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Breaking the Hierarchy: Distributed Control & Economic Optimality in Microgrids


F. Dörfler, J. W. Simpson-Porco, F. Bullo

IEEE Transactions on Control of Network Systems

Modeled after the hierarchical control architecture of power transmission systems, a layering of primary, secondary, and tertiary control has become the standard operation paradigm for microgrids. Despite this superficial similarity, the control objectives in microgrids across these three layers are varied and ambitious, and they must be achieved while allowing for robust plug-and-play operation and maximal flexibility, without hierarchical decision making and time-scale separations. In this work, we explore control strategies for these three layers and illuminate some possibly-unexpected connections and dependencies among them. Building from a first-principle analysis of decentralized primary droop control, we study centralized, decentralized, and distributed architectures for secondary frequency regulation. We find that averaging-based distributed controllers using communication among the generation units offer the best combination of flexibility and performance. We further leverage these results to study constrained AC economic dispatch in a tertiary control layer. Surprisingly, we show that the minimizers of the economic dispatch problem are in one-to-one correspondence with the set of steady-states reachable by droop control. In other words, the adoption of droop control is necessary and sufficient to achieve economic optimization. This equivalence results in simple guidelines to select the droop coefficients, which include the known criteria for power sharing. We illustrate the performance and robustness of our designs through simulations.


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% Autogenerated BibTeX entry
@Article { D_rSim:2014:IFA_4881,
    author={F. D{\"o}rfler and J. W. Simpson-Porco and F. Bullo},
    title={{Breaking the Hierarchy: Distributed Control \& Economic
	  Optimality in Microgrids}},
    journal={IEEE Transactions on Control of Network Systems},
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