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Utilizing Photovoltaic Cells and Systems (9 Activities)

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These nine projects allow students to set up their own investigations and manipulate the variables that influence photovoltaic cells. The projects can be easily integrated into a normal science classroom curriculum, or can be completed by students individually for science fair projects. All of the projects will fit easily into classroom lessons surrounding scientific inquiry and the scientific method. They will also help illustrate concepts in electricity, light and color, velocity and gravity, chemistry and polarity, and could even lead to social studies or social action projects. The activities are:

  • What is the output of a PV cell?
  • How does concentrating the sunlight affect the output from a solar cell?
  • Does a tracking PV system collect more energy than a stationary system?
  • How long does the sun spend behind clouds each day?
  • How fast can a solar powered car go?
  • Is it practical to store the energy produced from a PV cell in a tank of water?
  • How does a PV cell respond to different wavelengths (colors) of light?
  • Can sunlight be used to split the water molecule, producing hydrogen?
  • Can an airplane be powered only by energy from the sun?

Science, Chemistry, Social Studies

Plan Time

Varies by activity


Varies by activity


Science Content Standards: 5-8 CONTENT STANDARD A: Science As Inquiry

  • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
  • Understandings about scientific inquiry

CONTENT STANDARD B: Physical Science

  • Transfer of energy

CONTENT STANDARD D: Earth and Space Science

  • Earth in the solar system

CONTENT STANDARD E: Science and Technology

  • Abilities of technological design
  • Understandings about science and technology

CONTENT STANDARD F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

  • Science and technology in society

National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Lesson Plans/Activity