Solar Energy Research & Innovation

Students and Solar Energy

There is much to learn about solar energy, and students can learn much from the benefits and disadvantages. Below are effective ways to introduce solar energy to students.

Discuss standard tools that use solar power

Stimulate the mind of your students and ask them to name standard devices that function using solar energy, such as highway lighting, garden lights, etc. Ensure that students see how these tools capture solar energy using PV cells and batteries for future use.

Also, have students examine the advantages and disadvantages of using solar energy to power devices.

Introduce the Sunny Conflict case scenario in California

Though the Panoche valley is an area with abundant sunlight, a solar project faces opposition from the locals. Ask students questions about the geographic location of the Panoche Valley, the region’s characteristics, the impact of solar energy, etc.

Have the students read the scenario themselves and ask them to note the drawbacks and benefits of the solar project.

Split the students into groups

Distribute a worksheet about the advantages and disadvantages of the Solar Farm in Panoche Valley and give them directions. Ask the following questions:

  • What makes Panoche valley a perfect spot for harvesting solar energy?
  • Why is it also a bad spot to collect solar energy?

Give students time to discuss the things discovered in the scenario. Then, encourage them to provide references from the case scenario to support their items. Have the groups share their discussions.

Introduce the idea of position statements

Require each student to create their position statement in one or two sentences regarding the case scenario and support their statement with a few facts from the text. Explain that a position statement needs to be debatable.

Note that a statement about a known fact does not mean they are position statement. Therefore, provide some examples, both good and bad.

Let students discuss and share their papers

Have students create and publish a position paper. Guide them with questions about the drawbacks and benefits of solar energy, such as:

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of solar power that you have learned from the case scenario in Panoche Valley?
  • Is it a complex or simple decision to make to establish a farm using solar energy?
  • If they build a solar farm in the valley, will the supply sustain the whole region?

Finally, review the completed worksheet to see how much your students understand the concept.