This project developed the necessary tools and additions to allow the System Advisor Model (SAM) to provide the same level of benefit for application to Australian geographical and market conditions as it does to the US.
The Improving the Accessibility of the System Advisor Model project acknowledges that there is a range of approaches to modelling concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) systems.
These include the projection of CSP system performance and economics, which is an ongoing area of international research and development. One of the most respected tools for modelling renewable energy systems, including CSP, is the public domain System Advisor Model (SAM) developed in the US by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
SAM is a general purpose model that can predict the hourly, monthly and annual output of a range of renewable energy systems. There has been an extensive body of work around its application to CSP systems in particular.
SAM is a proven and user-friendly tool for scoping and conducting sensitivity and business analysis on proposed CSP projects, but as currently configured it is mainly suited to US locations and markets.
Prior to this project, a number of characteristics made it difficult for SAM to be usefully applied in Australia. The pre-existing CSP models in SAM were not easily accessible for new users and had US-centric financial settings. There was also no accurate, publicly-available set of solar data files in the necessary format for Australian sites.
This project developed the necessary tools and additions to allow SAM to provide the same level of benefit for application to Australian geographical and market conditions as it does to the US.
This was achieved by developing models with appropriate financial default settings, addressing the shortcomings in currently available solar resource data, and producing a guide for Australian users.
The project deliverables facilitate better understanding and enable more cost-effective analysis of CSP system outputs, the value of CSP power generation, CSP system optimisation and cost sensitivities for CSP in Australian market conditions.
Major CSP industry participants, electricity system regulators and participants, financiers, researchers and government bodies are expected to carry out such analysis internally to varying degrees and will have varying degrees of sophistication in their internal modelling capabilities.
Placing an easy to use resource in the public domain saves duplication of effort and wasted resources and provides a robust benchmarking and validation aid.