Jump to this Activity »
Renewable Energy Living Lab: The Bright Idea

Mike Mooney, Minal Parekh, Scott Schankweiler, Jessica Noffsinger, Karen Johnson, Jonathan Knudtsen, University of Colorado; Colorado School of Mines

In this activity, students play the role of energy consultants to a CEO, assessing and documenting the feasibility, cost, and environmental impact of installing solar power on 4 company facilities with the same design but in different geographical locations.

Activity takes about three 60-minute class periods.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

Climate Literacy

This Activity builds on the following concepts of Climate Literacy.

Click a topic below for supporting information, teaching ideas, and sample activities.

Energy Literacy

This Activity builds on the following concepts of Energy Literacy.

Click a topic below for supporting information, teaching ideas, and sample activities.

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

  • Educator should become familiar with the mapping tool before using the activity with students.
  • If educators wanted to make the activity more challenging or more open-ended, the mapping tool could be used for a variety of questions to evaluate the feasibility of renewable energy sources in different locations.
  • Educator should preview the worksheet prior to use.
  • If students do not conduct the related activity Exploring Regional and Local Resources prior to this activity, educator may need to spend a little extra time demonstrating how to navigate the the living lab interface tools and make data queries.

About the Content

  • This activity involves the science and technology behind the choice to use renewable energy, focusing on solar photovoltaic power: pros and cons of solar power at four specific locations, including feasibility (space, availability, etc.), cost, and environmental impact.
  • Data for the activity comes from National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL).
  • Comments from expert scientist:
    Scientific strengths:
    These Living Labs do a good job of leaving the activities open-ended so that students have to do their own analysis and think critically about what they see in the data.
    -There is little room for bias from the developers, because the focus is on answering questions with what the students discover with the data.
    -This lab also did a good job of giving the activity a story line, to keep it more engaging (students pretend like they are working as engineers for a company with a finicky CEO).
    -I like how the activity is very hands-on and visual, and promotes big-picture thinking. Plus, it requires the students to do more than just look at the data and notice patterns -- they must also make calculations so they can do more with the data, which is great.

About the Pedagogy

  • This is an engineering-driven exercise to evaluate the feasibility of powering buildings with 100% solar power. Students use a mapping tool to look at the energy that can be gained through different types of renewable energy sources and then make simple calculations to see if a typical office buildings can be powered by solar energy. The tool could be used for other types of inquiries as well.
  • The skills developed in this activity range from geospatial, to quantitative, to written and oral. Because the activity is problem based, it is engaging for students.
  • Assessment ideas and extension activities are included.
  • Activity is well designed; Renewable Energy Living Lab is data and resource rich and designed for high school age student use.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • All the materials are provided, including student worksheet, teacher's guide, and background information. The design and layout are clear.
  • Finding specific cities on the mapping tool is not intuitive. In the upper right corner, underneath 'change base map,' click on the circular icon, which when hovered over says 'zoom to a location.' Then type in the city name.
  • One caveat: NREL data visualizations are a beta release, so they may change or be relocated over time.

Related URLs These related sites were noted by our reviewers but have not been reviewed by CLEAN

This activity is part of a larger curriculum found here: https://www.teachengineering.org/activities/view/csm_regionallocal_activity1.
Entered the Collection: June 2018 Last Reviewed: July 2016

Jump to this Activity »