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Expressions and Equations


6th, 7th, 8th




60 minutes

Regional Focus



Google Docs, Google Slides


This lesson plan is licensed under Creative Commons.

Creative Commons License

Calculating Peak Sun Hours (Renewable Energy Algebra #1)

Created By Teacher:
Last Updated:
Feb 23, 2024
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This lesson introduces solar energy and tasks students with solving an algebraic equation to determine the amount of daily sunlight needed to make a solar panel effective.
Step 1 - Inquire: Students work through a practice problem and discuss what they already know about solar energy.
Step 2 - Investigate: Students briefly learn some background information about solar energy and then use algebra to calculate the amount of peak sun hours needed to make a solar panel effective. Students compare their calculated values to real-world data to determine if this amount of sunlight is possible in their area.
Step 3 - Inspire: Students make predictions and discuss if they think their home could be powered by solar panels using the calculations from class as evidence.
Accompanying Teaching Materials
Teaching Tips


  • The lesson is personalized to the students' community, which will make it more engaging and relevant.

  • This lesson ties closely with the following lesson in the unit, but it can also be used as a standalone lesson if desired.

Additional Prerequisites

  • This is lesson 1 of 5 in our 6-8th grade Renewable Energy Algebra unit.

  • Students should be familiar with renewable energy. If not, more time may be needed in the Inquire section to introduce renewable energy. This video can be used.
  • Students should know kWh refers to Kilowatt-hour. This interactive map about the carbon intensity of electricity by country measured in kWh can support students with better visualizing the unit.

  • Students should understand that kilo means 1,000, so a kilowatt is 1,000 watts. This reading can help students build background knowledge on electric power and its units of measure.


  • Teachers can have students work with a partner on the calculations in the Investigate section and purposefully group students based on skill level.

  • Teachers can work with small groups of students who may need additional assistance with the calculations.

  • Teachers can limit the number of questions students complete. The questions get progressively more difficult.

  • Some questions have the same setup but use different numbers. If necessary, some could be taken out to save time (questions 1-4 and questions 5-7).

Scientist Notes

This lesson lets students analyze peak sun hours needed to generate electricity from a solar panel. The equation used in the calculation is appropriate, and students would be able to calculate their electricity footprint in real-time. All accompanying materials, case studies, and activities contained in this lesson are well-sourced. Accordingly, this lesson has passed our science credibility and is recommended for teaching.


Primary Standards

  • Common Core Math Standards (CCSS.MATH)
    • Expressions & Equations (6-8)
      • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.6.EE.A.2 Write, read, and evaluate expressions in which letters stand for numbers.
      • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.6.EE.B.6 Use variables to represent numbers and write expressions when solving a real-world or mathematical problem; understand that a variable can represent an unknown number, or, depending on the purpose at hand, any number in a specified set.
      • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.7.EE.B.3 Solve multi-step real-life and mathematical problems posed with positive and negative rational numbers in any form (whole numbers, fractions, and decimals), using tools strategically. Apply properties of operations to calculate with numbers in any form; convert between forms as appropriate; and assess the reasonableness of answers using mental computation and estimation strategies. For example: If a woman making $25 an hour gets a 10% raise, she will make an additional 1/10 of her salary an hour, or $2.50, for a new salary of $27.50. If you want to place a towel bar 9 3/4 inches long in the center of a door that is 27 1/2 inches wide, you will need to place the bar about 9 inches from each edge; this estimate can be used as a check on the exact computation.
      • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.7.EE.B.4 Use variables to represent quantities in a real-world or mathematical problem, and construct simple equations and inequalities to solve problems by reasoning about the quantities.
Renewable Energy Algebra Unit Lesson Plans


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