A New Angle on PV Efficiency

In this hands-on activity, students examine how the orientation of a photovoltaic (PV) panel -- relative to the position of the sun -- affects the energy-efficiency of the panel.

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William Surles
Jack Baum
Stephen Johnson
Abby Watrous
Eszter Horanyi
Schaefer Zarske
University of Colorado; Boulder

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Teaching Tips

Teaching Tips

Activity does not specify what zenith angle at which to place the lamp if using a lamp instead of the sun. If using a lamp, students could go outside and measure the zenith angle of the sun at that moment. This can also foster a conversation about how the sun's angle varies over the course of a day and over the course of a year. Here's one article that explains more about calculating the best slope angle and azimuth (position) angle for solar panels: [link http://cleantechnica.com/2015/11/12/what-is-the-best-angle-for-solar-pan....

Using the knowledge and skills gained here, students can design a theoretical solar array for the school building, taking into account the geographic location, roof configuration, and weather. This activity may be combined with [link https://www.teachengineering.org/view_activity.php?url=collection/csm_/a... 'Renewable Energy Living Lab: The Bright Idea'].

Safety issues and troubleshooting tips are included in the activity.