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Solar Panels for Your Home

NOVA scienceNOW, WGBH Educational Foundation, Teachers' Domain

In this video segment from NOVA's Saved By the Sun hour-long video, students learn about photovoltaics and see how two families are using solar technologies in their homes. The video introduces the ideas of state incentives and net metering benefits.

Video length: 3:55 minutes.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Video supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 3 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 2 Cross Cutting Concepts
High School: 8 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

About the Science

  • An animation illustrates the process within solar panels that transforms sunlight into electricity. Then Phil Reavis, Jr. explains his interest in solar energy and the environment, and how his family was able to install solar panels on the roof of their house to produce electricity. In addition, the custom-designed home of Bill and Debbie Lord is discussed, which uses both solar electricity panels and solar hot water panels.
  • Comments from expert scientist: Attempts to explain net metering, mentions difference between solar thermal and solar PV panels.

About the Pedagogy

  • A background essay, discussion questions, and a link to standards is provided.
  • The animation provided is great for students to visualize how solar panels work. The animation shows how photons and electrons work within panels, and how that feeds electricity to a house.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Has closed-captioned text.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Video supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 3

MS-PS3.A4:The term “heat” as used in everyday language refers both to thermal energy (the motion of atoms or molecules within a substance) and the transfer of that thermal energy from one object to another. In science, heat is used only for this second meaning; it refers to the energy transferred due to the temperature difference between two objects.

MS-PS3.A5:The temperature of a system is proportional to the average internal kinetic energy and potential energy per atom or molecule (whichever is the appropriate building block for the system’s material). The details of that relationship depend on the type of atom or molecule and the interactions among the atoms in the material. Temperature is not a direct measure of a system's total thermal energy. The total thermal energy (sometimes called the total internal energy) of a system depends jointly on the temperature, the total number of atoms in the system, and the state of the material.

MS-ESS3.A1:Humans depend on Earth’s land, ocean, atmosphere, and biosphere for many different resources. Minerals, fresh water, and biosphere resources are limited, and many are not renewable or replaceable over human lifetimes. These resources are distributed unevenly around the planet as a result of past geologic processes.

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: 8

HS-PS3.A2:At the macroscopic scale, energy manifests itself in multiple ways, such as in motion, sound, light, and thermal energy.

HS-PS3.B2:Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can be transported from one place to another and transferred between systems

HS-PS3.D1:Although energy cannot be destroyed, it can be converted to less useful forms—for example, to thermal energy in the surrounding environment.

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.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.

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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