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Introduction to Solar Panels

Experiment #1 from Investigating Solar Energy

Education Level
Elementary School


It may surprise you to learn that we use solar energy in many ways all day long. In fact, most of the energy we use comes from solar energy. If light from the sun did not reach the earth, it would be completely dark on our planet. So, when you walk around outside during the day, you are using sunlight to see what you are doing and where you are going.

When we burn oil, natural gas, and coal to drive a car or heat a classroom, we are also using energy that came from the sun. Oil, natural gas, and coal were formed long ago from plants and animals. Plants use solar energy to grow and then store the energy in their roots and leaves. When animals eat the plants, they are consuming energy that came from the sun. When you ride in a car that runs on gas, you are using energy from the sun to travel!

Because it takes a really long time to form oil, natural gas, and coal, people are developing ways to use solar cells to quickly convert solar energy into electricity. A single solar cell can only convert a small amount of energy, so engineers connect many solar cells together to build a device called a solar panel.


  • Explore how solar panels can be used to generate electricity.
  • Use electricity generated by a solar panel to light an LED and play music.
  • Build and understand basic circuits.
  • Verify that energy is transferred by electric currents.

Sensors and Equipment

This experiment features the following sensors and equipment. Additional equipment may be required.

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This experiment is #1 of Investigating Solar Energy. The experiment in the book includes student instructions as well as instructor information for set up, helpful hints, and sample graphs and data.

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