Validation of Multiple Tools for Flat Plate Photovoltaic Modeling Against Measured Data

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


This report expands upon a previous work by the same authors, published in the 40th IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists conference. In this validation study, comprehensive analysis is performed on nine photovoltaic systems for which NREL could obtain detailed performance data and specifications, including three utility-scale systems and six commercial scale systems. Multiple photovoltaic performance modeling tools were used to model these nine systems, and the error of each tool was analyzed compared to quality-controlled measured performance data. This study shows that, excluding identified outliers, all tools achieve annual errors within +/-8% and hourly root mean squared errors less than 7% for all systems. It is further shown using SAM that module model and irradiance input choices can change the annual error with respect to measured data by as much as 6.6% for these nine systems, although all combinations examined still fall within an annual error range of +/-8.5%. Additionally, a seasonal variation in monthly error is shown for all tools. Finally, the effects of irradiance data uncertainty and the use of default loss assumptions on annual error are explored, and two approaches to reduce the error inherent in photovoltaic modeling are proposed.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages21
StatePublished - 2014

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-6A20-61497


  • photovoltaic models
  • PV modeling error
  • PV*SOL
  • PVWatts
  • SAM
  • System Advisor Model (SAM)
  • validation


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