The solar industry is in the midst of a rapid period of growth. According to The Solar Foundation’s 2013 National Solar Jobs Census, employment in the solar industry has grown by 53% since 2010. The Solar Foundation’s study went on to report that one in every 142 new jobs in the United States was created by the solar industry. While solar panel technology has a long way to go, researchers are presently developing more energy-efficient solar cells, and the cost for new technologies is declining. Engaging students in meaningful, hands-on learning experiences is a step in preparing students to participate in the opportunities available in the growing solar industry.
Experiments such as “Effect of Load on Solar Panel Output” and “Effect of Temperature on Solar Panel Output” from our Renewable Energy with Vernier lab book introduce students to how load and temperature affect the power output of solar panels. The “Variables Affecting Solar Panel Output” experiment from the same book challenges students to design an experiment to test a variable of their choosing. Using the new Solar Energy Exploration Kit, with its hinged box and hook-and-pile fasteners that hold multiple solar panels in place, students can easily develop and carry out an experiment to discover how the angle of photovoltaic panels relative to the sun affects power output.