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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 Solar Energy for a Building (Renewable Energy Algebra #2)

Created By Teachers:
Last Updated:
Apr 22, 2024
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In this lesson, students complete real-world calculations related to the number of solar panels needed to power the average house and how many solar panels could fit on their own home or a local building.
Step 1 - Inquire: Students complete calculations to determine if the average American home could be powered using solar panels.
Step 2 - Investigate: Students explore the Google Project Sunroof site and use data on their home address to solve problems.
Step 3 - Inspire: Students discuss the benefits and drawbacks to using solar energy and explore equity issues related to the affordability of solar panels.
Accompanying Teaching Materials
Teaching Tips


  • Students are able to use algebra skills in real-world applications.

  • The lesson is engaging for students because it is personalized to each student's actual home or local building.

Additional Prerequisites

  • This lesson is 2 of 5 in our 6-8th Grade Renewable Energy Algebra unit.

  • If teachers did not complete lesson 1, omit questions 1, 3, and 5 on the Student Document and use this video to introduce solar energy and its connections to climate change.

  • Slides 14-16 are vocabulary words from the first lesson that teachers may wish to review with students again or introduce if teachers skipped lesson 1.

  • Students need access to computers and calculators for this lesson.


  • Students can work individually or in groups.

  • If students do not feel comfortable using their actual address, they can select a random nearby address to use.

  • Teachers can walk students through certain calculations as a class. Teachers can also pull small groups to work through any areas with the most needs.

Scientist Notes

This lesson lets students evaluate the impact of solar energy in addressing the energy crisis and energy inequities, especially in low-income communities. It would build their analytic skills in calculating the amount of energy a solar panel can produce per hour, which is important information for houseowners to choose the size of solar panels to build. All materials embedded in the lesson are illustrative and were fact-checked thoroughly. On that account, this lesson has passed our science credibility process and is recommended for teaching.


This resource addresses the listed standards. To fully meet standards, search for more related resources.

Supporting Standards

  • Mathematics
    • Expressions & Equations (6-8)
      • 6.EE.A.2 Write, read, and evaluate expressions in which letters stand for numbers.
      • 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.
      • 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.
      • 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.

Note On Standards:

This lesson is aligned to SubjectToClimate standards. Review the aligned standards directly in the lesson plan document and teacher slideshow.

Discover more on SubjectToClimate.
Renewable Energy Algebra Unit Lesson Plans


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