SAM is developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) with funds from the U.S. Department of Energy. SAM collaborates with Sandia National Laboratories for the photovoltaic models, and has collaborated with the University of Wisconsin's Solar Energy Laboratory for the concentrating solar power models.

For a general description of the software, see Home.


SAM was originally developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in collaboration with Sandia National Laboratories in 2005, and at first used internally by the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Energy Technologies Program for systems-based analysis of solar technology improvement opportunities within the program. The first public version was released in August 2007 as the Solar Advisor Model Version 1, making it possible for solar energy professionals to analyze photovoltaic systems and concentrating solar power parabolic trough systems in the same modeling platform using consistent financial assumptions. Since 2007, two new versions have been released each year, adding new technologies and financing options. In 2010, the name changed to "System Advisor Model" to reflect the addition of non-solar technologies. As of the fall of 2013, NREL began releasing one new version per year with periodic updates as needed.

The DOE, NREL, and Sandia continue to use the model for program planning and in grant programs. Since the first public release, over 35,000 people representing manufacturers, project developers, academic researchers, and policy makers have downloaded the software. Manufacturers are using the model to evaluate the impact of efficiency improvements or cost reductions in their products on the cost of energy from installed systems. Project developers use SAM to evaluate different system configurations to maximize earnings from electricity sales. Policy makers and designers use the model to experiment with different incentive structures.

Development Team

The members of the core development team are listed in the table below. This team meets on a weekly basis to discuss progress on new features and capabilies, resolve bugs and other issues, and plan for documentation and outreach projects including webinars, reference manuals, and validation studies. To contact the team, please email us.

Name Role Organization
Nate Blair Project Management NREL
Janine Freeman Project Management, Photovoltaic and Wind Models NREL
Nicholas DiOrio Photovoltaic and Battery Storage Models NREL
Ty Neises Concentrating Solar Power Models NREL
Michael Wagner Concentrating Solar Power Models NREL
Steven Janzou Software Development NREL Subcontractor
Paul Gilman User Support and Documentation NREL Subcontractor

Industry partners, and NREL staff and interns work with the core team to develop model enhancements, provide input to the software development plan, and support development effors in other ways.

Road Map

The "SAM Five Year Solar Technologies Roadmap" describes goals and lists year-by-year activities for NREL's work on SAM's solar technology models from fiscal years 2015 through 2019.

  • SAM Five Year Solar Technologies Roadmap (PDF 755 KB)

Road map contents:

  • Executive Summary
  • History
  • Previous Successes
  • Other Products in our Space
  • Goals of the Model
  • Vision of the Future for SAM
  • Key New Features for Development
  • Business Plan
  • Year by Year Roadmap
  • Conclusion

Work Plan

NREL's work plan for SAM is based on the Statemement of Project Objectives it submits to the DOE Office of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency. Most SAM funding comes from the DOE solar program, NREL may also receive funding from other DOE programs for work on the wind, geothermal, or biomass models included in SAM.

  • Description of NREL's work plan for SAM for Fiscal Year 2014: October 1, 2013 through September 30, 2014 (PDF 224 KB)

Highlights from the work plan include:

  • New photovoltaic model based on the IEC 61853-1 standard
  • Research-grade 3-D shading tool for photovoltaic arrays
  • New SAM-specific weather file format that is easier to edit in spreadsheet programs
  • User interface update
  • Database connection to new NREL wind resource data

User Surveys

NREL periodically conducts user surveys to collect feedback from SAM users to help identify software development needs and prioritize task lists. The following documents contain summaries of survey results: