Surface solar radiation is an important parameter in surface energy balance models and in estimation of evapotranspiration. This study developed a DEM based radiation model to estimate instantaneous clear sky solar radiation for surface energy balance system to obtain accurate energy absorbed by the mountain surface. Efforts to improve spatial accuracy of satellite based surface energy budget in mountainous regions were made in this work. Based on eight scenes of Landsat TM/ETM+ (Thematic Mapper/Enhanced Thematic Mapper+) data and observations around the Qomolangma region of the Tibetan Plateau, the topographical enhanced surface energy balance system (TESEBS) was tested for deriving net radiation, ground heat flux, sensible heat flux and latent heat flux distributions over the heterogeneous land surface. The land surface energy fluxes over the study area showed a wide range in accordance with the surface features and their thermodynamic states. The model was validated by observations at QOMS/CAS site in the research area with a reasonable accuracy. The mean bias of net radiation, sensible heat flux, ground heat flux and latent heat flux is lower than 23.6 W m−2. The surface solar radiation estimated by the DEM based radiation model developed by this study has a mean bias as low as −9.6 W m−2. TESEBS has a decreased mean bias of about 5.9 W m−2 and 3.4 W m−2 for sensible heat and latent heat flux, respectively, compared to the Surface Energy Balance System (SEBS).