SAM Photovoltaic Model Technical Reference

Paul Gilman

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


This manual describes the photovoltaic performance model in the System Advisor Model (SAM). The U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory maintains and distributes SAM, which is available as a free download from These descriptions are based on SAM 2015.1.30 (SSC 41). SAM is a techno-economic feasibility model for renewable energy projects. It is designed for a range of different users, including project developers, system designers, policy makers, financial planners, and academic researchers. SAM's photovoltaic performance model is available both as part of the SAM desktop application, and in the SAM software development kit (SDK). This manual is intended for people who want to understand SAM's photovoltaic model, or for people who are using the SDK to develop their own applications. SAM runs on Windows and OS X operating systems, and is a user interface that performs the following functions: Organizes and displays the performance and financial model inputs in a user-friendly interface; Manages tasks associated with running model simulations; Provides options for 'advanced' simulations that involve multiple simulation runs for parametric and sensitivity studies; Stores arrays of model results; Calculates secondary results such as monthly and annual totals, capacity factor, system performance factor, and system losses; Displays tables and graphs of results; Allows for exporting data in different formats, CSV, graph images, Microsoft Excel, and a PDF report. The SAM SDK is a package containing the SAM Simulation Core (SSC) libraries and a set of software development tools that allow model developers to create their own interfaces to the simulation modules as either web or desktop applications.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages63
StatePublished - 2015

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-6A20-64102


  • modeling
  • photovoltaic
  • SAM
  • simulation
  • System Advisor Model


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