Libraries and Databases

The information on this page is intended to help you understand the different kinds of data collections that SAM can interact with to populate values of input variables. For a general description of SAM and its capabilities, see Home. For more details about the data described here, see the relevant topics in the SAM Help system, which is also available in SAM from the Help menu. For information about default costs in SAM files, see System Cost Data.

Most of SAM's inputs are variables with single values that you provide by typing a number or choosing a value. (Excel Exchange and SamUL allow for automatically setting input variable values.) Examples of these kinds of inputs are:
  • Photovoltaic array or parabolic trough collector tilt and azimuth angle
  • Wind turbine hub height
  • System capacity
  • Costs

Some inputs are variables that you choose that represent sets of parameters or collections of data that SAM reads from a data file called a component library:

  • Photovoltaic module and inverter design parameters
  • Parabolic trough heat collection element (HCE) design parameters
  • Concentrating solar power heat transfer fluid properties
  • Wind turbine power curves

Still other inputs are variables with single values, but that can be automatically populated from an online database:

  • Incentives
  • Retail electricity rates

SAM characterizes the renewable energy resource and weather conditions at a given location using data from a weather file, which can be one of the files included with SAM, a file that you download from the web, or one that contains custom data that you or a colleague developed.

Online Databases

Several of SAM's input pages have tools that allow you to download data from online databases. For example, from the Electricity Rates page for the Residential and Commercial financial models, you can download electricity rate data from the online OpenEI Utility Rate Database. The following is a list of all of the online databases from which SAM can automatically download data. For more information about how SAM uses the data, please see the SAM Help system.

SAM accesses these databases via NREL Developer Network APIs.

Component Library Data Sources

SAM's performance models use collections of parameters that characterize system components. For example, the photovoltaic models use  a set of parameters to describe  module and inverter design characteristics, and the wind power model uses a set of wind turbine power curves to characterize the turbine's performance. These parameters are stored in comma-separated text files called libraries, which you can find in the libraries folder of your SAM installation.

Library Name Description Source
CEC Modules Photovoltaic module parameters for the CEC module model Go Solar California
CSP Empirical Trough TES Dispatch Time-of-delivery PPA price adjustment factors See Energy Payment Dispatch library
CSP GSS TES Dispatch Time-of-delivery PPA price adjustment factors See Energy Payment Dispatch library
CSP Physical Trough Receiver (HCE) HCE characteristics for the physical trough model NREL Excelergy model (PDF 548 KB)
CSP Physical Trough SCAs SCA characteristics for the physical trough model NREL Excelergy model (PDF 548 KB)
CSP Physical Trough TES Dispatch Time-of-delivery PPA price adjustment factors See Energy Payment Dispatch library
CSP Trough HCEs HCE characteristics for the empirical trough model NREL Excelergy model (PDF 548 KB)
CSP Trough Parasitics Parasitic loss factors for the empirical trough model NREL Excelergy model (PDF 548 KB)
CSP Trough Power Cycles Power cycle characteristics for the empirical trough model NREL Excelergy model (PDF 548 KB)
CSP Trough SCAs SCA characteristics for the empirical trough model NREL Excelergy model (PDF 548 KB)
Dish Stirling Systems Complete system descriptions for the dish-Stirling model Frasier 2008 (PDF 1.8 MB)
Energy Payment Dispatch Time-of-delivery PPA price adjustment factors for non-CSP technologies Based on California TOD schedules:
CEC TOD factors for IOUs, and
CPUC 2011 Market Price Referent
SRCC Collector parameters for the solar water heating model Solar Rating and Certification Corporation
Sandia Inverters Photovoltaic inverter parameters for the Sandia inverter model Go Solar California
Sandia Modules Photovoltaic module parameters for the Sandia module model Sandia PV Test and Evaluation program
SunPower Modules Photovoltaic module parameters for the Sandia module model SunPower
TOU Utility Rates Retail electricity rates (not used, see Online Databases below) (not applicable)
Wind Turbine Library Power curve data for wind power model

Small turbines: NREL Wind Energy Payback Workbook
Large turbines: NREL Wind Cost and Scaling Model

PelaFlow Consulting (UK) free turbine database.

For the CSP parabolic trough models, component parameters are from the NREL Excelergy model as listed in the table above, and also from documents listed at NREL Troughnet Parabolic Trough and System Testing. The trough model HCE parameters are from Burkholder 2008 (PDF 1.3 MB).

How to find SAM library CSV files

SAM stores library data in CSV files in the libraries folder of you SAM Installation folder, which is c:\SAM\<version number>\libraries by default in Windows. In OS X, see this support forum post for instructions to find the installation folder. 

If you do not use SAM but would like a copy of one of SAM's libraries, you can see if it is in the list below. We have posted some commonly requested libraries from SAM 2015.6.30 on July 6, 2015. If you would like a copy of a library not in the list below and do not want to export it from SAM yourself, contact us for help.

SAM 2015.6.30 photovoltaic and wind component libraries (install SAM for the latest versions as described above)

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