When considering an off grid or grid connect power system the two main options for renewable energy equipment narrow down to wind turbines and solar panels. So which is the superior clean energy source?
“Many people are searching for renewable energy sources in an effort to “go green”. Because we consume energy in such huge quantities, it only makes sense to look for a renewable, alternative, more environmentally-friendly ways to generate energy. Wind generator versus solar power is a common comparison: both forms of energy utilize natural, renewable energy sources, respectively from the wind and from the sun.
Both wind power and solar power have pros and cons. It’s not too hard to find a sunny spot around a home to install solar panels. However, you can’t generate wind! Wind turbines can only be used where you get sufficient wind. Wind turbines are sensitive to wind speed. Speeds that are too low will result in no power being generated from the turbine.
Solar panels generally consist of solar cells, which convert sunlight into energy we can use for solar home heating, solar water heating, and other uses. You may have seen residential homes covered with solar roof tiles to capture the sun’s rays. If you want to power your entire home or office building a large array of solar panels is usually necessary. The number of panels required varies depending on your location and energy needs.
Interestingly, wind power is a form of solar power, too. Wind is created when the earth’s surface is unevenly heated by the sun. Some parts of the world (e.g. the equator) get more sun than others, and some types of land (forests, sand, water, mountains, etc…) absorb more sun than others. Warmer air rises, causing the cooler air nearby to flow in to fill in the “gaps”. This is what results in wind.
Wind generators exploit wind to generate electricity. A wind turbine converts the wind’s energy into mechanical power, which in turn is converted into electricity via a spinning generator. Basically, the wind spins the blades of the turbine, rotating the shaft. This shaft connects to a generator which converts the energy into electricity. You may have seen “wind farms” from a distance – the many huge wind turbines grouped together is quite a sight. People have remarked that the turbines look like large, sharp, metallic “windmills”.
Both forms of renewable energy, wind and solar, will require an upfront investment ranging from several thousands to tens of thousands of dollars. If you only need a small amount of power, then solar panels would be more affordable.
Selecting the most efficient renewable energy source may depend on your location. Obviously, solar panels need maximum daytime sun exposure to generate the most amount of energy. Likewise, wind turbines need to be in a windy location to generate adequate electricity.
If you’re in a location where you get a lot of sun, free from strong winds, which can kick up dust and debris, or other light blocking obstacles, solar power might be the way to go. On the other hand, if your location is very windy, with strong, consistent winds, a wind turbine may be a more effective solution for you.
Suitability for Residential Homes
Solar panels tend to be more suitable for most residential locations as they can be installed nearly anywhere, provided there’s enough sunlight. Residential wind turbines, however, can be quite large and aren’t suitable for the city or for small lots.
Small, residential wind turbines don’t need regular maintenance since they don’t have many moving parts. Solar panels, on the other hand, do require regular cleaning to keep them operating at their most high level of efficiency. Snow, dirt, dust, leaves, bird droppings, and other debris must be removed from the panels.
Appearance / Attractiveness
Many people simply prefer the appearance of solar panels over wind turbines. It all comes down to personal preference and of course, trying to fit into your community. Some people love the way solar panels look while others find it unattractive. The same is true for wind turbines, the large turbine and tower is objectionable for some. Because solar panels are often installed on the roofs of homes they tend to be visually less obtrusive. It is important to keep in mind that some neighborhoods may not be amenable to the look of either solar panels or wind turbines since it doesn’t match the aesthetic appeal of the rest of the community.
To answer the question if wind generator versus solar panels is a better renewable energy source, depends on your location, usage, and preferences. Both forms of power are clean and excellent environmentally-friendly alternatives to traditional energy generation.