Vernier Software and Technology
Vernier Software & Technology

Introduction to Solar Panels

Figure from experiment 1 from Investigating Solar Energy

Introduction

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.

Objectives

  • 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 Vernier sensors and equipment.

Additional Requirements

You may also need an interface and software for data collection. What do I need for data collection?

Experiment 1 from Investigating Solar Energy Lab Book

<i>Investigating Solar Energy</i> book cover

Included in the Lab Book

Vernier lab books include word-processing files of the student instructions, essential teacher information, suggested answers, sample data and graphs, and more.

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