Solar energy lesson plans
A series of six lesson plans are now available: three of these include student lab activies and the other three cover the basics of solar cells and solar electric systems. They are primarily designed for high school science students, but should be helpful to anyone wanting to understand solar electricity. Development of the curricula with labs was made possible through funding by the Emerald People's Utility District, and the Meyer Fund for a Sustainable Environment. The other plans were made possible by the Oregon Million Solar Roofs Coalition, with funding from the Oregon Office of Energy, through the U.S. Department of Energy.
Curriculum and experiments using the photovoltaic education kits
This describes an extensive series of hands-on activities students can perform using the photovoltaic education kits developed by the UO SRML. The entire document can be downloaded in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) by clicking here. Because this document is large, we have also made its component sections available to download separately, either as PDFs, or as Microsoft Word .doc or .docx files:
Activity 1. Solar cells are like batteries—series and parallel PV cell connections (Select PDF or Word). This unit teaches how to measure the current and voltage output of photovoltaic cells; how to investigate the difference in behavior of solar cells when they are connected in seriesor in parallel; and how solar cells behave like batteries. Download a simple multimeter instruction sheet in PDF or Word format.
Activity 3. Investigation of loads on PV cells (Select PDF or Word). This unit is concerned with the current and voltage output of photovoltaic cells when they are connected to various loads. Also included is optional content related to power curves, an engineering characteristic of the PV cell.
Activity 4. Output current and light spectrum (wavelength) (Select PDF or Word). This unit is concerned with the effect of the wavelength (color) of light on the PV cell output current. The student will discover why fluorescent bulbs are more efficient than incandescent bulbs.
Activity 5. Photocell output vs. lamp distance (Select PDF or Word). Here, the student may investigate the dependence of PV cell output power on the distance between the PV cell and an incandescent lamp.
Appendix A: Electricity circuit primer (Select PDF or Word). This supplement will help students to understand the concepts of voltage and current; teach them how to connect current and voltage meters in a circuit; and introduce them to the concepts of circuit resistance and power.
Appendix B: (Activity 5b): Voltage vs lamp distance (Select PDF or Word). Here, the student may investigate the dependence of the output voltage of a PV cell on the distance between the cell and an incandescent lamp.
Appendix D: Measuring electricity (PDF only).
Appendix E: How a photovoltaic cell works (PDF only).
What is a kilowatt hour?
Experiments with photovoltaic cells
This unit introduces students to the concept of converting sunlight to electricity with photovoltaic cells. Equipment for this lab is listed in the document. Download this in PDF format, or as a Microsoft Word document
Students are introduced to the basic physics and chemistry behind the operation of a solar cell. They will learn how a single crystal silicon cell accepts energy from light and turns it into electricity. Download this in PDF format, or as a Microsoft Word document. Click here for sample questions with suggested answers.
Solar electric arrays
Students are introduced to the components of a solar electric system and the concept of the photovoltaic IV curve. They will learn how modules are put together to generate the desired voltage and current, and how an inverter helps the system to operate efficiently. Download this in PDF format, or as a Microsoft Word document. Click here for sample questions with suggested answers.
Photovoltaics in arrays: solar cells generating electricity
Students will learn about some of the variables related to the effectiveness of photovoltaic arrays in generating electricity. They will learn to use a software tool called PV Watts to calculate the output of PV arrays as a function of location conditions. Download this in PDF format, or as a Microsoft Word document.