EME 810
Solar Resource Assessment and Economics

1.8 Introduction to SAM


Download System Adviser Model (SAM) Simulation Software

NREL's System Advisor Model (SAM) will be a useful simulation tool for this class. You will be required to use it for some of lesson assignments and your project. So I would like you to take the time to download and try launching SAM on your computer this week. 

The NREL website linked above also has a webinar video, which walks you through the key functions of SAM. Please feel free to watch it at your leisure. 


  1. Create a User Account and choose Photovoltaic as the Technology Focus at the bottom of the page.
  2. Follow the download and installation instructions.

    NOTE: SAM is an Open Source project! The version of System Advisor Model as of the update of this page is SAM 2023.12.17 (and there will likely be newer versions each semester). It requires about 1 GB of disk space, and either Windows 10/8/7 or OS X 10.9 Intel or later. SAM is a 32-bit program that will run on both 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems. If you do not have one of these operating systems, you can browse their list of Legacy Versions as an alternative.
  3. Install and launch SAM on your computer. The very first time, you will need to enter your email and click the "Register" button. SAM will send you a code to use in the next entry for "Key". Paste it in and get rolling!
  4. Try to "Start a New Project" with Photovoltaic Detailed Model for a Distributed scenario. The defaults are pretty reasonable in SAM. If you've never tried something like SAM, don't worry. This is really just an exploration step, and you can't really break anything by opening a new project and running it. So, just explore a little and have some fun.
  5. If you successfully create a new project, you can browse through the system parameters and options on the left side menu. Check the defalt numbers. You will see that you can change the values in the white boxes, and numbers in the blue boxes will calculate automatically. 
  6. Hit the big blue box in the lower left labeled  SIMULATE > . The program will run a year's solar data and will output a heap of results. The output in the table is the summary of stats for the project, usually estimating 25 years of a solar project.


There is no deliverable for this activity, but I strongly encourage you to take initial steps for installation and creating a project in SAM this week. Lesson 2 will give you some work to complete in SAM, so it will be useful to have it up and running. 

Yellowdig Conversation

Feel free to share your thoughts, questions, and tips on the SAM software in the Yellowdig space. Use the topic "Starting with SAM" for your posts. This is not a required activity, but it can still boost your participation score for this week.