System Advisor Model (SAM) General Description (Version 2017.9.5)

Nate Blair, Nicholas DiOrio, Janine Freeman, Paul Gilman, Steven Janzou, Ty Neises, Michael Wagner

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


This document describes the capabilities of the System Advisor Model (SAM) developed and distributed by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The document is for potential users and others wanting to learn about the model's capabilities. SAM is a techno-economic computer model that calculates performance and financial metrics of renewable energy projects. Project developers, policy makers, equipment manufacturers, and researchers use graphs and tables of SAM results in the process of evaluating financial, technology, and incentive options for renewable energy projects. SAM simulates the performance of photovoltaic, concentrating solar power, solar water heating, wind, geothermal, biomass, and conventional power systems. The financial models are for projects that either buy and sell electricity at retail rates (residential and commercial) or sell electricity at a price determined in a power purchase agreement (PPA). SAM's simulation tools facilitate parametric and sensitivity analyses, Monte Carlo simulation and weather variability (P50/P90) studies. SAM can also read input variables from Microsoft Excel worksheets. For software developers, the SAM software development kit (SDK) makes it possible to use SAM simulation modules in their applications written in C/C plus plus, C sharp, Java, Python, MATLAB, and other languages. NREL provides both SAM and the SDK as free downloads at SAM is an open source project, so its source code is available to the public. Researchers can study the code to understand the model algorithms, and software programmers can contribute their own models and enhancements to the project. Technical support and more information about the software are available on the website.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages24
StatePublished - 2018

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-6A20-70414


  • CSP
  • financial model
  • modeling
  • PV
  • SAM
  • System Advisor Model
  • wind


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