Project Plan – The Physics of Solar Power

-Project Plan: 

Materials used: Ideally we would like to conduct an experiment with a solar panel, if one is available through the Vassar Physics department. If not, we can look in to finding one elsewhere, or relying on another scientist’s data to determine their efficiency. We would like to put it on the roof of Olmstead or Sanders for a week or so, ideally through good weather and bad.

Things to focus on for presentation: 

-Raw materials and production (as in, science of production, and environmental costs). (Nick will focus on this). The goal is to determine if the resources and energy involved in production in any way deters from solar panels being produced on a global scale. 

-Science of how photovoltaics actually work.  (Nico will focus on this area). The goal for this section is to detail the scientific processes that allow photovoltaics to convert light to energy 

-Effectiveness (experiment with actual photovoltaic cells) – concentrating on myths associated with solar cells. In this, we plan to combine our three specific areas of research to determine if solar cells are worth using.  (We will all do this together). In our experiment we will address the following questions: -what is their ideal environment? Where are they strategically positioned to be most effective? How much energy does one hour of direct sunlight produce? Based on our experiment, how many solar panels would be necessary to fully power Vassar College? 

-Political implications. (Angel will focus on this). Are they really cost effective? Beneficial to the environment? A “green” solution to they impending energy crisis? Do they favor U.S. producers? Do they necessarily need to be produced overseas and transported to the U.S.?

-Creation of the PowerPoint. (We will all do this together).

In terms of expected outcomes:

-There is a great deal of political and popular support on the grounds that solar panels create self-sustaining energy. The rumors that solar panels harm the environment we suspect to be untrue, and the largest obstacle to using them on a wide scale is most likely the cost of the raw materials.

-In our experiment the cells to generate a small amount of energy, dependent on the weather. (Its hard to know the exact amount of energy generated without knowing the size of the cells we’ll be using).

-We would expect that in the winter, one would not be able to generate as much energy as another season with more sunlight. On these grounds, we would expect that solar panels are not a universal solution to long term energy crisis.

We plan to meet weekly on Wednesdays at 3, and the occasional supplementary Friday at one, depending on what needs to be done on the week in question.

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