system frequency and rotational speed

dip can be minimized by increasing the virtual mass

(), however, the synchronous units may likely

increase the oscillation [26]. In an event of a

disturbance, minimizes the maximum variation of

the rotor speed; but the natural frequency and

damping ratio may be reduced [27]. In effect,

suppresses the system frequency dip and (virtual

damper) counteracts the frequency oscillation of the

VIRTUAL SYNCHRONOUS GENERATOR: AN OVERVIEW O. O. Mohammed, et al

Nigerian Journal of Technology Vol. 38, No. 1, January, 2019

158

grid. and are negative constant gains and

should be fixed for maximum active power

interchange [8]. In an event of maximum frequency

excursion and rate of change of frequency, more

power will either be injected or absorbed into/from

the system depending on the frequency signal. In

conventional SG, energy is absorbed by the damper

winding resistance, which is subsequently dissipated

as heat. However, in VSG the ESS is employed to

absorb power fluctuation to balance the system.

These characteristics symbolize the emulation of

electromechanical SGs.

4. REVIEW OF THE EXISTING VIRTUAL

SYNCHRONOUS GENERATOR CONTROL

MECHANISM

Beck and Hesse were the first to propose virtual

synchronous machine (VSM) based control technique

in 2007 [2], which was named VISMA where they

modelled the two windings of the stator in d-q

frames and the inertia without any current loops.

Similarly, researchers [28-30] employ only swing

equation in their SM model. Likewise, authors in [31,

32] presented models without current controllers,

however, in later work [33], the current controllers

were added and swing equation was derived with the

magnitude of the virtual back EMF generated by

some reactive power command. Ashabani and

Mohamed [34] propose a modified swing equation

incorporating DC bus voltage balance and droop

control. The same technique was used in [35] with

the addition of current controllers. In all the

techniques, the virtual back EMF is employed simply

to produce PMW signals, which correlates with the

dynamic operation of a conventional SG.

In these schemes, the output current is uncontrolled

(remains unbounded) and limited either by virtual

inductors or by actual boost inductors. Nevertheless,

these VSG control strategies are the easiest

techniques, however, the probable overcurrent

problem affects its deployment in case of large

transients. Fig. 5 summarizes the control strategy,

where a common grid-connected converter connects

to the grid with an inductor, which could be a step-

up transformer or output filter. From the Fig, the grid

voltage and current are measured to

compute P and Q, and the same voltage may be

employed by PLL to get the frequency of the grid

(). The output from either Q-control or V-control

and the phase θ from the VSG model are fed to the

PWM for the control of the converter, with this

control scheme different implementation was

employed by different authors.

Similar control strategy was proposed in [38], in

which the traditional cascaded controller with inner

current loops and outer voltage loops was employed;

only the inertia emulation was implemented using

swing equation. The scheme was enhanced in [39,

40] in which they control the output current rather

than the virtual back EMF. structure as an enhanced

model of synchroverter.

Fig. 5 VSG model without a current control loop [7, 9, 36, 37]

VIRTUAL SYNCHRONOUS GENERATOR: AN OVERVIEW O. O. Mohammed, et al

Nigerian Journal of Technology Vol. 38, No. 1, January, 2019

159

The current control loop was incorporated to mitigate

the problems. Authors in [41, 42] improve the

current controller by incorporating virtual impedance

in order to enhance the model performances such as

elimination of harmonics and negative sequence

compensation. Authors in [9, 43] improve the control

scheme to realize autonomous coordination while

[44, 45] and [46] also employed the same control

Fig. 6 shows the general control structure for the

VSG control strategies with an inner current loop.

The major discrepancy from the previous type is that

the output voltage from the VSG model passes

through a current controller rather than PWM

directly, where the voltage vector can be termed as

virtual back EMF to differentiate it from actual output

voltage vector. The current references from the

control block can either be incorporated into the VSG

model or as a separate block termed as virtual

impedance. The virtual impedance has the

functionalities to regulate current at a different

frequency and different sequence to ease the

transformation from islanded mode to grid-connected

mode, and to presents more damping effect, etc.

implementation of an advanced current control

scheme can be employed to simplify the virtual

impedance. The current controllers are simply

derived from d-q frame for simplicity of the control.

Moreover, the phase information required by the park

transformation is obtained from PLL in some

literature for parameter optimization.

Some different cascaded schemes as shown in Fig 7

were presented in [47, 48]. In those schemes, the

current reference is not from the VSG model (inertia

emulation block), and VSG model simply act as an

alternative synchronization strategy replacing the

PLL, making the scheme more homogenous to the

traditional cascaded controller. The current reference

is conventionally derived from the DC voltage

regulator in the d channel and AC voltage regulator

in q channel. In this case, more functionalities can be

added through modifications. Therefore, the full

control scheme becomes very easy; however, based

on our knowledge, comparison with the previous

schemes has not been investigated.

Fig. 6 VSG model incorporating current control loop [7, 9, 36, 37]

* Corresponding author, tel: +234 – 803 – 463 – 8575

Generally, emulation of inertia characteristic using

swing equation is enough to supply system frequency

information. Hence, PLL in the traditional d-q channel

control can be substituted or used as an alternative

back up during start-up or contingencies events.

Authors in [50] proposed an interesting model in

which PLL is employed to obtain the system

frequency that is different from the VSG frequency in

order to perform automatic tuning of the controller

parameters.

Although each type has different variations, several

researchers tend to focus more on cascaded

controller having only inertia emulation. This is

because virtual inertia gives the converters the

potential to expend their energy storage to increase

the entire system inertia for frequency stability [51]

while maintaining synchronism with other rotating

units, in addition to accessibility to droop control to

operate without centralized control. The overall

control schemes can be grouped into two types:

direct back EMF and current loop controller;

classification by SM models are also of two kinds: a

simple model with only inertia emulation and a

complete model with both inertia and dynamics in

flux.

There are few papers, which focus on modelling and

design, while others only presented control schemes

theoretically without giving reasons to back their

proposed schemes. In [9, 43, 52], the full state

space model of VSG controlled converter was derived

to realize the pole-zero map to observe the

influences and the sensitivity from each state to each

mode was discussed. A similar investigation was

discussed in [47, 53, 54]. This technique is capable

of accomplishing control over the entire system

provided the system is controllable which is usually

characterized by the power system structure.

Nevertheless, the disadvantage of the method is

large computations requirement and some

parameters or states may not be feasible. A reduced

model was proposed in [55] to present some

fundamental stability limit analysis.

Fig. 7 VSG model with modified current control loop [7, 9, 37, 49]

* Corresponding author, tel: +234 – 803 – 463 – 8575

Different design process focused on transfer function

and Bode plots was presented in [56, 57] to reduce

the computation problem in the previous model. In

[50, 58], some simplification was employed by tuning

control parameters online, in order to realize better

performance and efficient damping effect. Full state

space model is rarely used due to the nonlinearity of

the model. Energy functions and Lyapunov method

are considered as an efficient technique as in [28,

30, 35, 59], however, it is not feasible for complex

systems.

If the entire dynamic characteristics of SG is to be

reproduced by VSG, the SG model incorporating a full

order features of SG has to be modelled [7, 22, 24]

and this would results in 7th order model. However, if

the objective of the VSG implementation is to mimic

the inertia and damping characteristics of the SG,

using full order model of SG will add nonessential

complexity in the model. The two properties (inertia

and damping characteristics) can be captured by the

general swing equation [7].

5. APPLICATIONS

The VSG control strategy can be used for all types of

generation units, e.g. PV farms [41], electric vehicles

[45, 53, 54, 60, 61], STATCOMs [25, 32, 34, 56, 57],

and conventional DGs [9, 31, 33, 48], because of its

inherent features which enables it to participate in

frequency stability support.

It can also be employed to perform some

conventional power system functions, such as

oscillation damping [28, 39, 50, 62] and low voltage

ride through [42] by adjusting the control loops,

usually incorporating feedback and increase the order

of compensators. Although, these have not been

investigated much because the VSG control schemes

are still under development.

The highlighted control schemes are based on

simulations and experimental studies, VSG is still

under developmental stage. Most of the existing

literature on VSG is about proposals of various

control schemes, modelling, design and application.

However, there is still a great deal of investigations

that need to be done as highlighted in the next

section because the concept is still new and to the

best of our knowledge, no practical implementation is

under operation yet.

6. CHALLENGES THAT ARE NEEDED TO BE

ADDRESSED

It is very important to present a quantitative

design process with respect to known system

parameters and the corresponding sensitivities in

order to have a robust controller, which can

withstand various system operating points.

Efficient and robust control scheme can still be

achieved through improvement of the existing

models by further study of the mathematical

derivation of the equivalency between the VSG

concept and SG where only the preferable parts

are utilized.

More research is required regarding the control

of ESS in the VSG control scheme, a robust

technique to supervise the state of charge of the

ESS system in response to system instability.

More real-time experiments need to be

conducted to see the influence and performance

of VSG controller.

An important characteristic of VSG is its fastness

in counteracting power system deviations to

support frequency stability. In an event of power

imbalance, VSG injects or absorbs power

into/from the system to mitigate the frequency

excursion and this takes place within few

seconds, the traditional SG needs to react to a

huge change in power by adjusting its generation

to balance the system. However, the fastness of

the VSG in counteracting the frequency excursion

may affect the response of the SG. Therefore, a

robust coordination between VSG and SG is

crucial for effective power control.

The system reliability should also be emphasized,

the generation reliability of the grid integrated

DGs should be constantly assessed and the

reliability assessment techniques for this type of

alloyed systems should be standardized and

explicit enough in order to have a robust and

efficient system.

7. CONCLUSION

The continuous growth in the integration of DGs in

the power system network, for the reason of stability

and sustainability, has contributed to the imbalance

in traditional power system structure. The DGs

systems have little or no inertia and damping

property as found in the conventional SGs, thereby

causing a total decrease in the entire system inertia.

This paper has presented an overview of the crucial

issues regarding the influence of the DGs in power

system network, the VSG control schemes and their

applications, the challenges that are needed to be

addressed and the necessary improvement in the

VIRTUAL SYNCHRONOUS GENERATOR: AN OVERVIEW O. O. Mohammed, et al

Nigerian Journal of Technology Vol. 38, No. 1, January, 2019

162

existing control scheme as stipulated in section 6 of

this paper.

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