Report from CSPPLAZA
SAM（System Advisor Model）is a free power plant simulation software developed by NREL. Through the system, the designer can simulate, compute and estimate the technological economy of a CSP plant.
The history of SAM
SAM was originally called “Solar Advisor Model”, developed by cooperation of NREL and Sandia National Laboratories in 2005. Then it was applied only within United States Department of Energy for technology improvement and progress of solar energy.
In Aug 2007, NREL released the first public version of SAM for reference of people in solar energy field. But analysis on PV system and CSP system are available only under similar modeling platform and consistent financial data. From 2007 to 2013, NREL released two updated SAM version annually, in which many new technologies and financing options were added. In 2010, the software was named “System Advisor Model”, which reflected high availability to allow for renewable energy projects. Form 2014 on, NREL released one new version annually, and timely maintenance and updates were proceeded.
The functions of SAM
Currently, SAM is available to estimate the generation cost and generating-performance for renewable power such as PV, wind power, geothermal power and biomass power…etc. By typing in the data of local weather parameter, system type, system scale, system profit model, and system investment, you can receive the LCOE, thus to achieve initial profit calculation of the renewable project.
SAM mainly consists of two simulation models: performance model and financing model.
The performance model can estimate the unit output of a power plant, and generate a set of data of about 8760 power output values(per hour), which can show an annual output. You can refer to hourly or monthly performance parameters to acquire performance of the whole generating system, or you can refer to simulated data such as the gross generation and capacity factor to evaluate more performances of the plant.
Photo: per hour generation output graphics of a simulated 100MW trough system with 6-hour heat storage
The financing model can calculate different financing indicators of a period according to the operating cash flow. Meanwhile, the financing model can calculate the annual cash flow according to the annual output value computed by the performance model.
SAM shows the simulated results through tables, charts and reports. Detailed annual cash flow and per hour’s performance data can shown through table and charts. After simulation, SAM will show a set of default data. You can set the title, color, and word size to customize the diagram, or you can create some new diagrams to show different simulated results of the parameters. You can also export the diagrams to produce reports, make show PPT, or further analyze the simulated results by other software.
Photo: export report from SAM
china needs to develop localization SAM software
With the application of SAM in Chinese CSP market, CSPPLAZA interviewed many domestic CSP or related enterprises units and institutes such as Northwest Electricity Power Design Co.,Ltd. Of China Power Engineering Consulting Group, North China Power Engineering Co.,Ltd. Of China Power Engineering Consulting Group, Inner Mongolia Electric Power Survey and Design Institute, North China Engineering Design & Research Institute Co.,Ltd, China HuaNeng Group, Inner Mongolia Energy Construction And Construction Co., Ltd.
According to feedback information from interviewed personage, there are currently few simulation software available for CSP industry domestically. SAM is at present the most commonly applied to analyze CSP projects’ pro-phase economy efficiency, and it is helpful for CSP projects’ prophase development.
The simulated results only provide references. Since SAM was developed by America, gap lies between the built-in data parameters and the actual domestic data. Most of the data are defaulted according to overseas projects, some could be modified while cannot, which lead to inaccurate simulated data.
Therefore, SAM is not yet enough to give solutions to the preliminary-period problems for domestic projects. For more accurate simulated data, it is necessary to develop localized SAM tool based on the existing domestic situations.
Some early CSP players or participants such as Northwest Electricity Power Design Co.,Ltd. Of China Power Engineering Consulting Group and Inner Mongolia Electric Power Survey and Design Institute had, based on China’s practical situation, designed some simulation software better adapting to developing CSP projects domestically. Besides the fact that the cost data and parameters are more in line with the actual situation of China, they embedded in the software some regions’ measured radiation data provided by the metering station(in some parts, traditional weather stations do not measure the DNI value), so as to adapt to local CSP generation projects.
Australia has developed a specialized SAM tools. In 2013, AUSTELA improved SAM with $73500 provided by ARENA, thus to make it suitable for Australian local CSP project development. And an operational guidelines was issued to help Australian users know SAM step by step, SAM, to guide Australian users to use SAM to simulate CSP project development process under local conditions. Some key data was embedded in it, such as solar radiation resources of the pre-selected CSP project site.
In the international market, SAM is only as a reference tool to simulate the antecedent work of power station. Many leading manufacturers in CSP field have self-developed specialized simulation software, for example Spain-based company Ingeteam, the company has developed a type called “Feasibility Team”, which produces simulation data with higher accuracy. Jia Yongzhu, Ingeteam’s sales director greater China, explained on CSPPLAZA annual meeting 2015 the differences between the above mentioned two software, he said: “China’s northwestern region have a larger temperature difference between day and night, and SAM will provide the overall data of heat loss and complementary combustion, which is a general concept. But ‘Feasibility Team’ can work out how much complementary combustion is needed per hour, and compute how mush output can be achieved per hour. Electricity output value is more accurate after the optimization.”