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Photo by Bishnu Sarangi via Pixabay


Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education, University of Wisconsin


9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Social Studies, Civics, Geography, Engineering

Resource Types

  • Lesson Plan
  • Presentation Slides
  • Worksheet
  • Interactive Media
  • Activity - Classroom
  • Article
  • Video, 5 minutes, 32 seconds, CC, Subtitles
  • Data

Regional Focus

Global, North America, United States, USA - West, USA - Midwest, Africa, Wisconsin


Google Docs, Google Slides

Solar Energy Potential Global Inquiry

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  • This lesson examines which areas of the world are best suited for solar energy production, what factors determine the efficacy of solar power generation, and what factors encourage the construction of solar energy projects.
  • Students will engage with an interactive map that provides information on global solar energy production, a worksheet with formative questions regarding the map's data, and some articles that discuss careers in solar energy production.
Teaching Tips


  • This lesson also features a video on solar energy careers and an interactive Solar Careers Map to inspire students to consider careers in clean energy.
  • The inquiry-based and hands-on nature of the lesson ensures that students stay engaged.

Additional Prerequisites

  • It may be beneficial if students know what greenhouse gas emissions are and how they contribute to climate change.
  • An answer key for the Solar Energy Potential Student Worksheet is in the notes for teachers section.
  • The teacher may want to show students relevant icons, especially the contents button and those that aren't labeled.
  • The map linked on slide 24 may not load, but it is an additional resource that isn't necessary for this lesson.


  • Students can use the Solar Careers Map for a research project on the solar energy production industry and its growth potential.
  • Teachers can use this lesson as a conceptual introduction to the history of international climate policy.
  • This lesson can support a classroom discussion on the different climate policies of various American states and why these differences exist.
  • This lesson can enhance a classroom discussion on the economic and social systems hindering international efforts to mitigate climate change and how to challenge these systems.
  • Some parts of the lesson are specific to Wisconsin, but classrooms nationwide can use most of the lesson.
Scientist Notes
In this lesson, students learn about solar energy and get familiar with Geographic Information System (GIS) software. GIS is a popular tool used by professionals in many areas of academia and industry, and this activity is a detailed introduction to what GIS can do. The lesson uses this tool to explore how solar energy potential depends on location, which is an essential concept for discussions about solar energy. The resources provided are accurate, and this resource is recommended for teaching.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • HS-ESS3-2 Evaluate competing design solutions for developing, managing, and utilizing energy and mineral resources based on cost-benefit ratios.
      • HS-ESS3-4 Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems.
  • College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Standards
    • Dimension 2: Civics
      • D2.Civ.12.9-12 Analyze how people use and challenge local, state, national, and international laws to address a variety of public issues.
      • D2.Civ.5.9-12 Evaluate citizens' and institutions' effectiveness in addressing social and political problems at the local, state, tribal, national, and/or international level.
    • Dimension 2: Economics
      • D2.Eco.1.9-12 Analyze how incentives influence choices that may result in policies with a range of costs and benefits for different groups.
    • Dimension 2: Geography
      • D2.Geo.10.9-12 Evaluate how changes in the environmental and cultural characteristics of a place or region influence spatial patterns of trade and land use.
      • D2.Geo.2.9-12 Use maps, satellite images, photographs, and other representations to explain relationships between the locations of places and regions and their political, cultural, and economic dynamics.
      • D2.Geo.9.9-12 Evaluate the influence of long-term climate variability on human migration and settlement patterns, resource use, and land uses at local-to-global scales.
  • Common Core English Language Arts Standards (CCSS.ELA)
    • Reading: Informational Text (K-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.2 Determine two or more central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to provide a complex analysis; provide an objective summary of the text.
    • Reading: Science & Technical Subjects (6-12)
      • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.11-12.3 Follow precisely a complex multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks; analyze the specific results based on explanations in the text.
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