Currently available materials:
Phase I Curriculum Modules Potential Phase II
Sun as an Energy Source
- Nuclear Fusion
- The Electromagnetic Spectrum
- Solar Inputs into Earth’s Energy
- Blackbody radiation and Wien’s displacement
Students will be able
to describe the:
Sun’s mechanism for Transforming Matter
Characteristics of Electromagnetic
Transfer of Solar Energy into Earth’s
Relationship between the temperature on
an object and the light emitted.
Energy Transformation in Solar Collectors
- Photovoltaic and Thermal Solar
- Photon Interactions and Effects
- The Efficiency of Solar Collectors
Students will be able
contrast the principals of operation and design of solar thermal
collectors and photovoltaic arrays.
electrical voltage and current produced by photovoltaic cells and
calculate the resulting power.
conservation of energy is related to a cell’s efficiency.
STEM Solar Lab Sites and Land Use
- Characteristics of Desirable Locations
- Daily and Seasonal Changes in the Altitude and
Azimuth of the Sun
- Land use under and around the STEM Solar Lab
Students will be able to describe:
Attributes of sites for photovoltaic
Patterns of change in the position of
the sun in the sky.
Productive use of the land on which a
STEM Solar Lab is installed
IV. Building and Installing a
- Soil Characteristics of a STEM Solar Lab Site
- Support Structures for STEM Solar
- Environmental Impacts of a
STEM Solar Lab
Investigate soil types in terms of their
ability to maintain a stable support structure.
Analyze the structural integrity of
models of various types of support structures.
Design experiments to measure the
potential impact of a solar installation.
V. Electricity Production and Use
Series and parallel
connections of cells, modules and panels
Direct current distribution,
wiring, control, storage and uses
conversion and connections to the electrical system grid
Students will be able to:
Demonstrate an understanding of the
performance of photovoltaic cells in series and parallel.
Describe the differences between ac and
DC electricity and give examples of where/how each is used.
Explain how inverters are used to
interface a PV array with the existing electric grid.
Science, Technology, Engineering and Society Topics
- Solar energy as a clean and renewable
- Economics of small and large-scale
- Citizen concerns relating
to renewable energy
Students will be able to:
Compare and contrast characteristics and
impacts of renewable energy sources.
Conduct a cost/benefit analysis of solar
Identify societal issues associated with
will: (a). Compare and contrast the characteristics of solar, vs various
other renewable energy sources (geothermal, wind, biomass) in the context
of impact on the local community; (b). Estimate the cost of
converting/using solar energy to operate both small devices (cell phones,
portable radios) and for large-scale users, such as single family homes;
(c). Identify and discuss various widely used technologies in terms of
their benefit to society and their real/perceived detrimental effects on
is Solar Energy?
- How is Solar Energy Produced? (How are nuclear
reactions in the sun and in a power plant similar? How are they
- How does sunlight compare with light from other
sources? (Students use a spectrometer to analyze light.)
does the temperature of an object affect the light that it emits?
(Blackbody radiation and Wien’s displacement law)
Lab Design and Installation
- What are advantages and disadvantages of a ground
level photovoltaic array?
- How can a support system for a photovoltaic array
be constructed and installed so the solar panels remain stable during
storms and as the seasons change? (students experiment
with installing support posts)
- In what direction do the photovoltaic cells on a
- Why are the solar panels tilted?
- How do daily and seasonal changes in the altitude
and azimuth of the sun affect the output of a photovoltaic
cell? (Students use a multimeter connected to
handheld PV cells to analyze changes in voltage and current as they
change orientation of the handheld PV cells.)
Electricity for the School
- How do we measure electrical current, energy and
- What type of circuit is used to connect the
photovoltaic cells and modules (panels?) together?
- What devices make a SSL compatible with the
electrical system of a school, business or home?
- How do we determine the efficiency of a
Potential Phase II
Discussions with teachers at
participating schools will contribute to the design and development of
Phase II modules.
- How does a photovoltaic cell transform light into
electrical energy? (Photon interactions and affects)
- What research is being done to make photovoltaic
panels more costs effective?
- How is a passive solar thermal collector similar
to and different from a photovoltaic array?
Photovoltaic Electricity to Work
- What are the electrical energy and power demands
of a school or a home?
- What type of devices can effectively use
electricity from photovoltaic arrays?
- What types of device would you like to invent that
uses photovoltaic cells? (A springboard activity could be Chris’ idea of
using a PV cell to build a light meter.)
Educational and Career Pathways
- How do community colleges and technical schools
prepare people for energy jobs of the future?
- What type of photovoltaic research is conducted at
colleges and universities?
- What high school courses prepare a student to
continue their education in energy related
Environmental Impact of Solar Photovoltaic
- How will a SSL affect the way that land is used?
(This could be a spring time activity in life science.
Students could take a series of photos of plant growth in the
vicinity of the SSL to determine the validity of a hypothesis about the
affect of the SSL on vegetation.)
- How can the environmental impacts of a SSL
structure be minimized?
the Production of Electricity by Photovoltaic Arrays
- What factors affect the performance of the
SSL? (This could be a long term activity where
students are asked to hypothesize what factors affect the
performance. They then collect analyze
- What web sites can be used to monitor large scale
- How does the daily use of electricity in a school
compare with daily use of electricity in a home or a business? (that
makes it a very appropriate for a school)
Solar Renewable Energy Potential
- How does the amount of solar energy vary from
region to region and from season to season? (Where
might large scale systems make sense?)
- How many SSL panels would be required to meet the
entire day time electricity demand of a home or school?
- What sources of solar renewable energy are
available for nighttime electricity generation? (wind and
Technology, Engineering and Society Connections
- What is your community’s understanding of the
advantages and disadvantages of a solar photovoltaic array? (Possibly a
student survey of present and potential PV projects)
- How much of projected increased in the demand for
electricity in your community can be met with photovoltaic
role can more efficient appliances and energy conservation play in
making PV arrays more applicable?