Lesson Template – Solar on Schools
Name of Activity: Solar on Schools – Solar Panel Lab
Purpose: To explore and evaluate how the angle of solar panels and light intensity effect the costs,
benefits, energy production, and energy efficiency of three different types of solar panels.
Grade Level: 9
Estimated Time: Two block days (90 minutes /block).
Learning Outcomes (Objectives):
The student will be able to use a protractor to set tilt angle of solar panels from 0o to 900.
The student will be able to use multi-meter to take current and voltage measurements for three types of solar
panels set at various angles and orientation.
The student will discover the optimum (peak) angle of a solar panel to maximize electrical power output.
The student will construct, interpret, and analyze graphs relative to sunlight intensity and angle of orientation of
three types of solar panels.
Links to Standards:
Students will know the cost benefits versus the limits of energy resources.
Students will know the chemical and physical properties of the resources.
Students will understand that humans are dependent on the diversity of resources provided by the Earth and
Students will understand that there are costs, benefits, and consequences of exploration, development, and
consumption of renewable and nonrenewable resources.
Students will evaluate the costs and benefits of exploration, extraction, and consumption of resources.
Students must be able to use a protractor to create varying angles of the solar cell from 00 – 900.
Students will define dependent and independent variables and state the location of each variable on a graph.
Students will be able to accurately plot and analyze points on a graph .
Students will be able to use a multi-meter to determine voltage and current of solar panel.
Students will define current, voltage, and power.
Tools (Materials): Per group of 3 students
solar panels (mono-crystalline, poly-crystalline, thin film)
Multi-meter w/ alligator clips at ends of probes
Written lab worksheet. Worksheet includes imbedded
tables, graph paper, and blank response blocks.
Ring Stand with wood block and protractor attached.
Lesson Template – Solar on Schools
Pedagogical ideology (Best Practices):
Use pre-test to address students’ initial understandings and preconceptions/misconceptions about topic
(renewable energy resources).
Use background information to provide a foundation of factual knowledge and conceptual understanding.
Students will read information about solar energy, mathematical connections to the science by using geometry
as it relates to the tilt of solar panels, and proportional thinking. Also, students will discover the relationship
between current and voltage, and the difference between power and energy.
By collecting data, analyzing the results, and summarizing what has been learned by completing the lab
procedures, students develop greater metacognition by taking control of their own learning.
By working as a team with other students, each student learns to process information, develop individual
accountability, and learn from interactions with others.
Students will read articles to discover facts, biases, and opinions concerning use of natural resources.
Students will complete formal write-up of solar panel lab, including summary and analysis of experimental
Lesson Links (technology links):
Students apply digital tools, such as multi-meters, to gather, evaluate, and collect information.
Students complete data analysis on a computer.
The sun’s path during the day, and seasonally, effect the electric power generation of solar panels.
The intensity of solar radiation is largely a function of the angle at which the Sun’s rays strike the Earth’s
surface, called the angle of incidence. If the Sun is positioned directly overhead, or 90 degrees from the horizon,
the incoming rays strike the surface of the Earth at right angles and are most intense. If the Sun is 45 degrees
above the horizon, the incoming rays strike the Earth’s surface at an angle. This causes the rays to be spread out
over a larger surface area, reducing the intensity of the radiation.
The tilt of Earth’s rotational axis and the Earth’s orbit work together to create the seasons. As the Earth
travels around the Sun, it remains tipped in the same direction at an angle of 23.5 degrees, toward the star
Polaris. This means that sometimes the northern half of the Earth is pointing toward the Sun (summer), and
sometimes it is pointing away (winter).
During summer the sunlight strikes the ground more directly (closer to perpendicular), concentrating the
Sun’s energy. This concentrated energy is able to heat the surface more quickly than is possible during
wintertime when the Sun’s rays hit the ground at more glancing angles, spreading out the energy. During spring
and fall the Earth is neither tilted directly toward, nor directly away, from the Sun.
Solar panels must be aligned directly into the light source (Sun) in order to produce maximum power and
energy. Current more than voltage is affected by tilt angle. The angle at which a solar panel is oriented towards
its light source is directly proportional to its ability to produce usable power. Power= voltage *current. Power is
Lesson Template – Solar on Schools
the rate at which energy is consumed, expressed in watts or kilowatts. Energy is the amount of power
consumed, expressed in watt-hours or kilowatt-hours (kWh). Energy = Power X Time
Students will complete true/false and multiple choice pretest to access background knowledge and to identify
Students will adjust the angle of a solar panel (for each of three panel types) relative to the sun and measure electrical
parameters such as voltage and current using a multi-meter. They then will correlate the tilt angle of the panel to the
electrical parameters to determine the major differences in electrical generation caused by the angle of tilt. The
students will enter the data into a data table. The students will graph the data from the table, identifying the dependent
and independent variables. The students will identify the peak angle for power generation by observing the trends from
the graph. Students will mathematically calculate the wattage generated from panel specifications and multimeter
readings. The analysis following the lab involves a transfer of knowledge learned from the lab exercise to direct
application of how the school can maximize the energy generated from the solar panels located at their school site.
Why does the voltage and current began to increase with the tilt angle and, also, why does it decrease with even more
Commercial solar panels like those on buildings and homes are fixed in place at a certain tilt angle, so they can
only receive the sun’s energy during a short time frame during the day. Since the angle of the sun is also dependent on
the season of the year, at what angle should a solar panel be fixed at for best performance during the entire year?
Students write up a scenario for a project situation. For example, the student is hired to install solar panels on a building
in a particular region. The student will analyze data including cost of production, angle, and efficiency of a type of solar
panel. The follow-up will include a conclusion and proposed questions about choice of panel type.
Research the comparative efficiencies of other types of solar panels not used in this lab exercise.
Investigate and describe two areas of materials science research that is underway to improve the cost and efficiency of
Introduce students to on-site PV array, and show data from selected portions of DECK Monitoring website prior to lab.