Materials List: Pointing at Maximum Power for PV

Each group needs:

  • mini PV panel ($10-30; available online; do a product search for "small solar panel" or see the Solar Panel Source Information attachment in the Photovoltaic Efficiency unit)
  • 4 to 5 wires with alligator clips
  • 1 or 2 multimeters ($10; available online; see the Solar Multimeter Source Information attachment in the Photovoltaic Efficiency unit) (experiment can be run with either one or two multimeters per group, see Procedure section for details)
  • 10K Ohm potentiometer ($2; available online at, for example at Note: the resistance needed depends on the panel used and the experimental set-up conditions. A 5K Ohm potentiometer was used in the example in the associated lesson. A 10K Ohm potentiometer provides more flexibility, but gives less range of motion until the open circuit voltage is reached.
  • sunlight, or a clamp or desk lamp with 100W incandescent bulb (~$8 available at hardware stores; best for each group to have their own, but teams can share if necessary)
  • Investigation Worksheet, one per person
  • Student Investigation Guide, if using one multimeter per group, OR Student Investigation Guide – Two Multimeters, if using two multimeters per group

Note: The non-expendable items (mini PV panels, multimeters, potentiometer, wires with alligator clamps, lamp and light bulb) are reusable for the entire four-lesson unit, as well as other projects.