Available online at www.sciencedirect.com
www.elsevier.com/locate/solener
Dylan D.C. Lu ^{⇑} , Quang Ngoc Nguyen
School of Electrical and Information Engineering, The University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia
Available online 7 March 2012
Received 5 September 2011; received in revised form 8 February 2012; accepted 9 February 2012 Available online 7 March 2012
Communicated by: Associate Editor Nicola Romeo
Abstract
In order to facilitate the design and testing of photovoltaic (PV) power systems, a PV emulator which models the electrical charac teristic of a PV panel or array is needed. Among diﬀerent approaches to modeling PV characteristic, namely the I–V curve, curveﬁtting is a popular approach. Even though a single highorder polynomial equation may accurately represent the I–V curve, the process of der ivation and implementation is rather complex. This paper hence proposes the use of piecewise linear approach which is easier to derive and implement in a lowcost microcontroller. A twoswitch buckboost DC/DC converter is selected as the PV emulator and is analyzed. Experimental results on a hardware prototype of the proposed PV emulator are reported to show the eﬀectiveness of the approach. Crown Copyright 2012 Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: DC/DC converter; Photovoltaic; Microcontroller; Emulator
1. Introduction
The demand of photovoltaic (PV) power system installa tion has been increased over the past decade due to techno logical improvement, better environmental awareness, lowered system costs, governmental initiatives, rising electricity bills, etc. While these installed PV systems and products are operating properly, there are still ongoing issues to be investigated and solved. For example, reliability of PV power systems (Petrone et al., 2008), PV power gener ation analysis (Ishaque et al., 2011; Paraskevadaki and Papathanassiou, 2011) and electricity network performance (van der Borg and Jansen, 2003) due to partial shading, development of power electronics interfaces (Marsh, 2011, 2010), etc. All these research and development activities require a stable, repeatable and variable PV source for
^{⇑} Corresponding author. Tel.: +61 2 9351 3496; fax: +61 2 9351 3847. Email address: dylan.lu@sydney.edu.au (D.D.C. Lu).
design and testing. Hence there is a need of a PV generator emulator. The main task for a PV generator emulator is to repro duce the I–V curve of a practical PV panel. There are diﬀer ent approaches to performing this task. In Nagayoshi (2004), a p–n photodiode is used and a DC power ampliﬁer increases the power level to match with that of a PV panel. However, this approach requires a light source and associ ated circuit to reproduce the I–V curves of a PV panel. In fact, a power electronics converter can mimic the I–V curve accurately with only a DC input voltage source (Mukerjee and Dasgupta, 2007). In Khouzam and Hoﬀman (1996), a AC/DC buck converter is used as the PV emulator to emu late a PV cell circuit model. However this approach requires the knowledge of the values of the parameters which are usually diﬃcult to obtain. In fact, to model a PV panel, one may use the data available from the datasheet of the PV panel manufacturer and derive an analytical model to represent the I–V curves (OrtizRivera and Peng, 2005).
0038092X/$  see front matter Crown Copyright 2012 Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
1478 D.D.C. Lu, Q.N. Nguyen / Solar Energy 86 (2012) 1477–1484
Lookup table and curve ﬁtting are two popular approaches to implementing I–V curves of a PV panel by the power electronics converters. Lookup table would require a large memory storage of the microcontroller as large amount of panel data is stored if many I–V curves at diﬀerent conditions and with high accuracy are imple mented. Hence to implement lookup table in a low cost microcontroller which has limited memory space is usually diﬃcult. Curveﬁtting approach in general uses one or more polynomial equations to model an I–V curve and needs a digital controller with fast computational speed to ﬁnd the solution. While this method requires less mem ory space, the nonlinearity of the I–V curve requires the equations to be of higher orders which may increase the computational time substantially. A powerful DSP control ler is usually needed to produce very fast and accurate results (Zhang and Zhao, 2010). Also the derivation pro cess of the polynomial equations for diﬀerent conditions such as insolation and temperature is rather troublesome. In order to use curveﬁtting eﬃciently on a lowcost microcontroller, this paper introduces a PV emulator using multiple simple linear equations to mimic an I–V curve of the PV panel. This approach reduces computa tional time while maintaining suﬃcient accuracy and can be implemented in a lowcost 8bit microcontroller. The paper is organized as follows: Section 2 describes the circuit and operation principle of the proposed PV emulator. Sec tion 3 reports the experimental results of the emulator which models a BP Solar SX10 PV panel. Section 4 dis cusses the limitations of the emulator and followed by the conclusions in Section 5.
2. Description of the PV emulator
2.1. System overview
The PV emulator, as shown in Fig. 1, consists of a DC input source, V _{i}_{n} , a DC/DC converter for shaping the output I–V curves of the PV panel, a microcontroller for sensing the output voltage v _{p}_{v} and current i _{p}_{v} , calculation and sending duty cycle command, and a gate driver for
Fig. 1. Block diagram of the PV emulator.
amplifying the incoming duty cycle command suitable for driving the power transistor (MOSFET in this case). The output load R _{L} is modeled as a variable resistor to repre sent an equivalent resistance of a maximum power point tracker (MPPT).
2.2. Mathematical modeling of a PV panel
Apart from measuring an actual PV panel, one can also use an analytical model to represent the data in the data sheet from the manufacturer to obtain the I–V curves of a speciﬁc PV panel. In OrtizRivera and Peng (2005), the authors have generated an analytical model for a PV panel which is adopted in this paper:
I ðV Þ ¼ a I _{m}_{a}_{x} s _{i}
1 exp
V
1
bða c þ 1 cÞðV _{m}_{a}_{x} þ s _{V} Þ b
ð1Þ
where a is the percentage of eﬀective intensity of the light, b is the characteristic I–V curve constant, c is the shading lin ear factor, s _{i} is the rate of change with the temperature for
the current (A/ C), s _{V} is the rate of change with the temper ature for the voltage (V/ C) and I _{m}_{a}_{x} is the ideal maximum current (when V = 1 at STC). For this paper, a PV panel from BP Solar (Model: SX 10) is modeled. Assuming no shading and using a = 1 and others values provided by the datasheet (BP Solar PC SX 10 data sheet, 2003), a numerical expression of this PV panel can be found:
I ðV Þ ¼
0:65
_{1} _{} _{e} 1=b
1
V
1
b
b 21
ð2Þ
Using the maximum power point condition at 16.8 V and 0.59 A, the value of b can be calculated by (2) as 0.085. At 25 C, (2) can be further simpliﬁed to:
_{I} _{ð}_{V} _{Þ} _{¼} _{0}_{:}_{6}_{5}_{½}_{1} _{} _{e} ðV =1:785 11:7647Þ _{}
Similarly at 75 C one can get:
_{I} _{ð}_{V} _{Þ} _{¼} _{0}_{:}_{6}_{7}_{1}_{1}_{½}_{1} _{} _{e} ðV =1:445 11:7647Þ _{}
_{ð}_{3}_{Þ}
_{ð}_{4}_{Þ}
Fig. 2 shows the MATLAB plot of the I–V characteristic
curves of SX10 PV panel Eqs. (3) and (4).
2.3. Twoline and multipleline ﬁtting approaches
To generate N number of ﬁtting lines, N + 1 points from
the curve need to be selected. To begin with, a twoline
approach as shown in Fig. 3 is discussed. The two ends points
from the curve are the opencircuit voltage (21 V, 0 A) and
shortcircuit current (0 V, 0.65 A). The third point is selected
(16.8 V, 0.62 A) as the maximum power point (MPP) of the
curve where the two lines converge. Therefore the two equa
tions which represent the two lines are expressed as

0:65 0:004V 
ð5Þ 

ð6Þ 
D.D.C. Lu, Q.N. Nguyen / Solar Energy 86 (2012) 1477–1484
1479
Fig. 2. I–V characteristics of SX10 at 25 C and 75 C.
Fig. 3. Twoline curve ﬁtting approach.
To improve the accuracy of the curveﬁtting method, ﬁve lines as shown in Fig. 4 are used. Similarly, with six points selected, the ﬁve equations which represent the ﬁve lines are given by
I ðV Þ ¼ 
2:94 9:2143e ^{} ^{4} V ½for V ¼ 0–14 
ð7Þ 
I ðV Þ ¼ 
0:8233 0:0133V ½for V ¼ 14–16 
ð8Þ 
I ðV Þ ¼ 
1:2633 0:0408V ½for V ¼ 16–18 
ð9Þ 
I ðV Þ ¼ 
2:1651 0:0909V ½for V ¼ 18–19 
ð10Þ 
I ðV Þ ¼ 4:599 0:2190V ½for V ¼ 19–21 
ð11Þ 
2.4. DC/DC converter
Among the basic converters, buck and buckboost converters are able to be implemented as the DC/DC
Fig. 4. Fiveline curve ﬁtting approach.
converter for the PV emulator. The design consideration is that the converter is able to sweep through the entire voltage range of the PV panel. For a buck converter, a DC input voltage which is higher than the panel is required as it is a stepdown converter. The buckboost converter is more ﬂexible as it can perform both stepup and stepdown functions. The boost converter which is a stepup con verter, however, can only operate when the input voltage is lower than the output voltage hence it cannot reach down to 0 V and cannot be used in this case.
3. Experimental setup and results
3.1. Design considerations and hardware description
To verify the proposed PV emulator for the BP SX10 model, a hardware prototype is built and tested. The sche matic of the PV emulator circuit is shown in Fig. 5. The rea son to select a twoswitch buckboost converter for this implementation is twofold. Firstly it can work with lower input voltage (12–15 V) that reduces the power loss when the input voltage is used to step down further for the microcontroller circuit (5 V). If a buck converter is used, the input voltage has to be higher than 21 V which is the opencircuit voltage of the PV panel. Secondly, the output voltage is noninverting as compared to the singleswitch buckboost converter with inverting output. The advantage is that the output ground will be the same for the input ground and ground of other equipment which is connected to the output of the PV emulator, e.g. a MPPT switching converter. Another advantage is that the use of either split ting power supply or optocoupler and associated circuit for negative voltage feedback sensing, which added complexity and slowed down the response of the system, is eliminated. The twoswitch buckboost converter consists of two power MOSFETs (Q1 and Q2), two diodes (D1 and D2), an inductor (L1) and an output capacitor (C1), as shown
1480 D.D.C. Lu, Q.N. Nguyen / Solar Energy 86 (2012) 1477–1484
Fig. 5. Schematic of the proposed PV emulator based on a buckboost converter.
in Fig. 5. The two power transistors Q1 and Q2 share the same driving pulses from the Gate Driver block. When both transistors are closed, the inductor is charged by the input voltage. When the transistors are turned oﬀ, the inductor is discharged via two diodes (D1 and D2) to out put. By controlling the duty cycle of the transistors as a result of the linear equations calculation as stated in Sec tion 2.2, the I–V curve of the PV panel is implemented. For the microcontroller, a 8bit PICAXE AXE08M chip is selected. It is a modiﬁed version of Microchip PIC12F68 model. It has three ADC inputs and a PWM output pin which is easily conﬁgured by a singleline com mand. The chip runs at 4 MHz and therefore it can operate easily at 50 kHz switching frequency for the converter with suﬃcient accuracy and speed. The inductor (L1) is chosen to operate in continuous conduction mode (CCM) as it produces less conduction loss. A ±20% maximum current ripple in the inductor is selected. At 50 kHz switching frequency, the minimum inductance L _{m}_{i}_{n} to meet such requirement is at 15 V input and 21 V output (opencircuit voltage)
L min ¼
V _{i}_{n} D
15 0:58
f _{s} Di
50000
¼
_{0}_{:}_{4} ¼ 435 lH
ð12Þ
where V _{i}_{n} is the input voltage, D is the duty cycle of the power switches, f _{s} is the switching frequency, and Di is the maximum current ripple. In order to provide at least 12 V and ﬂoating gate drive for the MOSFET, a highside driver IR2117 is used. Since the PICAXE chip operates at 5 V but the IR2117 driver
requires at least 9.6 V input, a simple transistor inverter as a level lifting circuit is implemented. This small transis tor (2N7000) requires only 2.5 V to drive. When a high pulse from PICAXE chip is generated, the transistor is turned on and pulled the output to ground. When a low pulse is generated, the transistor is turned oﬀ and output is risen up to Vcc (12–15 V in this design). The programming for PICAXE is done on a free pro gramming editor provided by PICAXE. Once the program is written it can be downloaded to the PICAXE AXE08M microcontroller chip via a USB cable (AXE027) or RS232 cable (AXE028) connecting the computer and the chip (Download Socket in Fig. 5). This cable is not a normal USB or RS232 connector as it contains some electronic parts and it is preprogrammed. The programming lan guage for PICAXE is similar to the BASIC language. The program ﬂow chart is shown in Fig. 6. The program starts with deﬁning the symbols for voltage and current measurements and for counters. Then it outputs a small duty cycle to start the buckboost converter. Once the con verter operates, the program can take readings from the voltage and current (V_sense and I_sense in Fig. 5) to
determine the operating point for the PV panel the con verter mimics. Note that we are using fractional open voltage MPPT algorithm so only a voltage reading is needed to operate the converter to the desired operating point. The current measurement is only used for overload ing protection. The PICAXE08M chip can contain maxi mum of 8 linear equations so we have used 5 linear equations for 75 C and 3 linear equations for 25 C. The
D.D.C. Lu, Q.N. Nguyen / Solar Energy 86 (2012) 1477–1484
1481
Fig. 6. Program ﬂow chart for implementation of 5line for 75 C and 3 line for 25 C of the BP SX10 PV panel.
selection of what temperature to use is by providing a high or low signal to available ADC input of the PICAXE (Pin 4). Here we selected signal high for 75 C and low for 25 C. After the temperature is selected, the program will use the voltage reading to locate the nearest linear equation to ﬁnd out the operating point. A new duty cycle is then determined and produced from the PWM pin of the PIC AXE and the converter duty cycle is updated. After that the program goes back to the voltage and current checking process and repeats the procedure. The full program code for implementing the ﬁveline approach is shown in Appen dix A.
3.2. Results
Fig. 7 shows the output voltage ripple of the PV emula tor is less than 450 mV at 50 kHz switching frequency. The “On” and “Oﬀ” labels in the ﬁgure indicate the turnon instant and turnoﬀ instant of the power transistors Q _{1} and Q _{2} for each switching period. The duration of “On” period indicates the duty cycle of the transistors. And from the waveform it can be observed that the converter is oper ating in continuous conduction mode (CCM) as the ripple has only two stages, conﬁrming our design in Section 3.1 and Eq. (12). Note that the voltage spikes during the turnon and turnoﬀ instants and appeared beyond the hor izontal cursors are due to the pickup of electromagnetic
Fig. 7. Output voltage ripple of the PV emulator (Yaxis: 200 mV/div;
time scale: 10 ls/div).
Fig. 8. Comparison between experimental and theoretical results on two line approach.
noise from the voltage probe. Minimizing the ground loop of the voltage probe will greatly reduce the pickup. Fig. 8 shows the measured results on the prototype using the two line approach. The results are very close to the two operat ing lines. Fig. 9 shows further results on the ﬁveline approach at both 25 C and 75 C. Due to the memory limitation of the microcontroller, only eight lines can be implemented in a single program. Therefore Fig. 9 shows 5 lines for 25 C and 3 lines 75 C. Nevertheless, the mea sured results are closely matched with the theoretical designed curves. As shown in Fig. 10, the PV emulator reaches a maxi mum eﬃciency of around 80% near maximum power point voltage for both temperature settings. The low eﬃciency occurs at lower voltages because the output power of the power converter is small and the switching losses of power transistors and diodes are dominant. When PV emulator
1482 D.D.C. Lu, Q.N. Nguyen / Solar Energy 86 (2012) 1477–1484
Fig. 9. Comparison between experimental and theoretical results on ﬁve line approach and diﬀerent temperature settings.
open voltage with a factor, usually between 0.7 and 0.78. The converter will alter the duty cycle in order to adjust the panel voltage to be equal to this MPP value. This method is simple as no input current of the PV panel is needed. The limitation of this MPPT approach is that the MPP voltage is only an approximate value. Using the same MPPT code, diﬀerent operating conditions are tested to conﬁrm that the tracker can adapt to the change of the environment. Fig. 12 shows the capability of the tracker to reach the maximum power points at diﬀerent tempera tures and insolations. The tracker has been tested with the PV panel emulator. The tracker has successfully tracked the MPP voltages at 16.9 V for 25 C and 13.7 V for 75 C respectively which are very close to the theoretical values. The results demon strated that the performance of the PV panel emulator reacts identically to the real PV panel which it models.
Fig. 10. Measured eﬃciency of the PV emulator at diﬀerent temperature settings.
voltage increases and is moving towards the maximum power point, the output power of the converter also increases. Since the rate of switching losses only increases slightly as compared to the rate of increase of output power, there is less switching losses proportionally to the overall input power and the eﬃciency improves as output power increases as a result. In order to demonstrate the usefulness of the PV emula tor. A system is set up, as shown in Fig. 11, in which a buck converter as a maximum power point tracker is connected to the output of the PV emulator. The tracker is ﬁrst tested using the real PV panel outdoor. Fractional open circuit voltage technique (Esram and Chapman, 2007; Ahmad, 2010) is used as the MPPT algorithm in this case. Frac tional open circuit voltage technique measures the open cir cuit voltage of the PV panel at the startup process. And the MPP is approximated by multiplying the measured
4. Discussions
Using multiple straight lines to model an I–V curve of the PV panel is fast and straightforward. The low cost PICAXE08 M chip has four basic mathematical functions:
addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, and they are well suited for this implementation. To improve the accuracy of modeling further, however, exponential expres sions can be used and a more powerful microcontroller needed to be used. Also, as mentioned in Section 3.2, with limited program memory (800 lines memory) of this micro controller only eight lines can be implemented. But the PICAXE family has higher end microcontroller to imple ment more number of lines, such as 40 2 with 3200 lines memory. The PICAXE08 M chip has a pin dedicated to PWM generation. By using the PWMOUT function in the program, frequency and duty cycle are set using a single command line. The resolution of the duty cycle increases with decreasing switching frequency. For instance, at 50 kHz switching frequency, there are 80 steps. While at 40 kHz, the steps increase to 100. Larger steps of duty cycle enable the converter to operate with smaller ﬂuctuation when duty cycle has to be altered to adjust the output con tinuously due to change of input or output condition, pro vided the inductance and output capacitance have increased to maintain the same ripple current and ripple voltage with decreasing switching frequency. The power losses of the PV emulator are mainly due to conduction loss and switching loss. Conduction loss can be reduced by using better devices with smaller internal resis tance. This includes smaller turnon resistance for power transistor and diode, and less core loss and less copper (winding) loss for the inductor. Switching loss can be reduced by improving the slew rate of turnoﬀ and turn on instances of the power transistor and of the power diodes. For instance, we can use SiliconCarbide (SiC) instead of Silicon (Si) diodes. SiC diodes have negligible
D.D.C. Lu, Q.N. Nguyen / Solar Energy 86 (2012) 1477–1484
1483
Fig. 11. System setup for proposed PV emulator and a maximum power point tracker.
Fig. 12. Measured results on a maximum power point tracker using a buck converter.
reverserecovery current which usually causes additional switching loss (Spiazzi et al., 2003).
demonstrated the eﬀectiveness and usefulness of the PV emulator.
Appendix A. This appendix shows the original PICAXE program code for 5line approach for implementing the I– V curve of BP SX10 PV panel at 25 C and 3line appro ach at 75 C.
symbol v = b1 ’deﬁne symbols symbol i = b2 symbol dc = b0 symbol t = b3 let dc = 75 ’set duty cycle for low start voltage main:
pause 100 gosub changeduty goto check check:
pause 100
readadc 1, v ’ read voltage into v = 1/5 voltage value readadc 4, i ’ read current into i = current value if v > 250 then goto overload ’voltage of pin 1 >= 5 V
if i > 51 then goto overload ’current
ﬂow >= 1 A
let 
t = i/5 ’i = i/5 because of voltage divider 

5. Conclusions 
let 
v = v t ’calculate load voltage = V2i 

This paper presents the design and implementation of a PV emulator based on a twoswitch buckboost DC/DC 
if pin3 = 1 then ’pin 3 = 1 (75 C); pin 3 = 0 (25 C) if v < 123 then ’0 to 12 V let v = v/150 

converter and a low cost 8bit microcontroller. By using 
let v = 71/2 – 
v ’equation I = 0.67–0.0017 ^{*} V 

multiple straight lines approach, the PV emulator can 
elseif 
v > = 123 
and v < = 153 then ’12 to 15 V 

mimic a PV panel with acceptable accuracy. The PV emu lator has been tested using resistive loads as well as a max imum power point tracker. Experimental results have 
let v = v ^{*} 3/14 let v = 64 – v ’equation I = 1.238–0.049 ^{*} V 
1484 D.D.C. Lu, Q.N. Nguyen / Solar Energy 86 (2012) 1477–1484
elseif v > 153 and v < 182 then ’15
to 17 V
let 
v = v ^{*} 5/ 

let v = 219 – v else 
’equation I = 4.283–0.252 ^{*} V 

let 
dc = dc + 1 min 28 
goto changeduty endif else if v < 143 then
’0 to 14 V
let v = v/200 let v = 35 – v ’equation I = 0.65–9 e4 ^{*} V
elseif v > = 143 and v < = 163 then ’14 to 16 V let v = v/15 let v = 45 – v ’equation I = 0.8233–0.0133 ^{*} V elseif v > 163 and v < 184 then ’16 to 18 V
let 
v = v/5 

let v = 66 – v ’equation I = 1.2633–0.04 ^{*} V 

elseif v > = 184 
and 
v < 194 then ’18 to 19 V 

let 
v = 5 ^{*} v 

let 
v = v/11 

let v = 113 – v ’equation I = 2.1651–0.0909 ^{*} V 

elseif v > = 194 and 
v < 224 then ’19 to 21 V 

let 
v = 65 ^{*} v 

let 
v = v/61 

let v = 238 – v ’equation I = 4.599–0.2190 ^{*} V 

else 

let 
dc = dc + 1 min 28 
goto changeduty endif endif if i < v then let dc = dc1 min 28 goto changeduty elseif i > v then let dc = dc + 1 max 79 goto changeduty else goto check endif goto check
changeduty:
pwmout 2,19,dc goto check overload:
let dc = 75 gosub changeduty goto main
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