Solar Cell Configuration

  • What types of solar cell configurations give the most power output?

Recommended Items:

  • Voltmeter
  • Rechargeable batteries
  • Solar cells
  • 100W (or greater) light bulb

Concepts used:

  • Circuits (series & parallel, current, power), Solar energy

Background:

Solar cells are devices that absorb light energy and convert it to electrical energy. Electricity flows through materials from negatively rich areas to positively rich areas, and this flow of electrons is called current. To guide the current from the solar cell to an external load, such as a light bulb or an electrical appliance, the solar cells are wired in an electrical circuit.

Solar cells are sensitive to the angle of light that hits them, known as the angle of incidence. The sun moves to different positions in the sky throughout the day and the year. As the sun’s position changes, the angle of solar radiation on a solar panel changes also. This, in turn, impacts the amount of current, or electricity, that the solar cell produces.

For this experiment build a model house structure and try placing the solar cells at different positions on the house. i.e. north side of the roof vs. south side. Position your test house outside and observe the effect of sun angle on the efficiency of the solar cell output. It is also interesting to experiment with how the solar cells are attached to one another, i.e. in a line or parallel to one another on the roof. Use a volt meter to test the output. This experiment can also be conducted inside using a powerful light bulb in place of the sun.