Consensus-based distributed control has been proposed for coordinating distributed energy resources (DERs) in microgrids (MGs). As one key component, distributed average observers are used to estimate the average of a group of reference signals (e.g., voltage, current, or power). State-of-the-art distributed average observers could lead to loss of privacy due to information exchange on the communication channels. The DERs' reference signals, which contains private information, could be inferred by an eavesdropper. In this paper, a privacy-preserving distributed average observer is proposed, which is based on robust consensus and uses the state decomposition method to preserve privacy. Compared to the existing methods, the proposed observer does not require the knowledge of the reference signal's derivative and gives accurate and smooth estimation, and is thus applicable for MG distributed control applications. A detailed analysis regarding the convergence and privacy properties of the proposed observer is presented. The proposed observer is implemented on hardware controllers and validated in the context of distributed MG control applications through hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) tests.

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