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Renewable Energy Living Lab: Exploring Regional and Local Resources

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

In this activity, students become familiar with the online Renewable Energy Living Lab interface and access its real-world solar energy data to evaluate the potential for solar generation in various U.S. locations.

Activity takes about two to three 50-minute class periods.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 1 Cross Cutting Concept, 1 Science and Engineering Practice
High School: 2 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 1 Cross Cutting Concept, 2 Science and Engineering Practices

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

About Teaching the Guiding Principle
Other materials addressing GPe

Energy Literacy

Other materials addressing:
4.2 Human use of energy is subject to limits and constraints.
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4.5 Electricity generation.
Other materials addressing:
4.7 Different sources of energy have different benefits and drawbacks.
Other materials addressing:
5.1 Energy decisions are made at many levels.
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5.3 Systems-based approach.
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6.4 Earth has finite energy resources.

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

  • Link to the GIS Living Lab tool is a bit buried in the website. Direct link is: https://www.teachengineering.org/livinglabs/renewableenergy912.
  • Educators may want to use the Word version of the student worksheet to customize the instructions. In some places the worksheet may be too open-ended and space isn't given for student answers. Educators can fill in more specific steps, locations, or queries.
  • Suggestions are provided for scaling activity up or down depending on age of students.
  • Activity could easily be developed further by opening up inquiry to small groups of students to investigate their own questions and then present their results to the class.

About the Science

  • Central to the activity is GIS-based mapping tool from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's (NREL) Renewable Energy Atlas. The tool shows the potentially usable energy from solar, geothermal, hydro, wind, biomass, and wave power.
  • Data provided in the Living Lab comes from NREL and the US Dept of Energy.
  • Passed initial science review - expert science review pending.

About the Pedagogy

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Using the query function takes some practice. Educators will want to practice using the tool ahead of time. Also, educators should be ready to walk the class through each step, which isn't done clearly in the worksheet.
  • The 'download results' feature only works for a region query, not a point query.
  • The 'clear query' function is not as described. Simply close the query by clicking the X.
  • The map viewer has changed a little bit since the worksheet instructions were written. The instructions still work, but some of the wording and screenshots do not match exactly.
  • 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.
  • Note that the Living Lab interface is a beta release - it may change over time.

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

This is one of several activities in the https://www.teachengineering.org/'Teach Engineering collection' that uses the Renewable Energy Living Lab GIS tool.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

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