Integration, Validation, and Application of a PV Snow Coverage Model in SAM

Janine Keith, David Ryberg

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


Due to the increasing deployment of PV systems in snowy climates, there is significant interest in a method capable of estimating PV losses resulting from snow coverage that has been verified for a variety of system designs and locations. Many independent snow coverage models have been developed over the last 15 years; however, there has been very little effort verifying these models beyond the system designs and locations on which they were based. Moreover, major PV modeling software products have not yet incorporated any of these models into their workflows. In response to this deficiency, we have integrated the methodology of the snow model developed in the paper by Marion et al. (2013) into the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's (NREL) System Advisor Model (SAM). In this work, we describe how the snow model is implemented in SAM and we discuss our demonstration of the model's effectiveness at reducing error in annual estimations for three PV arrays. Next, we use this new functionality in conjunction with a long term historical data set to estimate average snow losses across the United States for two typical PV system designs. The open availability of the snow loss estimation capability in SAM to the PV modeling community, coupled with our results of the nationwide study, will better equip the industry to accurately estimate PV energy production in areas affected by snowfall.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages33
StatePublished - 2017

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-6A20-68705


  • modeling
  • photovoltaics
  • PV
  • snow


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