Technical Manual for the SAM Physical Trough Model

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


NREL, in conjunction with Sandia National Lab and the U.S Department of Energy, developed the System Advisor Model (SAM) analysis tool for renewable energy system performance and economic analysis. This paper documents the technical background and engineering formulation for one of SAM's two parabolic trough system models in SAM. The Physical Trough model calculates performance relationshipsbased on physical first principles where possible, allowing the modeler to predict electricity production for a wider range of component geometries than is possible in the Empirical Trough model. This document describes the major parabolic trough plant subsystems in detail including the solar field, power block, thermal storage, piping, auxiliary heating, and control systems. This model makesuse of both existing subsystem performance modeling approaches, and new approaches developed specifically for SAM.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages124
StatePublished - 2011

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5500-51825


  • concentrating solar power
  • CSP
  • optical efficiency
  • parabolic trough
  • physical trough
  • SAM
  • Solar Advisor Model
  • system modeling
  • technical manual
  • thermal performance
  • transient
  • yield analysis


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