The NREL System Advisor Model for Australian CSP Stakeholders (SAM)

Predicting the output of a CSP system is a complex process.  Thermal systems include multiple subsystem whose behaviour at any point in time depends not only on the instantaneous conditions the whole system experiences, but also the recent history of its operation.

There is a range of approaches to modelling CSP systems and it is an on-going area of R&D.  One of the most respected is the free to use System Advisor Model (SAM) developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in the USA.

The SAM model is general purpose in nature and can predict hourly, monthly and annual output of CSP, CPV, flat plate PV and also a range of other renewable energy systems.  There has been an extensive body of work around its application to CSP systems in particular.

The material on this page was developed by AUSTELA under a project supported by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, ARENA. The work was carried out by ITP working in collaboration with members of NREL’s SAM team.


This project has produced three resources for public use:

These resources may be updated from time to time, the current version is release 1.2 of 6 March 2014. For details on changes incorporated see the following release notes. Watch this site for updates.

The key document from this project is the “Australian Companion Guide to SAM for Concentrating Solar Power” This guide includes step by step instructions on how to download and use SAM for Australian conditions; open and use the project files and incorporate the solar data files available above.

The processing of downloading and installing SAM is straightforward. The SAM website can be found at: Downloading the software from is free, but requires the new user to register an account (which is subsequently used for notification of updates etc). The process of downloading and installing SAM is straight forward from that point.

The learning page offers links to various presentations and webinar recordings. Most importantly it has a link to allow download of the SAM help System as PDF Document . 

This SAM help system document should be treated as the primary reference source for using SAM and understanding input variables, models, outputs and features in detail. The “Australian Companion Guide to SAM for Concentrating Solar Power” should be read and used in conjunction with this primary reference.

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Australian Solar Thermal Energy Association Ltd
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