Project cost ($):
1 day to prepare, 1 hour for experiment
Exercise caution when sawing wooden blocks. Long hours of exposure to the sun may cause dizziness, dehydration or heat stroke. Make sure you drink an adequate amount of water and put on sunscreen. You should ensure that you protect yourself with an umbrella or wear a hat as you will be under the sun for a fair amount of time.
Table of Contents
This experiment was done to find out how changing the angle of incidence of sunlight throughout the day impacts the efficiency of a solar cell.
The power output generated by a solar cell will be highest when the solar cell is positioned perpendicular to the direction of sunlight.
Solar cells are used to convert energy from the sun into electrical energy which can be immediately used or stored in a battery for later use. They are made from silicon which is found in abundance on our planet. However the cost of converting raw silicon into useful solar cells is very expensive. Currently, there are 3 types of solar cells which are commonly used:
Monocrystalline solar cells have a good level of efficiency of between 14% - 18% of energy conversion, but these solar cells are expensive.
Polycrystalline solar cells are a cheaper alternative, but these have a lower efficiency rate of conversion of between 11% - 13%.
Amorphous solar cells are another cheaper alternative; however, these have the lowest energy conversion rate of between 8% - 10%.
Because solar cells are very expensive, it is necessary to optimize their performance to obtain a quick return on investment. This is why solar trackers are useful in enabling solar panels to work at high efficiency throughout the day.
The rotation of our planet causes the sun to rise in the east and set in the west. From sunrise to sunset, the sun travels 180 degrees across the horizon. Since solar cells produce maximum output when the panels are placed perpendicular to the sun position, the solar tracker is a motorized device, which adjusts the disposition of the solar panel to follow or"track" the angle of incidence of sunlight throughout the day. This allows the solar panel to work at full efficiency at all times during the day.
Solar cell, photovoltaic cell, solar tracker, monocrystalline cells, polycrystalline cells, amorphous cells, ammeter, and voltmeter
The materials required for this experiment:
1. For this experiment, the independent variable is the angle of the solar cell. The dependent variable is the power output from the solar cell. This is determined by measuring the voltage and current produced. The constants (control variables) are the resistor, amount of sunlight, the temperature and the type of solar panel used.
The results show that the solar cell mounted perpendicular to the sunlight has the highest power output and this output continues to decline as the angle reduces to zero.
The hypothesis is proven to be correct. The power output generated by solar cells will be at its highest when the solar cells are positioned perpendicular to the direction of sunlight.
The use of a solar tracker will help the solar panel follow the path of the sun and this allows the solar panel to remain perpendicular to the angle of incidence of the sun's rays, for maximum efficiency and power output.
Try to repeat the experiment using amorphous solar cells.
Try to simulate real life as much as possible. Introduce elements such as wind, water (rain) and ice to the test environment. How do the results differ? Will your results differ on a cloudy day?