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EQUEST is a free energy modeling software for Windows. To start with an energy modeling project, you need to edit DD Wizard Components (Project/Site/Utility, CHW Plant Equipment, HW Plant Equipment, etc.) and select Building Shell Components and Air-Side System type. After setting up these parameters, start building your energy model. May 05, 2017  Energy Modeling Energy and Power Evaluation Program (ENPEP-BALANCE) ENPEP-BALANCE is a software tool developed at Argonne National Laboratory that allows users to evaluate the entire energy system (supply and demand sides) and the environmental implications of different energy. Energy codes, and implement building energy rating programs. However, large discrepancies exist simulation results between different Building Energy from Modeling Programs (BEMPs). This leads to many users and stakeholders lacking confidence in results from BEMPsthe and building simulation methods.

A detailed study of 7 unique solar PV design and simulation software(s) that were listed in a 2015 publication by MNRE/TERI. Main features and prices included.

[This independent article has been compiled by Indranil Bhattacharya who has tested each software by running basic simulation exercises. He does not claim to be an expert user or developer of any of these products. His views are purely subjective and are meant to give the reader a quick insight into these brilliant programs, each of which have unique features to offer and different ways of tackling the same problem.]

A recent publication by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) listed 7 PV simulation software that are commonly used to design Solar PV systems worldwide. The programs listed are as follows (in alphabetical order):

Homer Pro – Homer Energy, USA

PV F-Chart – F-Chart software, USA

pvPlanner – SolarGis, Slovakia

PVsyst – Pvsyst SA, Switzerland

RETscreen – Natural Resources Canada, Canada

System Advisor Model (SAM) - National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), USA

Solar Pro – Laplace Systems, Japan

Comparisons of these programs have been made to ascertain how good each are in design and simulation of solar PV power systems. The analysis has been done with focus on SPV power only and hence programs that simulate other sources of renewable energy like wind, biomass, etc. may not necessarily get more preference. Based on the author's individual attempt at using these programs under constant project parameters ratings have been provide at the end of the article. The following criteria have been considered:

  • Functions and USP
  • User Interface
  • Historical Weather Data
  • Module and Inverter Information
  • Pricing

Developed by NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) USA and later enhanced and distributed by Homer Energy is a micro-grid optimization software. HOMER stands for Hybrid Optimization Model for Multiple Energy Resources and comes with Simulation, Optimization and Sensitivity Analysis tools.

CAPEX and OPEX calculation possible using a project wizard. Simulate multiple energy sources. Add multiple loads. Factors like wind speed, fuel cost and emissions penalties can be included in the calculation. Location search by name possible. Not specifically designed for Solar PV. Does not generate IV curve data or do shading analysis. Also PV electricity generation report is less comprehensive and detailed due to limited information on weather data and module data. Many loss factors during PV power generation are not added to calculation.

Schematic View is useful. Graphical menu system is a plus. Not intuitive and too many parameters to be added manually.


Can import TMY2/TMY3 data from NREL website. Also NASA and SolarGIS data can be imported from their websites. Does not come bundled with free weather data.

Can import module data. Only 8 modules (including 1 generic) and 8 (including 1 generic) inverters are included in the program.

Cloud licensing available.Fully loaded permanent version available in Commercial USD 4,200/INR 280,000 Educational USD 2,100/INR 140,000 and Student USD 350 annually/ INR 23,407 annually

Screenshots of Homer version x64 3.6.3

(Fig.1a) Design Interface with Schematic View

(Fig.1b) Simulation Report


Developed by faculties of University of Wisconsin, PV F-Chart is a PV system analysis design program that uses solar radiation data to calculate PV power generation not taking into account variations caused by PV modules, inverters and other variables. This program is targeted for academic purposes.

Simple program that calculates PV energy output based on a generic module and inverter. All data to be added manually and therefore it is difficult to quickly compare generation data by switching module data, site capacity or location. No shading analysis. Not suitable for calculation of PV power in real world conditions. Simple graph or tabulated data can be generated but cannot be exported.

Very basic and handy for calculation when data is entered manually for every parameter. It is a collection of macro enabled spreadsheets. Very limited automation and no wizards available.

300 locations are bundled with the software. There is no option to import weather data from common sources like TMY3. Data can only be added manually.

No scope for module or inverter data to be added to calculation.

Student USD 400/INR 26,750 Academic USD 600/INR 40,000

Screenshots of PV F-CHART version 3.55w

(Fig.2a) Design Interface with Manual Data Entry Screen

(Fig.2b) Monthly Generation, Economic Calculations and Efficiency Report


This software comes from solar resource database provider SolarGis. It is a cloud based software that works on the SaaS (software as a service) platform and claims their data is highly accurate and offers a rigorous systematic validation approach increasing data reliability.

Accurate satellite data allows user to make estimation of solar radiation and PV power potential of a location and generate report in 14 languages. It automatically calculates terrain shading however there are no options for setting up surrounding structures or do near shading analysis. It is only available as an online version, so an internet connection is mandatory. Allows companies to use their API and access SolarGis through 3rd party apps.

Simulation based easy setup in three steps. Interactive high resolution solar resource maps (iMaps) allow users to accurately pinpoint site location. Interface is neat and intuitive but the performance of the interface could be affected by internet connectivity speeds which is a drawback of online software.

Long term annual and monthly average data is included in the basic package. There is no option of importing other data types like NASA, Meteonorm, SAM or user recorded data.

Uses generic modules that are based on an average of 18 commonly used modules of various makes and users choose between cSi, CdTe, and CIS modules. Inverter is also a generic one where user can define efficiency. They claim the variation in most modules is not more than 1.22% which is less than the variation in solar radiation, hence the need to have a module and inverter database does not arise.

One location and no map function – USD 560/INR 37,500 PER YEAR. Multiple location and no map function – USD 1,700/INR 115,000 PER YEAR. Multiple location + map function + direct normal radiation data (DNI) – USD 3,600/INR 241,500 PER YEAR.

Screenshots of pvPlanner version 2.0

(Fig.3a) Interactive iMap function that allows user to pinpoint location

(Fig.3b) PV Output Data of selected location

(Fig.3c) Solar Radiation Data of selected location

(Fig.3d) Downloadable Report generated available in PDF/Excel/CSV formats and 14 languages

Energy Modeling Software Mac Users Neato


Developed by Swiss physicist Andre Mermoud and electrical engineer Michel Villoz this software is considered a standard for PV system design and simulation worldwide. The developers claim this software is designed to be used by architects, engineers, researchers and students.

Quick estimation of production at project planning stage, detailed study, sizing, hourly estimation and report generation are its key features. Handy design tool for PV system design and estimation. Simulates most parameters that are required by PV system designers and helps to generate a comprehensive simulation report.

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Allows high level of control of various factors. Where this program lags is its ability to handle shadow analysis. It's perspective tool crashes on repetitive usage and feels unstable simulating shading and does not provide any visual cues of shading. Program screen cannot be maximized therefore can be tedious to see all parameters if using a small monitor.

Bundles Meteonorm’s latest data file. Can also around 15 different data sources covering most regions worldwide. Can also import user defined data.

Bundled database from Photon publication that lists thousands of modules and inverter models. Can also input user defined data.

Limited Version allows up to 30Kw installations and ships for USD 1,040/INR 70,000. Unlimited Version ships for USD 1,351/INR 90,685

Screenshots of PVsyst version 6.47

(Fig.4a) Project Setup screen

(Fig.4b) Project Simulation Parameters

(Fig.4c) Setting Loss Coefficients

(Fig.4d) Shading Analysis using Perspective Tool

(Fig.4e) Parameter Optimization Tool

(Fig.4f) Report Summary

(Fig.4g) Energy Production Report

(Fig.4h) Loss Report stating various factors


Developed by National Resources Canada it is an Excel-based clean energy project analysis software tool that helps decision makers quickly and inexpensively determine the technical and financial viability of potential renewable energy, energy efficiency and co-generation projects.

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Free program consisting of a macro enabled spreadsheet that has all the formulae in place to calculate various sorts of energy sources including solar PV and allows user to calculate PV power generation based on location, do cost analysis and determine project feasibility. Good for students and a handy tool for those who might want to look at investment and returns on a solar PV project at an early stage. Does not have any shading analysis or reporting function.

Fairly easy to use as it is a regular Excel spreadsheet that most users are accustomed to and has macros enabled with options to choose from drop down lists. There is not much scope of modifying these values and percentages.

Comes loaded with historical weather data from NASA database which covers all major cities worldwide. No scope of adding other data sources or custom data.

Comes with limited number of modules but not inverters. There is no scope for adding custom module or inverter data.

Free of cost. Available for download from Canada National Resources website.

Screenshots of RETScreen version 4

(Fig.5a) Home Screen where Project Details and Location are chosen

(Fig.5b) Selecting Climate Data

(Fig.5c) Selecting Module and desired rating

(Fig.5d) Power Generation Estimates generated along with Financial and Emissions Analysis


Free software developed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), it is a performance and financial model designed to help in decision making (taking into account U.S. data and energy policies) at project planning stage.

SAM makes performance predictions and cost of energy estimates for grid-connected power projects based on installation and operating costs and system design parameters specified by the user. Has presets for various types of financial models used in the U.S. and the user can choose the suitable option and provide inputs to run a simulation and generate reports on generation, losses and financials. Does not offer shading analysis but can import this data from PVsyst.

Requires a lot of manual data entry and if you are a person who does not have a background in PV system design you might find it a bit overwhelming.

Downloads data from National Solar Radiation Database of U.S. that covers many cities from around the globe. Allows importing of TMY2, TMY3 and EPW data.

Large database of modules and inverters listed by CEC (California Electricity Commission) and Sandia National Laboratories is bundled with the software or can be freely downloaded.

Free of cost.

Screenshots of SAM version 3.14

(Fig.6a) Selecting Project Location

(Fig.6b) Choosing the Module and desired rating

(Fig.6c) Shading Calculation Editor

(Fig.6d) Running the Simulation

(Fig.6e) Simulation Report


This is the only software in the MNRE list that offers a minute-by-minute calculation making it one of the the most accurate and also the only software to offer an interactive 3D user interface that allows visualization of the PV system installation and see real time changes to shading and power generation by moving objects in 3D space.

Energy Modeling Software Mac Users Neat Windows 10

Offering high levels of accuracy of PV energy generation due to its unique minute-by-minute calculation formula that takes a cumulative kilowatt reading instead of the usual average kilowatt hour reading taken most other software. Also it’s detailed interactive near shading analysis allows a user to pinpoint specific areas that are being affected and make necessary changes in the design to improve generation. Also worth mentioning is the Map function that aids in drawing a site layout with the help of satellite ground imagery.

One of the most user-friendly user interfaces. A Simulation Wizard guides the user to quickly set up an installation whether it’s a rooftop or megawatt level project. The 3D CAD environment allows a user to interactively build the environment around it by dragging and dropping 3D objects. Accurate animations display the effect of shading on modules and users can adjust the position of objects coming in the sun's path and immediately see the result on the affected modules. The built-in map function saves the designer the time needed to do a visual site survey and area calculation.

The software comes bundled with data from hundreds of weather stations worldwide. User can also choose to import Meteonorm, Solar GIS or user generated data saved in a tabular format.

Comes bundled with over 25,000 modules and inverters listed on Photon database. User can also choose generic modules and inverters from a list that allows for user customization of parameters.

The Educational version is priced at USD 1,300/INR 90,000 The Commercial version ships at USD 2,050/INR 137,000

Screenshots of Solar Pro version 4.3

(Fig.7a) The Simulation Wizard provide step-by-step PV System Setup Guidelines

(Fig.7b) 3D CAD Interface showing Interactive Shading and Building Construction

(Fig.7c) The Built-In Microsoft Bing Map Function allows overlaying installation on Satellite Map Imagery

(Fig.7d) The Auto Array Installation Feature that makes it easy to overlay modules on a rooftop

(Fig.7e) The Shadow Mapping Function that pinpoints modules affected by shading

(Fig.7f) Easily change Direction of Wiring to Optimize System

(Fig.7g) Setting up of Various Coefficients taking into account Loss Factors

(Fig.7h) Minute-By-Minute Power Calculation accumulating Kilowatts every minute

(Fig.7i) Power Graph generated after simulation

(Fig.7j) I-V Curve Calculation and Export to CSV Function

(Fig.7k) Simulation Report with Detailed 12-month Generation Data and Economic Analysis


(The author would like to thank the software developers for their support to aspirants planning on taking PV system design as a profession by allowing users to freely download, try and evaluate their programs. It is in this spirit that this report has been created trying to highlight what unique experience each of these softwares offer and not necessarily how each scores over the other)