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Solar Power Basics

US Dept. of Energy/Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

This introductory video summarizes the process of generating solar electricity from photovoltaic and concentrating (thermal) solar power technologies.

Video length: 3:57 min.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Video supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 2 Cross Cutting Concepts
High School: 7 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 2 Cross Cutting Concepts

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

  • While not comprehensive coverage of the subject, this video can be used as an introduction to the two primary ways solar energy is harnessed to generate electricity.

About the Science

  • Describes how solar power is harnessed in simple and understandable terms.
  • The video focuses on strengths of solar power but does not address limitations or weaknesses.
  • Passed initial science review - expert science review pending.

About the Pedagogy

  • Easy-to-understand narration and visuals about two types of solar energy technology. Applications of the technology are also discussed.
  • Educators will need to expand upon the scientific concepts directly and indirectly presented in the video, i.e. energy capacity and storage, how pv panels work, etc.
  • Can be used in conjunction with other CLEAN-selected solar energy activities and resources.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Closed-captioned text is included.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Video supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 1

MS-PS4.B1:When light shines on an object, it is reflected, absorbed, or transmitted through the object, depending on the object’s material and the frequency (color) of the light.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 2

Energy and Matter

MS-C5.3:Energy may take different forms (e.g. energy in fields, thermal energy, energy of motion).

MS-C5.4:The transfer of energy can be tracked as energy flows through a designed or natural system.

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 7

HS-PS3.D3:Solar cells are human-made devices that likewise capture the sun’s energy and produce electrical energy.

HS-PS4.B1:Electromagnetic radiation (e.g., radio, microwaves, light) can be modeled as a wave of changing electric and magnetic fields or as particles called photons. The wave model is useful for explaining many features of electromagnetic radiation, and the particle model explains other features.

HS-PS4.B3:Photoelectric materials emit electrons when they absorb light of a high-enough frequency

HS-ESS3.A2:All forms of energy production and other resource extraction have associated economic, social, environmental, and geopolitical costs and risks as well as benefits. New technologies and social regulations can change the balance of these factors.

HS-ETS1.A1:Criteria and constraints also include satisfying any requirements set by society, such as taking issues of risk mitigation into account, and they should be quantified to the extent possible and stated in such a way that one can tell if a given design meets them.

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

HS-ETS1.B1:When evaluating solutions, it is important to take into account a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, and to consider social, cultural, and environmental impacts.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 2

Energy and Matter

HS-C5.2:Changes of energy and matter in a system can be described in terms of energy and matter flows into, out of, and within that system.

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.

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