RTDS Simulation of PV Inverters in a Small Power System

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Sponsor Dr. Brian Johnson
Team Name Simulation Sages
Duration 2020 - 2021
Faculty Adviser
  • Dr. Feng Li
  • Abdallah Smadi
  • Dr. Brian Johnson / University of Idaho
Team Members
  • David Bowman
  • Lance Carr
  • David Lowe

The goal of the project is to develop a model of a small power system with multiple photovoltaic (PV) inverters. We will then implement external controls to coordinate real and reactive power output from the inverters.​ Finally, we will condense our findings into a lab exercise for future engineering students.​

Problem Definition[edit]

As renewable energy sources become more and more prevalent in our society's power infrastructure there is a growing need for engineers with an understanding of how inverter based renewable energy sources affect the power grid.


Appropriate power system models are a necessity for effective engineering in the power field. With the rise of inverter based renewable resources, the need for accurate working models is greater than ever, both for working professionals in the field as well as the future power engineers in the classroom.


Our goal is to create a basic distribution model that incorporates photovoltaic inverters and provides a hands on look at how this technology affects larger power system stability. We will also incorporate an automation scheme that can, in real time, regulate power flow to maintain stability for our small system. Ultimately, we will package our creation into a laboratory procedure so that students after us can learn first hand about inverter based resources in a larger distribution system.

Below is a list of files that represent the deliverables we have turned in up to this point in the project.

File:SimSages Team Contract.pdf
File:SimSages Budget.pdf
File:Simulation Sages - Team Value Proposition.pdf
File:Simulation Sages Product Requirements.pdf
File:SimSages Design Validation Plan.pdf
File:SimSages Team Meetings and Notes.pdf

Our team presentations can be found in the Additional Documentation section.


The model we will create will be based on the IEEE 13 bus system using a Real Time Digital Simulator (RTDS) and implemented with RSCAD software. It will incorporate three separate PV inverters with controls for each. We will also create a control scheme using an SEL Real Time Automation Controller (RTAC) to control real and reactive power output from the PV inverters based on specified grid parameters. A human-machine interface (HMI) will then be developed for real-time manipulation of the RTAC controls. When the model is working properly with the controls in place we will create a lab procedure document so future engineering students can experiment with small power systems with integrated PV inverters.

Answering the question "What will the final design look like":


  • No real safety standards are necessary due to the project being mostly software based.

Electrical Design:

  • A one line diagram will be provided which illustrates the three PV arrays integrated into the IEEE 13 bus system. The diagram of the 13 bus system can be found in the Additional Documentation section under Reference Materials.

HMI Design:

  • The design for the RTAC HMI has not been decided completely. However, it must follow certain standards such as simple aesthetically, intuitive functionally, and it must have the appropriate controls for all three PV inverters.

Lab Document Design:

  • The lab document will contain all necessary information to complete a lab. Sections on background, procedure, and deliverables will all be detailed within the document.

Design Considerations[edit]

One of the major considerations for our project design was which model to base it on. We had a few different choices. We could have used a model built from scratch that had any number of busses, loads, sources, etc. There were also two pre-made model options, one was the IEEE 13 bus system and the other was the IEEE 34 bus system. Ultimately we decided that since all of the team members were new to RSCAD and working with the RTDS we probably shouldn't try to build a model from scratch as it would be too time consuming. We also decided that a 34 bus system would be too complex considering the goals of the project. The IEEE 13 bus system was the model we chose to base our project on.

We also had to decide how many inverters we wanted to integrate into the system. Dr. Johnson, our client, recommended two or three. We decided to include three PV inverters. This would make the results of the simulation results variable enough to give a good idea as to how the grid behaves based on different power outputs from the inverters. It was also recommended to connect the inverters at the weakest busses. This meant finding which busses had the lowest power factor, or ratio of real power to total apparent power. We could find this by running the IEEE 13 bus system on the RTDS and finding the power factor of each bus.

For weeks the team was roadblocked while working with the PV array model from RTDS. There were some protection elements that weren't allowing the model to function as it should. We decided to go back to a base model instead of pulling the array model from a file that had it integrated into a different system. This made it easier to deconstruct the model and remove the parts that were unnecessary and causing issues. We are now close to being able to integrate three of the PV arrays on our IEEE 13 bus system. Once this is completed and communications are established between the hardware devices, an HMI can be designed to control our virtual system.

Project Learning[edit]

PV Array Protection Logic

Our main need for learning at the beginning of this project was to learn how to use RSCAD to build models to run on the RTDS. There is a fairly steep learning curve for this software. After finding a PV inverter model that would be suitable for integration in the IEEE 13 bus system, we found it difficult to find how to make the system register the effects of the inverter.

Two PV Arrays on a Single Bus

With help from our mentor from SEL, Asad Mohammad, we found that there were issues with the protection logic of the PV array model. We haven't found the root cause for this issue, but we have found that by bypassing the protection value "blockx8" we can get acceptable results from the PV inverter.

Now that the PV inverters are working properly we need to integrate them into the IEEE 13 Bus model. We decided to use a phased approach to this goal. First we made sure that we connect a single PV array to a single bus. Then we added two arrays to a bus. Since we will be using three arrays on the 13 bus system we will then add a third array to the bus. Once we have all three of these arrays working properly we will then integrate the three arrays onto the three weakest buses on the IEEE 13 bus system.

The next major step in our project will be to establish a connection to the SEL RTAC and create an HMI for manipulation of the inverter controls. We initially had issues connecting to the available RTAC but with some help from Asad we were able to establish a connection after changing some IP addresses. We then were able to connect the RTAC to the RTDS.

Currently the team is focusing on establishing communication channels between the RTAC the RTDS and an SEL-751 relay that we will be using to indicate breaker status changes in the system. We decided to use GOOSE messaging between the RTAC and RTDS and the RTAC and 751. We quikly found that there is a steep learning curve for setting up GOOSE messaging between these devices, especially between the RTAC and RTDS. Dr. Johnson recommended talking to Hari Challah, a PhD student working in the lab, for advice and guidance on communication between devices. Hari suggested using DNP protocol instead of GOOSE messaging because it is much easier to set up. Although DNP is not as powerful as GOOSE messaging, it will be adequate for the communication we plan on using for this project.


Design Validation Plan SimSages.png

The Design Validation Plan can be found in the image to the right. It shows the major project requirements and how the will be tested to make sure they meet specifications. As the project progresses and certain requirements are met and tested, the table will be updated to reflect the status of the project.

As of 3/5/2021 most of the design validation dates had to be pushed back because of unforeseeable circumstances. New dates have been chosen for design validation.

Team Members[edit]

David Bowman

Major: Electrical Engineering
Hometown: Moscow, ID
Responsibility: Team Leader
Email: bowm3340@vandals.uidaho.edu

Lance Carr

Major: Electrical Engineering
Hometown: Saint Maries, ID
Responsibility: Team Scribe
Email: carr9733@vandals.uidaho.edu

David Lowe

Major: Electrical Engineering
Hometown: Spokane, WA
Responsibility: Team Wiki-master
Email: lowe8625@vandals.uidaho.edu

Additional Documentation[edit]

Project Schedule



File:Snapshot 1 Presentation.pdf
File:Snapshot 2.pdf
File:SimSagesConcept Design Review.pdf

Reference Materials

File:IEEE 13 Bus Power System.pdf

File:Multi-Time Scale Real-Time Voltage and VAR Control using Real-Time Co-Simulations Platform.pdf