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Selecting Sites for Renewable Energy Projects

Glenn A. Richard, Mineral Physics Institute - Stony Brook University, On the Cutting Edge Collection, Science Education Resource Center (SERC)

In this activity, students use Google Earth to investigate a variety of renewable energy sources and select sites within the United States that would be appropriate for projects based on those sources.

Activity takes about two 40-min class sessions.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
High School: 3 Performance Expectations, 5 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 5 Cross Cutting Concepts, 6 Science and Engineering Practices

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

About Teaching the Guiding Principle
Other materials addressing GPe
Humans can take action
About Teaching Climate Literacy
Other materials addressing Humans can take action

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.
Human use of energy is subject to limits and constraints.
Other materials addressing:
4.2 Human use of energy is subject to limits and constraints.
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.
Amount of energy used can be calculated and monitored.
Other materials addressing:
6.8 Calculating and monitoring energy use.

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

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:2.4 Environment and Society:C) Resources
Other materials addressing:
C) Resources.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:D) Technology
Other materials addressing:
D) Technology.

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

  • The activity needs to be conducted where all students can work at computer stations individually or in pairs. The laboratory also needs to be equipped with an instructor station connected to a projector so that the students can observe what the instructor is doing during the activity.
  • The instructor should have enough prior knowledge of Google Earth to be able to troubleshoot common problems related to errors that students may make.
  • The students should know how to use the 'Fly To' tab in the Search pane, how to zoom in and out, and how to pan the view. They also need to know how to create folders, overlays, and placemarks in Google Earth.
  • During the activity, it is important to have available people who can assist students who have problems while using the computer stations. Assistants need to have good prior knowledge about the subject matter and about the techniques of using Google Earth.
  • The students may learn more effectively if the instructor conducts periodic class discussions about the questions during the activity, even though it may make the assessment process less rigorous if the handouts are to be returned to the instructor for grading.

About the Science

  • The sources investigated include solar energy, bio-energy, hydroelectricity, tidal power, wind energy, wave energy, geothermal, osmotic, and ocean and lake thermal energy.

About the Pedagogy

  • Very thorough teachers' guide provided.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • The students must have access to accounts that enable them to visit off-campus web sites.
  • The operating system should be configured to recognize kmz files, so that the browser offers to open them in Google Earth.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

High School

Performance Expectations: 3

HS-ESS3-2: Evaluate competing design solutions for developing, managing, and utilizing energy and mineral resources based on cost-benefit ratios.

HS-ETS1-2: Design a solution to a complex real-world problem by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable problems that can be solved through engineering.

HS-ETS1-3: Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 5

HS-ESS3.A1:Resource availability has guided the development of human society.

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.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.

HS-ETS1.B2:Both physical models and computers can be used in various ways to aid in the engineering design process. Computers are useful for a variety of purposes, such as running simulations to test different ways of solving a problem or to see which one is most efficient or economical; and in making a persuasive presentation to a client about how a given design will meet his or her needs.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 5

Patterns, Cause and effect, Systems and System Models, Energy and Matter, Stability and Change

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

HS-C2.2:Cause and effect relationships can be suggested and predicted for complex natural and human designed systems by examining what is known about smaller scale mechanisms within the system.

HS-C4.3:Models (e.g., physical, mathematical, computer models) can be used to simulate systems and interactions—including energy, matter, and information flows—within and between systems at different scales.

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-C7.4:Systems can be designed for greater or lesser stability.

Science and Engineering Practices: 6

Asking Questions and Defining Problems, Developing and Using Models, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions, Engaging in Argument from Evidence, Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

HS-P1.4:ask questions to clarify and refine a model, an explanation, or an engineering problem

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-P2.5:Develop a complex model that allows for manipulation and testing of a proposed process or system.

HS-P6.5:Design, evaluate, and/or refine a solution to a complex real-world problem, based on scientific knowledge, student-generated sources of evidence, prioritized criteria, and tradeoff considerations.

HS-P7.6:Evaluate competing design solutions to a real-world problem based on scientific ideas and principles, empirical evidence, and/or logical arguments regarding relevant factors (e.g. economic, societal, environmental, ethical considerations).

HS-P8.5:Communicate scientific and/or technical information or ideas (e.g. about phenomena and/or the process of development and the design and performance of a proposed process or system) in multiple formats (i.e., orally, graphically, textually, mathematically).

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