Catching the Sun The Physics of Solar Energy

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1 VEA Bringing Learning to Life Program Support Notes Junior Middle Secondary Catching the Sun The Physics of Solar Energy 18 mins Teacher Notes by Amanda Bianco, B.Sc.Ed. Produced by VEA Pty Ltd Commissioning Editor Lisa Tancredi B.A., Dip.Ed. Executive Producer Simon Garner B.Ed. Suitable for: Science Physics To order or inquire please contact VEA: VEA Inc. 10 Mitchell Place Suite 103 White Plains, NY Ph: Fax: Website

2 For Teachers: Introduction Catch the Sun The Physics of Solar Energy The sun is a large ball of burning gases with a surface temperature of more than 5000 o C. It supports all life on earth. This program looks at the sun and the solar energy that it provides. It describes photovoltaic power and how the sun s energy can be harnessed and used to provide a clean and inexhaustible source of power. It also looks at future developments in solar technology from faster solar cars to cheaper solar panels and more efficient solar farms. The sun is a source of power that cannot be ignored in the quest to reduce the world s reliance on polluting fossil fuels. Program Timeline 00:00:00 Introduction 00:00:59 What Is Solar Energy? 00:02:40 Solar Photovoltaic Power 00:06:46 Solar Thermal Power - Heat 00:08:55 Solar Thermal Power - Electricity 00:11:59 Solar Developments 00:15:36 Conclusion 00:16:54 Credits 00:18:12 End Program Useful Resources Evans, R L (2007) Fuelling Our Future: An Introduction to Sustainable Energy. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge. Green M A (2000) Power to the People: Sunlight to Electricity Using Solar Cells. UNSW Press: Sydney. Morris, N (2006) Solar Power. Franklin Watts: London, Sydney. Richards, J (2007) Future Energy. Macmillan Education: South Yarra, Vic. Website References Other Relevant Programs available from VEA DC Electricity Discovery and Developments Electromagnetic Radiation Please visit our website for more relevant programs VEA Bringing learning to life - 2 -

3 Student Worksheet: Before Viewing the Program 1. What issues are associated with the continued use of fossil fuels? 2. List as many alternative energy sources as you can. 3. How is solar power currently being used? - 3 -

4 While Viewing the Program What is solar energy? 1. Describe what solar energy is. 2. List three advantages of solar energy. 3. How can solar energy be used? Solar voltaic power 4. Fill in the blanks. In solar panels: Photovoltaic collect Turn energy into energy. 5. Who was Alessandro Volta? 6. Describe what happens inside a solar panel. 7. A group of panels together is called an 8. A full solar panel set up includes three parts. What are they and what do they do? 9. What is a kilowatt hour? - 4 -

5 Solar thermal power heat 10. Describe how a solar hot water service makes use of the sun s radiant heat. Solar thermal power electricity 11. What does CSP stand for and how is it produced? 12. What is superheated water? 13. Describe how a solar thermal plant produces electricity. Solar developments 14. What are scientists working on to improve solar technology? 15. In the future, what vehicles could be powered by solar energy? 16. Why isn t everyone using solar power? - 5 -

6 After Viewing the Program 1. What proportion of Australia s power is currently provided by solar energy? 2. What, if any, government rebates are currently available for the installation of domestic solar systems? 3. Investigate the world s largest solar thermal power plant in the Mojave Desert, USA. How big is it? How does it use the sun s energy to produce electricity? How much power does it produce? What is this power used for? - 6 -

7 Suggested Student Responses What is solar energy? 1. Describe what solar energy is. Heat and light from the sun 2. List three advantages of solar energy. Clean, free, inexhaustible 3. How can solar energy be used? To produce electricity, heat homes, heat water Solar voltaic power 4. Fill in the blanks. In solar panels: Photovoltaic modules collect energy from the sun turn solar energy into electrical energy. 5. Who was Alessandro Volta? Italian physicist, pioneer in field of electricity 6. Describe what happens inside a solar panel. A solar panel contains rows of solar cells which absorb photons (particles of light) which cause electrons in semi conductors to be knocked loose from atoms. The movement of the negatively charged electrons produces electricity. 7. A group of solar panels together is called an array. 8. A full solar panel set up includes three parts. What are they and what do they do? Solar panel array Inverter Meter Creates DC power Converts DC to AC for use in the home Measures energy used in the home in kilowatt hours 9. What is a kilowatt hour? When a 1 kilowatt appliance is used for 1 hour Solar thermal power heat 10. Describe how a solar hot water service makes use of the sun s radiant heat. Sun generates radiant heat. Water circulated through black hose which absorbs heat and heats water. Hoses placed beneath glass which traps heat inside. Water heated in pipes and delivered to shower or washing machine hot. Solar thermal power electricity 11. What does CSP stand for and how is it produced? Concentrated Solar Power large area of sunlight focused into single beam by curved mirrors 12. What is superheated water? Water heated to temperature higher than its standard boiling point 13. Describe how a solar thermal plant produces electricity. Sunlight CSP heat steam moves turbine generator converts mechanical energy to electrical energy electricity used in homes, schools, businesses - 7 -

8 Solar Developments 14. What are scientists working on to improve solar technology? Making panels cheaper to produce, creating new materials to absorb sunlight, new designs for solar cells, floating solar collectors, solar farms 15. In the future, what vehicles could be powered by solar energy? Boats, planes, balloons, airships 16. Why isn t everyone using solar power? People resistant to change, cost of installation - 8 -

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