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Data and Tools

The following data and tools with respect to concentrating solar power (CSP) include databases, maps, and tools produced almost exclusively by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).


SolarPACES Database of CSP Projects Around the World

NREL, in conjunction with the Solar Power and Chemical Energy Systems (SolarPACES), maintains a database of CSP projects around the world with plants that are either operational, under construction, or under development. CSP technologies include parabolic trough, linear Fresnel reflector, power tower, and dish/engine systems. Each project profile includes background information, a listing of project participants, and data on the power-plant configuration.

Direct Normal Irradiance (DNI) maps

Example of a direct-normal solar radiation map of the U.S. Southwest filtered for solar resource, land availability, and land slope.

We feature the direct-normal solar radiation map of the U.S. Southwest, as well as filtered direct-normal solar radiation maps for the U.S. Southwest states—all or part of the southwestern states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Utah.

We developed direct-normal solar radiation maps for the U.S. Southwest that apply filters on the following attributes: solar resource (excludes areas below 6.0 kWh/m2/day), land availability (excludes national parks and other areas off limits to development), and land slope (excludes land having slopes >1% or >3%). This approach identifies the most economically suitable lands available for deploying large-scale CSP plants. Development of these maps was supported by NREL's Geographic Information Systems (GIS) team.

The Dynamic Maps, Geographic Information System (GIS) Data and Analysis Tools site provides dynamically generated maps of renewable energy resources that determine which energy technologies are viable solutions in the United States.

Modeling and Software Tools

System Advisor Model

The System Advisor Model (SAM) is an advanced modeling tool for predicting the performance and cost of solar technologies at specific sites. 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 the user inputs to the model. See the SAM home page for more information and to download.

Solar Power tower Integrated Layout and Optimization Tool (SolarPILOT™)

The SolarPILOT is code to address the performance and layout requirements for power tower systems. This tool integrates the rapid layout and optimization capability of the analytical DELSOL3 program with the accuracy and precision of SolTrace™ ray tracing.


SolTrace is a software tool developed at NREL that models CSP systems and analyzes their optical performance. Although ideally suited for solar applications, the code can also be used to model and characterize many general optical systems. The creation of the code evolved out of a need to model more complex solar optical systems than could be modeled with existing tools. See more on SolTrace.

Regional Electricity Deployment Systems (ReEDS) Model

The Regional Electricity Deployment System (ReEDS) Model is a capacity-expansion model that analyzes critical energy issues in the U.S. electricity sector, with detailed treatment of the full potential of conventional and renewable electricity-generating technologies, as well as electricity storage.

Job and Economic Development Impact (JEDI)

Job and Economic Development Impact (JEDI) is used to quantify potential employment and financial outcomes. First developed to model wind energy impacts, JEDI has been expanded to also analyze CSP, as well as biofuels, coal, geothermal, marine and hydrokinetic power, natural gas, and photovoltaic power plants. Learn more.

PXS/PXS Prospector

New modeled solar resource and meteorological dataset from NREL that includes 4-meter spatial resolution (maximum) and half-hour temporal resolution (maximum).

Cost of Renewable Energy Spreadsheet Tool (CREST)

The Cost of Renewable Energy Spreadsheet Tool (CREST) is an economic cash flow model designed to assess projects, design cost-based incentives (e.g., feed-in tariffs), and evaluate the impact of tax incentives or other support structures.

Physical Tools


VSHOT (Video Scanning Hartmann Optical Test) characterizes the optical performance of point-focus and line-focus optical concentrators. Learn more.


SOFAST (Solar Optical Fringe Alignment Slope Technique) measures the mirror surface slope and collector performance. Learn more.

Thermal Scout

Thermal Scout is a technique that uses a vehicle-mounted infrared camera and global positioning system to identify which receivers in an operating parabolic trough plant are losing heat and require maintenance. Learn more.

Distant Observer™

Distant Observer quickly and accurately measures the efficiency of a complete optical system in a parabolic trough collector. Optimizing optical efficiency is essential to the economic viability of the CSP plant. Learn more.