The planet’s future is a concern for everyone. While most people worry about the environment, global warming, and carbon footprint, energy bills tend to scare them much more.
According to a study conducted by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), a quarter of the energy consumed in the U.S. was renewable. Indeed, renewable energy sources, namely solar and wind energy, attract more and more attention. But the question remains, what do you choose: wind or solar?
Considering the specific characteristics of each source will help you understand which will bring more energy and pay off faster and will be the most suitable option for your home.
This article will analyze the dilemma of solar energy vs. wind energy and help you find the right solution.
Solar Power, Wind Power, or Water Power: Which System Produces More Electricity?
Let’s start with hydroelectric, a.k.a. water power. It provides a reliable, clean energy source that is less variable than wind turbines. While dams are efficient for overall operational costs and reliability over extended periods, their environmental impact must be considered due to limited surrounding locations and the necessity to flood habitats to create reservoirs.
A solar station is generally accepted as more practical and convenient for a home. It can be placed on the roof, on the ground, on the barn, and even on the garage. It is easy to use and requires minimal maintenance. But if there were no issues, the question of solar vs. wind for home would not occur. Therefore, it’s worth focusing on one of the most important indicators – the efficiency of the system.
The best solar panel efficiency rate is only 20%, but this is the ideal number. In reality, the panel gives at most 15-18 percent, depending on the type. The wind turbine index is impressive — 60%. But when it comes to efficiency, wind vs. solar for home wins by a wide margin.
Then why do we see solar panels on hundreds of thousands of rooftops across the country, but almost nowhere do we see home wind farms?
Source: Beroe Internal Database and Supplier Interaction
Solar Panel vs. Wind Turbine: Location Requirements
Turbine installation requirements are one of the biggest challenges associated with wind power. The solar station can be installed on almost any flat surface. Today, panels are already used for facades of houses and films that generate energy based on sunlight for windows. In this regard, the question of solar panels vs. wind turbines for homes has the obvious answer — solar panels offer more benefits.
Home windmills can only be installed in cities and in areas that are densely populated. Most often, such installations can be seen in rural areas, on the territory of large farms that have sufficient private space.
The average height of a residential windmill is about 25 meters, which is a significant problem if there are elevations nearby. The wind turbine must be 9 meters above the highest wind obstacle. But installing wind turbines in hilly and mountainous areas has limitations. For instance, you can place them only on hills or flat areas far from tall buildings.
So what’s the verdict on choosing the location and comparing wind turbine vs. solar panels for a home? In this case, wind turbines lose.
Wind Turbines vs. Solar Panels: Climatic Conditions
Let’s consider another important factor: climatic conditions. Solar panels and wind turbines completely depend on the climate zone where they are installed. The sun and the wind are a factor in any place and climate, and it’s all about their intensity.
For instance, Texas, California, Iowa, Oklahoma, Illinois, Washington, Oregon, Minnesota, Kansas, and Colorado are the windiest U.S. states. In this case, the turbine wins after comparing the home wind turbine vs. solar panels.
But if we look at the sunniest states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah — five have both: sun and wind. Therefore, windmills and solar panels can be installed in these regions if climatic conditions are the only selection criterion.
Solar Power vs. Wind Power: Conditions for Energy Generation
It’s no secret that the main condition for obtaining electricity from a solar panel is the presence of sunlight; for a wind farm, it’s windy weather. Now let’s look at how various conditions affect their performance.
Solar panels cannot work at night, meaning electricity is not produced for a certain part of the day. At night, consumption is minimal, but when the usage increases significantly in the evening, it can become a problem.
When there is not enough sun, energy for domestic needs must be taken from the reserve or the general network.
Wind, however, can rotate the blades of a windmill and produce electricity around the clock. Especially often, the wind rises in the evening hours when the sun is already setting. Wind energy has an advantage, but it’s a bit more complicated than it looks.
When clouds scatter the light, solar panels still produce energy. There is less of it, but it is produced, and if not spent, it accumulates in batteries, meeting the requirements of any household.
In contrast, no power is generated if the wind is not intense enough to turn the blades. According to Forbes, the average household requires 1,223 watts of power. If calm weather lasts for days, there’s no way a household can ensure livable conditions without an alternative energy source.
Therefore, in the confrontation of wind power vs. solar power under different weather conditions, both has pros and cons. We recommend considering all the factors before making a final call.
Wind vs. Solar: Ease of Use and Maintenance
While comparing wind turbine vs. solar panels, we couldn’t help but mention additional criteria that can affect your choice of an alternative energy source. Let’s examine them in more detail.
Inconvenience of operation
The wind generator is noisy, often making it impossible to install a windmill in a rural area if it’s densely populated. The rotating blades make the sound, and the longer they rotate, the stronger the background noise.
In contrast, solar panels don’t bother anyone. Some may complain that roof panels spoil the building’s original exterior and ruin the aesthetics. But it’s not critical, especially considering how much benefit they bring.
Difficulty of Installation
What about installing wind turbines and solar panels? The windmill requires more effort and time for a successful installation, again losing to solar panels.
To install a windmill, you need more than a suitable place. A solid foundation is required for a structure with a minimum height of 10 meters and a substantial diameter of a blade span. That is why it’s common to pour solid foundations for windmills.
Experience and standard mounting tools are enough to fix the solar panel on the roof. While it may be necessary to repair a roof beforehand, in terms of price and scope of work, windmills have nothing on solar panels.
You need to monitor the solar panel’s technical condition to work. But practice shows that it is enough to keep the work surfaces clean to avoid problems with the solar station.
The design of the windmill is again movable blades, and these blades can cause problems. Like any moving element, they are subject to friction; their mobility must be monitored.
Another problem is too much wind. If the base of the windmill has not been properly secured, then a gust of wind with enough force can damage the structure – tilt or even completely topple.
If we talk about the use and maintenance, we confidently give the victory to solar panels.
Finally, crowning this comparison is the most popular question.
Solar or Wind Power: Which Is Cheaper?
Above, we have already said that wind-powered generators are far superior in efficiency to solar panels. But the picture will differ if we consider solar vs. wind cost per watt. The fact is that the price includes several factors at once:
- Cost of equipment
- Installation cost
- Maintenance cost
There’s no denying that one of the most important aspects is the cost of equipment.
We will discuss abstract averages and regions where the use of solar and wind power is justified but not optimal. For example, a family of 6 requires 24 solar panels to meet all their electricity needs. They will generate 60-100 thousand kW per year. The cost of such a system will be, on average, $16,000.
Let’s consider a wind generator of the same power (in this case, 5 kV). Such turbines can cover the needs of a 6-people household. However, the equipment alone will cost around $50,000 – $70,000.
Solar Wind Turbine – A Modern Combined Solution
It is difficult to argue which energy source is better. Even after comparing wind power vs. solar power, it’s clear that every system has pros and cons.
When choosing the best option, it’s crucial to consider all the factors: the location of the object, climatic and weather conditions, financial capabilities, population, etc.
But why oppose these systems to each other if they can be combined, obtaining all the advantages at once?
If living conditions, climate, and finances allow, installing combined solar wind turbines will be ideal. It is better than solar panels and wind generators. When the weather is cloudy, there’s almost always wind; when there is no wind, the sun almost always shines.
If we think about industrial use, the solar panel windmill is the planet’s future. Combining two renewable energy sources at an industrial level can save us from dependence on fossil fuels and reduce our carbon footprint to a minimum.
But while there are disputes on the topic of solar vs. wind vs. hydro for industrial and domestic use, we suggest weighing on all the factors like your needs, capabilities, and weather conditions to choose the most suitable system.