Does the Angle Matter?

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By Alia Henderson and Mackenzie Slivinski

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Abstract

Do solar panels stuck in a fixed position on a roof produce the same amount of energy all day long? We believed that solar panels would produce more energy when the sun was hitting them directly rather than at an angle.  To prove this, we built a Solar Angulator™ which would allow us to change the angle a solar panel and measure how much energy the panel produced. Over several months we measure the energy produced by our solar panel using three different angles and found that our panel did produce more energy the closer its angle was to the sun.  This was very exciting, and it would be very interesting to build a panel that followed the sun.[/vc_column_text][vc_raw_html]JTNDYSUyMGlkJTNEJTIyT2FuZEklMjIlM0UlM0MlMkZhJTNF[/vc_raw_html][vc_separator color=”black” el_width=”80″ css_animation=”none”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Object and Inquiry

Alia and I were walking home from school one day trying to decide what we should do for our science experiment.  We saw a house with solar panels on it and I asked Alia, “Do the solar panels get electricity if the sun is on the opposite side of the house?”.  Alia was not sure, but she thought this might be a great science experiment!

In our experiment we hope to find out if the position of the sun relative to the solar panels affects how much energy they generate.  The object of our study is solar panels and our inquiry is whether the amount of energy they generate is the same regardless of where the sun is in the sky or if the position of the sun changes how much energy a solar panel will produce.[/vc_column_text][vc_raw_html]JTNDYSUyMGlkJTNEJTIyVG9ySCUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRmElM0U=[/vc_raw_html][vc_separator color=”black” el_width=”80″ css_animation=”none”][vc_column_text]

Hypothesis

If the power generated by a solar panel is related to the angle of the solar panel relative to the solar elevation then the solar panel will produce more energy when the angle of the solar panel is closer to the solar elevation and less energy when it is further away.[/vc_column_text][vc_raw_html]JTNDYSUyMGlkJTNEJTIyUldVJTIyJTNFJTNDJTJGYSUzRQ==[/vc_raw_html][vc_separator color=”black” el_width=”80″ css_animation=”none”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Research Write Up

The actual solar cells are made of silicon semiconductors that absorb sunlight and then convert it into electricity. Right now, solar panels that are used for different purposes are only able to take around 20% of the sunlight that they receive and turn it into electricity. This is what is called as solar efficiency. Simply put, a solar panel works by allowing photons, or particles of light, to knock electrons free from atoms, generating a flow of electricity. Solar panels comprise many, smaller units called photovoltaic cells. (Photovoltaic simply means they convert sunlight into electricity.  [/vc_column_text][vc_raw_html]JTNDYSUyMGlkJTNEJTIyVGFuZE0lMjIlM0UlM0MlMkZhJTNF[/vc_raw_html][vc_separator color=”black” el_width=”80″ css_animation=”none”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Tools and Materials

  • Solar Angulator™
    • Wood
    • bolts
    • plywood
    • solar panel
    • voltmeter
    • batteries (to power voltmeter)
    • 75 Ohm resister (to generate artificial load on the solar circuit)
  • iphone (measuring app)
  • Sun
  • Solar Position Calculator
  • Pencil
  • paper

Variables

Independent variable: we are going to adjust the angle of the solar panel relative to the sun we, will make 3 measurements of this

Dependent variable: we will record the voltage for each of the 3 angles that we adjust the solar panel to.  The voltage will be used to calculate the power the panel is generating using Ohm’s law.

Control variable: each time we run our experiment we are going to do all 3 reading at the same time and date so that the weather and sun position are the same.

Control: we forgot to do a control, what we should have done is used an light bulb which would ensure that the voltmeter was working before we ran each experiment.

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Procedure and Data

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Journal

 

Date What we did
3/17/20 At 8:45 we went outside, and it was sunny

 

we adjusted the solar angulator so that it was facing the sun. we set my iPhone on the platform and opened the measurement app

 

we adjusted the angle of the platform to 0 degrees and voltmeter reading was 0.9300

we adjusted the angle of the platform to 22 degrees and voltmeter reading was 2.400

we adjusted the angle of the platform to 45 degrees and voltmeter reading was 3.600

 

we went to NOAA and found the solar elevation right now was 14

3/17/20 At 11:24 we went outside, and it was cloudy

 

we adjusted the solar angulator so that it was facing the sun. we set my iPhone on the platform and opened the measurement app

 

we adjusted the angle of the platform to 0 degrees and voltmeter reading was 1.4600

we adjusted the angle of the platform to 22 degrees and voltmeter reading was 1.4000

we adjusted the angle of the platform to 45 degrees and voltmeter reading was 1.0800

 

we went to NOAA and found the solar elevation right now was 36

3/17/20 At 1:50we went outside, and it was cloudy

 

we adjusted the solar angulator so that it was facing the sun. we set my iPhone on the platform and opened the measurement app

 

we adjusted the angle of the platform to 0 degrees and voltmeter reading was 1.8900

we adjusted the angle of the platform to 22 degrees and voltmeter reading was 2.1600

we adjusted the angle of the platform to 45 degrees and voltmeter reading was 2.1200

 

we went to NOAA and found the solar elevation right now was 41

3/18/20 At 1:34 we went outside, and it was sunny

 

we adjusted the solar angulator so that it was facing the sun. we set my iPhone on the platform and opened the measurement app

 

we adjusted the angle of the platform to 0 degrees and voltmeter reading was 3.3600

we adjusted the angle of the platform to 22 degrees and voltmeter reading was 4.4700

we adjusted the angle of the platform to 45 degrees and voltmeter reading was 5.0300

 

we went to NOAA and found the solar elevation right now was 42

3/19/20 At 1:11 we went outside, and it was sunny

 

we adjusted the solar angulator so that it was facing the sun. we set my iPhone on the platform and opened the measurement app

 

we adjusted the angle of the platform to 0 degrees and voltmeter reading was 1.0600

we adjusted the angle of the platform to 22 degrees and voltmeter reading was 0.7800

we adjusted the angle of the platform to 45 degrees and voltmeter reading was 0.6800

 

we went to NOAA and found the solar elevation right now was 42

3/20/20 we did not do anything this day
3/21/20 At 12:31we went outside, and it was cloudy

 

we adjusted the solar angulator so that it was facing the sun. we set my iPhone on the platform and opened the measurement app

 

we adjusted the angle of the platform to 0 degrees and voltmeter reading was 2.7000

we adjusted the angle of the platform to 22 degrees and voltmeter reading was 4.1400

we adjusted the angle of the platform to 45 degrees and voltmeter reading was 4.6800

 

we went to NOAA and found the solar elevation right now was 42

22-30 we did not do anything
3/31/20 At 2:45 we went outside, and it was cloudy

 

we adjusted the solar angulator so that it was facing the sun. we set my iPhone on the platform and opened the measurement app

 

we adjusted the angle of the platform to 0 degrees and voltmeter reading was 4.4600

we adjusted the angle of the platform to 22 degrees and voltmeter reading was 4.2100

we adjusted the angle of the platform to 45 degrees and voltmeter reading was 4.5400

 

we went to NOAA and found the solar elevation right now was 43

4/11/20 At 2:38 we went outside, and it was sunny

 

we adjusted the solar angulator so that it was facing the sun. we set my iPhone on the platform and opened the measurement app

 

we adjusted the angle of the platform to 0 degrees and voltmeter reading was 5.2800

we adjusted the angle of the platform to 22 degrees and voltmeter reading was 5.6100

we adjusted the angle of the platform to 45 degrees and voltmeter reading was 5.8500

 

we went to NOAA and found the solar elevation right now was 43

12-28 we did not do anything
4/29/20 At 4:55we went outside, and it was cloudy

 

we adjusted the solar angulator so that it was facing the sun. we set my iPhone on the platform and opened the measurement app

 

we adjusted the angle of the platform to 0 degrees and voltmeter reading was 1.0800

we adjusted the angle of the platform to 22 degrees and voltmeter reading was 1.0200

we adjusted the angle of the platform to 45 degrees and voltmeter reading was 0.8600

 

we went to NOAA and found the solar elevation right now was 33

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Procedure

We will build a moving board and I will take it outside and place it in these angles 0 22 and 45 and take the energy levels I will take it multiple times a day and see which amount is bigger. We will put the watts into categories A B and C and A will be the biggest and B will be medium and C will be the lowest. Then we will take these and compare them to their angles like angle 22 will be an average of etc.

To perform the experiment, you need to do the following:

  1. go outside with your solar angulator and place it on a flat surface and point the front edge towards the sun. Place an iphone on the solar cell platform.
  2. Record the solar elevation using the Solar Position Calculator. You will need to change the city to “Seattle, WA” and then hit ‘Calculate Solar Position’.
  3. Adjust the solar platform so that the iphone measurement app reads 0
  4. Record the number on the voltmeter
  5. Adjust the solar platform so that the iphone measurement app reads 22
  6. Record the number on the voltmeter
  7. Adjust the solar platform so that the iphone measurement app reads 45
  8. Record the number on the voltmeter

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Data and Analysis

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Results and Conclusion

Using our data, we were able to see that Group A which had the angle closest to the Sun from each of our days caused the solar cell to generate the most energy.  Group B which was the next closest generated the second most amount of energy and Group C which was furthest away from the sun’s solar elevation generated the least amount of energy.  This proved our hypothesis was correct.[/vc_column_text][vc_raw_html]JTNDYSUyMGlkJTNEJTIySWFuZFIlMjIlM0UlM0MlMkZhJTNF[/vc_raw_html][vc_separator color=”black” el_width=”80″ css_animation=”none”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Insights and Reflections

This project was really cool because we have never done something like this, and I have never seen anyone even think of this. Mackenzie’s dad helped us a lot with our project and we also learned a lot during this project. After this project was over, we realized that the angle does matter, and we need patience for the sun and all that. We think that this project was fun and exciting but what we reflect on is that this project was one of one we picked a project which had to do a lot of experiment and come up with the best answer.

We learned a lot from our experiment.  We figured out that solar panels make more energy if they are facing the sun but all the solar panels we have seen do not face the sun all the time.  They are stuck on a roof and do not move but the sun does move.  If you were able to make a solar panel that faced the sun all the time the sun was in the sky then you would need less solar panels to produce the same amount of energy than solar panels that can’t move.  This is good because it would cost less for people to buy and would be better for the environment because more people would buy solar panels.

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Bibliography

Cornwall, Chris; Horiuchi, Aaron; Lehman, Chris.  “Solar Position Calculator” National Oceanic and              Atmospheric Administration, United States Department of Commerce, May 15th, 2020.  <https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/grad/solcalc/azel.html> we used this source to find the solar elevation each time we gathered data.  This is a government agency and we believe it is both reputable and accurate.

Kuphaldt, Tony R.  “Calculating Electric Power“. All About Circuits. EETech Media, LLC. Last updated July 20,2018. <https://www.allaboutcircuits.com/textbook/direct-current/chpt-2/calculating-electric-power/ > We used this site to figure out how to calculate power using only voltage and resistance.

The Mad Thinker. “how to measure a solar cells power output”, Instructables July 8th 2009 <https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Measure-a-Solar-Cells-Power-Output/> We used this source to building our circuit in order to measure the power generated by our solar cell for our solar angulator.  Mackenzie’s dad helped build the circuit and said it was accurate.

My dad April, 4th, 1979 we used my dad he helped me a lot.

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