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Conducting Site and Economic Renewable Energy Project Feasibility Assessments

Conducting Site and Economic Project Feasibility AssessmentsEvaluating the site and economic feasibility of a solar project is an essential step in the development process and should be completed in the initial stages, prior to preparing a system design, entering into contracts, or purchasing equipment. Various tools and resources are available to the public for analyzing key project aspects such as site viability, resource potential, system performance, and cost estimates.

Below are a sample of tools and resources to help you evaluate solar project feasibility and economics that may influence your project development.

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System Advisor Model (SAM) for Financial Analysis of PV
SAM is a performance and financial model designed to facilitate decision-making for people involved in the renewable energy industry: project managers and engineers, policy analysts, technology developers, and researchers. SAM makes performance predictions and cost-of-energy estimates for grid-connected power projects based on installation and operating costs and system design parameters that you specify as inputs to the model.
PVWatts® Calculator
This tool estimates the energy production and energy costs of grid-connected photovoltaic (PV) energy systems throughout the world. It allows homeowners, small building owners, installers, and manufacturers to easily develop estimates of the performance of potential PV installations.
Transparent Cost Database
This database collects program cost and performance estimates for Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy technologies in a public forum where they can be viewed and compared to other published estimates. The database includes literature on technology cost, performance estimates, and levelized costs (both current and future projections) for electricity generation, biofuels, and vehicles. All data are downloadable for full transparency.
The Open PV Project
The Open PV Project is a collaborative effort between government, industry, and the public that is compiling a comprehensive database of PV installation data for the United States. This database serves as a web-based resource for users to easily explore and understand the current and past trends of the U.S. PV industry.
Dynamic Solar Maps, GIS Data, & Analysis Tools
Maps of solar radiation resources are developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory as a tool for assessing high-quality resources and technical potential information and data. These tools help determine things such as how much electricity can be produced from solar systems on a house or what renewable resources are available in specific areas. Solar maps provide monthly average solar resource information on grid cells. The insolation values represent the resource available to a flat plate collector, such as a PV panel, oriented due south at an angle from horizontal to equal to the latitude of the collector location. This is typical practice for PV system installation, although other orientations are also used.
Analysis of Web-Based Solar Photovoltaic Mapping Tools (PDF) (14 pp, 1.2MB)
A PV mapping tool visually represents a specific site and calculates PV system size and projected electricity production. This report identifies the commercially available solar mapping tools and summarizes the source data type and resolution, the visualization software program being used, user inputs, calculation methodology and algorithms, map outputs, and development costs for each map.