Lesson Plan: Solar Power Physics

This lesson plan includes the objectives, prerequisites, and exclusions of the lesson teaching students how to describe the advantages and disadvantages of photovoltaic cells and calculate the total energy output of solar panels.


Students will be able to

  • recall the basic energy transfers that take place for solar power (light/radiant energy electrical energy),
  • recall that photovoltaic cells produce direct current,
  • recall the advantages of photovoltaic cells when used on space stations:
    • they require no fuel,
    • they require very little maintenance,
    • they provide direct current, which is what most electrical systems need,
    • there are no clouds in space to block the sunlight,
  • recall the advantages of photovoltaic cells when used in remote locations on Earth’s surface:
    • they are good in very bright locations,
    • they are good in remote locations as they do not have to be connected to the grid,
    • they require very little maintenance,
  • recall the disadvantages of photovoltaic cells:
    • they cannot be used in places where there is no light for a long time (at either of the poles in research stations),
    • power output decreases when it is cloudy and at night,
  • do basic calculations of total power output and installed capacity.


Students should already be familiar with

  • the different categories of energy,
  • the units of energy,
  • what electricity is.


Students will not cover

  • how photovoltaic cells work,
  • semiconductors.

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