For descriptions of SAM's weather file formats, see the "Weather File Formats" topic in the software's Help system. The following excerpt is a copy of that topic from SAM 2020.2.29 r1:
Dobos, A.; Gilman, P.; Kasberg, M. (2012). "P50/P90 Analysis for Solar Energy Systems Using the System Advisor Model." NREL Conference Paper Preprint No. CP-6A20-54488. (PDF 432 KB)
Habte, A.; Lopez, A.; Sengupta, M.; Wilcox, S. (2014). "Temporal and Spatial Comparison of Gridded TMY, TDY, and TGY Data Sets." NREL Report No. TP-5D00-60866. (PDF 17.4 MB)
National Solar Radiation Database. (1992). " National Solar Radiation Data Base User's Manual (1961-1990)." [TMY2 format description.]
Sengupta, M.; Habte, A.; Gueymard, C.; Wilbert, S.; Renne, D.; Stoffel, T. (2017). "Best Practices Handbook for the Collection and Use of Solar Resource Data for Solar Energy Applications: Second Edition." NREL Report No. TP-5D00-68886. (PDF 8.1 MB)
Sengupta, M.; Habte, A.; Kurtz, S.; Dobos, A.; Wilbert, S.; Lorenz, E.; Stoffel, T.; Renne, D.; Myers, D.; Wilcox, S.; Blanc, P.; Perez, R. (2015). "Best Practices Handbook for the Collection and Use of Solar Resource Data for Solar Energy Applications." NREL Report No. TP-5D00-63112. (PDF 8.9 MB)
Wilcox, S.; Marion, W. (2008). "Users Manual for TMY3 Data Sets (Revised)." 58 pp.; NREL Report No. TP-581-43156. (PDF 1.7 MB)
A SAM weather file is a text file that contains one year's worth of data in hourly or subhourly time steps describing the solar resource or wind resource at a particular location. A weather file may contain typical-year data that represents long-term historical data or single-year data for a particular year. The solar resource and meteorological data in a SAM weather file may have been developed from ground measurements, data from a satellite, or a combination of the two.
For more information about weather data for SAM, see the "Weather Data" chapter in SAM's Help system. The Help system is available in SAM from the software's Help menu, and as a PDF file on the Download page.
For a description of SAM's weather file formats, see the "Weather File Formats" chapter in SAM's Help system, or download the PDF excerpt from the Weather Data Publications page.
For the United States, North and South America, and Southern Asia, the NREL National Solar Radiation Database (NSRDB) is the best source of data for locations in the United States, Canada, Central and South America, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and parts of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Myanmar, and western Southeast Asia.
You can use the Download buttons on SAM's Location and Resource input page to download NSRDB data directly from SAM.
The NSRDB provides access to the latest weather files as both single-year and typical-year files from the latest PSM dataset, and from the legacy TMY2 (MTS1) and TMY3 (MTS2) datasets.
Note about snow depth data. If you are looking for snow depth data to use with SAM's detailed photovoltaic model, please see this post on the SAM forum.
For Europe, Africa, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, the European Commission's Photovoltaic Geographical Information System (PVGIS) is a good source.
When you download PVGIS data, for now, the best format to use with SAM is the typical-year (TMY) in the EPW format: After setting the location, click the TMY tab and click the EPW button. To use this data in SAM, after downloading the EPW files to a folder on your computer, on the Location and Resource page, click the Add/remove weather file folders button to add the folder to the list SAM uses to build the solar resource library. The files will then appear in the library where you can select them.
If you know of other data sources to add to this list, please contact us.
The following sources in addition to the NSRDB and PVGIS sources described above provide free weather data:
|AUSTELA||Australia||Single-year hourly data (select years between 1996 and 2011). Twelve locations. SAM-ready TMY3 format. Free.|
|EnergyPlus||Global||Typical-year hourly data from various sources. Over 2,100 locations. SAM-ready EPW format. Free.|
|Climate.OneBuilding||Global||Typical-year hourly data from various sources. Over 9,000 locations. SAM-ready EPW format. Free.|
|SIREN Toolkit||Global||Single-year (1979 - present) from NASA MERRA-2. Use makeweather2 program in toolkit or download separate sen_makeweather_getmerra2 package. Free.|
|Old NREL NSRDB||United States||Original typical-year hourly data files with additional data and documentation for legacy NREL NSRDB 1961 - 1990 (TMY2), 1991 - 2010 update (TMY3), and 1998 - 2014 update (TMY3). Free.|
The following sources are are for commercial data products that will work with SAM:
|Clean Power Research||North America||Single-year data (1998 - ). Satellite-derived data. 10 km grid cells. SAM-ready TMY3 format. $$ (some free data).|
|SolarGIS||Global||Single-year and typical-year data (1994 - ). Satellite-derived data. 250 m grid cells. $$.|
|Meteonorm||Global||Single-year and typical-year data. Model-generated data from various sources. Various formats. $$.|
|White Box Technologies||Global||Single-year and typical-year data. Over 4,000 locations. Data from ASHRAE IWEC2, NSRDB, CWEC2, and CZ2010. $$.|
|Deutscher Wetterdienst WebWerdis||Germany and other countries||Single-year data. Free and $$.|
|Vaisala||Global||Single-year data and typical-year data. 3 km grid cells.$$.|