Vernier Software and Technology
Vernier Software & Technology

Solar Panel Output: Effect of Load

Figure from experiment 5 from Investigating Solar Energy


A load is a device that uses electricity to do work when connected to a circuit. A light bulb is an example of a load. If a light bulb is connected to a solar panel, the electricity produced by the panel can do the work of lighting the light bulb.

The load connected to a solar panel affects the amount of power that is produced by the panel. There is an optimum, or best, level of load that will make the panel produce the most amount of power.

One way to create the optimum load for the solar panel is to connect multiple light bulbs to the solar panel. While this would work, it is not very practical to always carry a bunch of light bulbs around with you!

Instead of using light bulbs, in this experiment, you will use a device called a resistor to add load to the circuit. Resistors affect the flow of electrons in a circuit. They are rated based on how much resistance they add to the circuit. Resistance is measured in units of ohms.

In this experiment, you will find the optimum resistance for three solar panels connected in series.


  • Measure current, potential difference (voltage), and power output of three solar panels with a Vernier Energy Sensor.
  • Explore how current, potential difference (voltage), and power output vary depending on the resistance (load) in the circuit.
  • Investigate the relationship between resistance and maximum power output.

Sensors and Equipment

This experiment features the following Vernier sensors and equipment.

Option 1

Option 2

Additional Requirements

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

Investigating Solar Energy

See other experiments from the lab book.

1Introduction to Solar Panels
2Exploring Solar Energy
3Introduction to the Vernier Energy Sensor
4Making Connections: Circuits
5Solar Panel Output: Effect of Load
6Solar Panel Output: Effect of Shade
7Solar Panel Output: Effect of Angle
8Pumping Water with Solar Energy
9Exploring Surface Temperature
10Project: Solar Homes
11Project: What's Cookin'?

Experiment 5 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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