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System Advisor Model (SAM)

Performance and financial modeling for renewable energy projects

The System Advisor Model (SAM) is a performance and financial model designed to facilitate decision-making for people involved in the renewable energy industry such as project managersand engineers, policy analysts, technology developers and researchers.

SAM makes performance predictions and cost of energy estimates for grid-connected power projects based on installation and operating costs and system design parameters that you specify as inputs to the model. Projects can be either on the customer side of the utility meter, buying and selling electricity at retail rates, or on the utility side of the meter, selling electricity at a price negotiated through a power purchase agreement (PPA).

The first step in creating a SAM file is to choose a technology and financing option for your project. SAM automatically populates input variables with a set of default values for the type of project. It is your responsibility as an analyst to review and modify all of the input data as appropriate for each analysis. Next, you provide information about a project's location, the type of equipment in the system, the cost of installing and operating the system, and financial and incentives assumptions.

SAM includes performance models for the following technologies:

  • Photovoltaic systems (flat-plate and concentrating)
  • Parabolic trough concentrating solar power
  • Power tower concentrating solar power (molten salt and direct steam)
  • Linear Fresnel concentrating solar power
  • Dish-Stirling concentrating solar power
  • Conventional thermal Solar water heating for residential or commercial buildings
  • Large and small wind power
  • Geothermal power and geothermal co-production
  • Biomass power