Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) Models

SAM includes models for the following kinds of CSP systems: Parabolic trough, molten salt and direct steam power towers, molten salt and direct steam linear Fresnel, dish Stirling, a generic CSP model, integrated solar combined cycle. References for the solar process heat models are listed separately below.

Mehos, M.; Price, H.; Cable, R.; Kearney, D.; Kelly, B.; Kolb, G.; Morse, F. (2020). Concentrating Solar Power Best Practices Study. 257 pp. NREL Report No. TP-550-75763. (PDF 4.5 MB)

SolarPACES Guideline for Bankable STE Yield Assessment, International Energy Agency.

Kesseli, D.; Wagner, M.; Guédez, R.; Turchi, C. (2018). CSP-Plant Modeling Guidelines and Compliance of the System Advisor Model (SAM). SolarPACES Conference Paper. 8pp. NREL Report No. CP-5500-72183. (PDF 300 KB)

Physical Trough Model

Wagner, M. J.; Gilman, P. (2011). Technical Manual for the SAM Physical Trough Model. 124 pp.; NREL Report No. TP-5500-51825. (PDF 3.7 MB)

Turchi, C.; Neises, T. (2015). Parabolic Trough Solar-Thermal Output Model Decoupled from SAM Power Block Assumptions. Milestone report prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy.  PDF 542 KB)

Power Tower

Feierabend, L. (M.S., 2009). Thermal Model Development and Simulation of Cavity-Type Solar Central Receiver Systems. University of Wisconsin-Madison. (ZIP 5.0 MB)

Hamilton, W.; Newman, A.; Wagner, M.; Braun, R. (2020). Off-design performance of molten salt-driven Rankine cycles and its impact on the optimal dispatch of concentrating solar power systems. Energy Conversion and Management. Vol 220 September 2020, pp.

Kistler, B. (1986). A User's Manual for DELSOL3: A Computer Code for Calculating the Optical Performance and Optimal System Design for Solar Thermal Central Receiver Plants. Sandia Report No. SAND86-8018. (PDF 10 MB) SAM 2015.1.30 is the most recent version of SAM to use DELSOL3 for solar field optmization. Newer versions of SAM use SolarPILOT.

Neises, T.; Wagner, M. (2012). Simulation of Direct Steam Power Tower Concentrated Solar Plant. ASME SE 2012 6th International Conference on Energy Sustainability July 23-26, 2012. SAM 2020.2.29 is the most recent version of SAM to include the direct steam power tower model.

Wagner, M.; Wendelin, T. (2018). SolarPILOT: A power tower solar field layout and characterization tool. Solar Energy Vol 171 September 2018, pp 185-196.

Wagner, M.; Newman, A.; Hamiltion, W.; Braun, R. (2017). Optimized Dispatch in a First-principles Concentrating Solar Power Production Model. Applied Energy Vol. 203 October 2017, pp. 959-971.

Wagner, M. (M.S. 2008). Simulation and Predictive Performance Modeling of Utility-Scale Central Receiver System Power Plants. University of Wisconsin-Madison. (ZIP 32.3 MB)

Linear Fresnel

Wagner, M.; Zhu, G. (2012). A Direct-steam Linear Fresnel Performance Model for NREL's System Advisor Model. NREL Conference Paper CP-5500-55044. (PDF 647 KB)

Wagner, M. (2012). Results and Comparison from the SAM Linear Fresnel Technology Performance Model: Preprint. NREL Conference Paper CP-5500-54758. (PDF 726 KB)

Bachelier, C. (2012). SAM Linear Fresnel solar boiler model: Novatec Solar Boiler Sample File. See the presentation materials for the SAM Virtual Conference 2012 listed on the SAM Events page at

Generic Solar System Model

Wagner, M. J.; Zhu, G. (2011). Generic CSP Performance Model for NREL's System Advisor Model: Preprint. 10 pp. NREL Report No. CP-5500-52473. (PDF 729 KB)

Solar Industrial Process Heat (IPH)

Kurup, P.; Turchi, C.; (2015). Initial Investigation into the Potential of CSP Industrial Process Heat for the Southwest United States. 78 pp. NREL/TP-6A20-64709. (PDF 5.3 MB)

Integrated Solar Combined Cycle

SAM 2018.11.11 is the most recent version of SAM to include the legacy integrated solar combined cycle model. This model is no longer being maintained.

Turchi, C.; Ma, Z. (2014). Co-located Gas Turbine / Solar Thermal Hybrid Designs for Power Production. Renewable Energy, Vol 64, April 2014.

Zhu, G.; Nieses, T.; Turchi, C.; Bedillon, R. (2015). Thermodynamic Evaluation of Solar Integration into a Natural Gas Combined Cycle Power Plant. Renewable Energy, Vol 74 February, 2015.

CSP Power Cycle Models

Hamilton T.; Newman, A.; Wagner. M.; Braun, R. (2020). Off-design Performance of Molten Salt-driven Rankine Cycles and its Impact on the Optimal Dispatch of Concentrating Solar Power Systems. Energy Conversion and Management, Vol 20.

Neises, T.; Boyd, M. (DRAFT 2021). Description of SAM's CSP User-defined Power Cycle Model. (PDF 235 KB) The user-defined power cycle option is available as part of the physical trough, molten salt power tower, and molten salt linear Fresnel CSP models in SAM.

Supercritical Carbon Dioxide Cycle Model

SAM versions after SAM 2020.2.29 do not include a supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) cycle model. An sCO2 cycle model is available as a separate model implemented in Python that can be used in conjunction with the sCO2 Cycle Integration macro in SAM to generate input data for SAM's User-defined Power Cycle model.

Neises, Ty. (2020). Steady-state off-design modeling of the supercritical carbon dioxide recompression cycle for concentrating solar power applications with two-tank sensible-heat storage. Solar Energy, Vol 212, December 2020, pp 19-33.

Neises, Ty.; Turchi, C. (2019). Supercritical Carbon Dioxide Power Cycle Design and Configuration Optimization to Minimize Levelized Cost of Energy of Molten Salt Power Towers Operating at 650 °C. Solar Energy, Vol 181, March 2019, pp 27-36.

Neises, T.; Turchi, C. (2014). A Comparison of Supercritical Carbon Dioxide Power Cycle Configurations with an Emphasis on CSP Applications. Energy Procedia, Vol 49, pp 1187-1196. This paper describes the legacy sCO2 model that was available in SAM 2020.2.29.

Thermal Energy Storage (TES)

Ma, Z.; Glatzmaier, G.; Wagner, M.; Neises, Ty. (2012). General Performance Metrics and Applications to Evaluate Various Thermal Energy Storage Technologies. ASME 2012 6th International Conference on Energy Sustainability, Parts A and B. San Diego, California, USA, July 23–26, 2012

Electric Thermal Energy Storage (ETES)

Hamilton, W.; Neises, T. (2023) Dispatch optimization of electric thermal energy storage within System Advisor Model. Journal of Energy Storage, Vol 61, May 2023.

Neises, T.; Hamilton, B.; Martinek, J.; McTigue, J. (2022) Stand-alone and Hybrid Electric Thermal Energy Storage in the System Advisor Model. 51 pp. NREL/TP-5700-82989. (PDF 2.3 MB)

CSP Modeling Approach

Dobos, A.; Neises, T.; Wagner, M. (2014). Advances in CSP Simulation Technology in the System Advisor Model. 7 pp. NREL/CP-6A20-61629.

Empirical Trough (Based on Excelergy)

Price, H. (2003). Parabolic Trough Solar Power Plant Simulation Model. Proceedings of the ISEC 2003: International Solar Energy Conference, 15-18 March 2003, Kohala Coast, Hawaii. New York: American Society of Mechanical Engineers. pp 665-673. NREL Report No. CP-550-34742. (PDF 548 KB)

Dish Stirling

SAM's Dish Stirling model is no longer being maintained. SAM 2020.2.29 is the most recent version to include this legacy model.

Fraser, P. (M.S. 2008). Stirling Dish System Performance Prediction Model. University of Wisconsin-Madison.  ZIP 1.8 MB)