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Introduction to Photovoltaic Systems
http://www.seco.cpa.state.tx.us/schools/infinitepower/docs/No18_96-815B.pdf

Texas State Energy Conservation Office

This activity introduces students to the process of converting sunlight into electricity through the use of photovoltaics (solar cells). Students complete a reading passage with questions and an inquiry lab using small photovoltaic cells.

Activity takes about two 45-minute class periods. Additional materials are necessary.

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Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

Topics

Solar Radiation
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Solar Energy
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Grade Level

High School (9-12)
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Activity could be modified to be used in a middle school environment.

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Sunlight warms the planet
About Teaching Principle 1
Other materials addressing 1a

Energy Literacy

Humans transfer and transform energy from the environment into forms useful for human endeavors.
Other materials addressing:
4.1 Humans transfer and transform energy.
Electricity is usually generated in one of two ways.
Other materials addressing:
4.5 Electricity generation.
Different sources of energy and the different ways energy can be transformed, transported and stored each have different benefits and drawbacks.
Other materials addressing:
4.7 Different sources of energy have different benefits and drawbacks.
Social and technological innovation affects the amount of energy used by human society.
Other materials addressing:
6.5 Social and technological innovation.
Sunlight, gravitational potential, decay of radioactive isotopes, and rotation of the Earth are the major sources of energy driving physical processes on Earth.
Other materials addressing:
2.2 Sources of energy on Earth.

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:B) Designing investigations
Other materials addressing:
B) Designing investigations.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
Other materials addressing:
C) Collecting information.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:E) Organizing information
Other materials addressing:
E) Organizing information.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:C) Energy
Other materials addressing:
C) Energy.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:D) Technology
Other materials addressing:
D) Technology.
3. Skills for Understanding and Addressing Environmental Issues:3.1 Skills for Analyzing and Investigating Environmental Issues:C) Identifying and evaluation alternative solutions and courses of action
Other materials addressing:
C) Identifying and evaluation alternative solutions and courses of action.

Benchmarks for Science Literacy
Learn more about the Benchmarks

Light and other electromagnetic waves can warm objects. How much an object's temperature increases depends on how intense the light striking its surface is, how long the light shines on the object, and how much of the light is absorbed.
Explore the map of concepts related to this benchmark
When selecting fuels, it is important to consider the relative advantages and disadvantages of each fuel.
Explore the map of concepts related to this benchmark

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Small photovoltaic cells must be purchased.
  • A digital multimeter can be used instead of separate DC ammeter and DC voltmeter.

About the Science

  • Passed initial science review - expert science review pending.
  • Students investigate the effects of light intensity and frequency on the generation of electricity from a solar cell and the effects of temperature on solar cell efficiency.

About the Pedagogy

  • Pre-activity reading comes with a worksheet of comprehension questions and a worksheet of important vocabulary for the lesson.
  • Data summary and assessment questions provided.
  • Additional follow-up lab is provided.
  • Answer key is provided for the educator for all parts of activity.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Lab activity has easy-to-follow directions; data tables provided for all variables that will be tested.

Performance Expectations

HS-PS3-3: Design, build, and refine a device that works within given constraints to convert one form of energy into another form of energy

Disciplinary Core Ideas

HS-PS3.D1: Solar cells are human-made devices that likewise capture the sun’s energy and produce electrical energy.

HS-ETS1.A2: Humanity faces major global challenges today, such as the need for supplies of clean water and food or for energy sources that minimize pollution, which can be addressed through engineering. These global challenges also may have manifestations in local communities

Science and Engineering Practices

HS-P1.8: Define a design problem that involves the development of a process or system with interacting components and criteria and constraints that may include social, technical, and/or environmental considerations. 

HS-P2.1: Evaluate merits and limitations of two different models of the same proposed tool, process, mechanism or system in order to select or revise a model that best fits the evidence or design criteria.

HS-P3.4: Select appropriate tools to collect, record, analyze, and evaluate data.

HS-P4.2: Apply concepts of statistics and probability (including determining function fits to data, slope, intercept, and correlation coefficient for linear fits) to scientific and engineering questions and problems, using digital tools when feasible.

HS-P6.2: Construct and revise an explanation based on valid and reliable evidence obtained from a variety of sources (including students’ own investigations, models, theories, simulations, peer review) and the assumption that theories and laws that describe the natural world operate today as they did in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

HS-P7.5: Make and defend a claim based on evidence about the natural world or the effectiveness of a design solution that reflects scientific knowledge and student-generated evidence.

HS-P8.1: Critically read scientific literature adapted for classroom use to determine the central ideas or conclusions and/or to obtain scientific and/or technical information to summarize complex evidence, concepts, processes, or information presented in a text by paraphrasing them in simpler but still accurate terms.

Cross-Cutting Concepts

HS-C1.3: Patterns of performance of designed systems can be analyzed and interpreted to reengineer and improve the system.

HS-C2.3: Systems can be designed to cause a desired effect.

HS-C3.1: The significance of a phenomenon is dependent on the scale, proportion, and quantity at which it occurs.

HS-C4.1: Systems can be designed to do specific tasks.

HS-C5.3: Energy cannot be created or destroyed—only moves between one place and another place, between objects and/or fields, or between systems.

HS-C6.2: The functions and properties of natural and designed objects and systems can be inferred from their overall structure, the way their components are shaped and used, and the molecular substructures of its various materials.


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