Solar Energy Project Ideas

Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

Solar energy is going to be increasingly important in the future. Help your students learn about this emerging technology through a solar energy project. Here are some ideas.

Solar Energy Project Ideas

Thanks to the threat of climate change, renewable energy is becoming increasingly important year-by-year. One of the most common types of renewable energy is solar power. The idea of getting energy directly from the sun is pretty appealing. After all, there is at least some sunlight year round in the vast majority of the world. It's freely available and easy to use. In this lesson, we're going to go through a few ideas for projects your students can take part in to help them learn about solar energy in all its forms.

Solar Oven Project

Perhaps the classic project to illustrate the potential of solar energy is the solar oven project. In this project, students work in groups to build an oven powered by the sun. Essentially this is just a cardboard box, with the inner walls and lid lined with reflective foil. More advanced designs can include multiple flaps to direct more of the Sun's light into the oven. They can even be shaped more circularly to increase efficiency. Finally, food can be suspended in the middle of the solar oven in a metal container, or just placed on the bottom.

Students can compete to build the most efficient solar oven, and then attempt to boil some water, cook an egg, or bake cookies in it. It's important to bear in mind that a solar oven is pretty slow - what might take 20 minutes in a regular oven could take hours for a solar oven. Nevertheless, it does illustrate to students that the Sun's rays do contain a sizable amount of energy.

Types of Solar Energy

Another project focuses on students learning about the various types of solar energy.

The three main types are:

  • Photovoltaic cells - the solar panels that most people think of when people talk about solar energy.
  • Solar thermal energy - the heating of water using the sun for bathing or heating.
  • Concentrating solar power - where mirrors are used to reflect the sun's light to a central tower in large solar power plants.

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