It should be noted from the very beginning that solar and wind energy are both great alternatives to fossil fuels. But if you can only afford one renewable energy to power your home, an in-depth comparison like this is necessary. You want to know your options before making any final decisions. Is solar better than wind? Or will turbines be the better choice? Keep reading for more insight and perspective on the solar vs wind energy debate..
What Is Solar Energy?
The concept of solar energy has been around for several years, although it did not get nearly as much attention back then as it does today. This is because the technological advances for harvesting sun rays have improved significantly. At the same time, the bigger demand eventually has led to solar equipment dropping in price as well. But why are solar panels so special?
Everything starts with a silicone cell. The cell gets placed between a thick sheet of tempered glass and a steel frame, where it simply has to face the sun in order to capture sun rays. Of course, the more accurate the angle, the more energy can be harvested. But additional equipment is necessary in order to use solar energy in your home. For example, the panels have to be connected to a converter. The converter changes the energy from AC to DC, which is necessary if you want to harness this cleaner energy in your home. Take note that solar panels can still harvest energy on cloudy days, although it will be significantly less compared to days with clear skies.
An alternative to solar panels for your home that you can consider is solar powered generators. Maybe not suitable for a larger home however, if you have a tiny home, live off the grid, in a cabin or on a boat, then a solar generator kit like the ones found at Sun Box Labs for instance, could be ideal.
What Is Wind Energy?
On the other end of the renewable energy spectrum, there is wind power. This kinetic energy source is harvested via a turbine. When the blades of the turbine turn due to wind force, it powers a generator that puts out mechanical energy. Just like solar energy, mechanical energy needs to be converted if you want to use it inside your home, which means additional equipment is necessary.
As expected, wind turbines have to be placed in windy areas if they are going to be effective. And if the area is windy enough, the turbine can generate an impressive amount of power. In fact, the efficiency of a turbine is one of its most impressive features.
Pros And Cons Of Solar Energy
– More affordable than turbines:
While a solar array can be somewhat expensive, it is usually more affordable than installing a turbine. Solar is also more readily available. Finding professionals to provide and install the panels is bound to be easier than finding nearby turbine installers. And the further away professionals are, the more it is going to cost.
– Easy and quick to install:
Assuming you have the right roof design and there are no complications, setting up a solar array should be very quick. Within a couple of days, you can have much cleaner energy feeding through the outlets. Even the installation itself is considered very straightforward.
– More reliable in terms of energy source:
Even though nobody can predict the future, there is a much better chance of the sun shining than the wind blowing. Unless you live near a coastal area where the wind blows almost permanently, of course. In general, you can usually count on the sun to shine. But you can't say the same about wind.
– No moving parts which means little maintenance:
When it comes to maintaining solar panels, the work is minimal. Your main priority should be to keep the panels clean and check the components that accompany the array, such as the inverter or battery bank. For the most part, you don't have much to do while using a solar array.
– Less space is required:
As you probably know, solar panels are usually installed on the roof of a home. Alternatively, you can use a frame to place the panels on. But the latter option is rarely used, seeing as the roof is a very good place for panels. And the point is you do not need extra space when panels go on the roof.
– Does not draw as much attention:
Another great element of using solar panels is the low level of influence in terms of aesthetics. They do not stand out like a turbine definitely will. In fact, some panel designs are very stylish as well as discreet. So don't be surprised if the panels add a certain futuristic dimension to your home.
– Operates silently:
The one thing you never have to worry about with solar panels is noise. And if you do hear a noise, it means something is wrong. Thanks to the lack of moving parts, nobody has ever complained about their solar system messing with their sleep patterns.
– Not as energy-efficient:
There is no getting around the fact that solar panels do not generate as much energy as turbines. And if your choice depends solely on the most effective energy generator, the turbine is the clear winner. But chances are your decision is influenced by more than just energy efficiency.
– Emits more greenhouse gasses:
For individuals who are very serious about reducing their carbon footprint, solar energy is not as clean as wind energy. Panels do emit more pollutants compared to turbines, but not when you compare them with fossil fuels.
– Upfront costs can be expensive depending on the size of the array:
It is true that solar panel prices continue to drop. But as mentioned, you need more than the panels to be able to harness the energy. And this can lead to a somewhat steep initial payment.
– Needs to be angled in a specific direction, which can complicate the situation due to different roof designs:
In order to harvest the most energy, panels have to be properly angled towards the sun. You can even install trackers that allow the panels to move with the sun. But if your roof design is not really suitable for panels, other arrangements have to be made.
Pros And Cons Of Wind Energy
– Get more energy:
If the area you live in is known for strong winds almost every day, a single turbine can generate an overflow of clean energy. And this is exactly why people make the comparison with solar energy. Even though solar power enjoys more commercial success, there are still good reasons to explore wind power options. The increased generation of energy sits at the top of this list.
– Not limited by the time of day:
Another advantage turbines have over panels is that they are not restricted by day or night. As long as the wind is blowing, the turbine will generate energy. And if the wind never stops blowing for the next decade, you won't have to worry about keeping the lights on.
– Less pollution:
The step towards green energy has been a big one and using solar or wind power instead of fossil fuels already makes a huge difference. But humanity should never really stop in their mission to find the cleanest power sources available. In this case, turbines are less harmful to the environment as far as emissions go.
– Difficult to install in dense urban areas
Turbines are usually brought to the site in pieces. Also, keep in mind that turbines are relatively big and they take up a lot of space. So the installation part is likely to be complicated if you live in a dense urban area.
– More maintenance:
Maintenance for a turbine is very important if you want to avoid breakdowns or mechanical failures. While this might not take a lot of time, but it can get costly.
– Increased risk of damage by the elements:
Given the height and size of wind turbines, they are more vulnerable to extreme elements. Heavy lightning and storms can cause severe damage. Panels, on the other hand, offer more protection without all the movement.
– Dangerous to certain wildlife:
The dangers of turbines to the surrounding wildlife are not new and should still be taken into consideration. For example, bird deaths tend to increase in areas where turbines are installed.
– Does not operate silently:
An unfortunate issue with turbines has to be the noise element. While it should not bother you if the turbine is placed quite far from your home, the sound can be very problematic for some.
Solar vs Wind Energy: And The Winner Is?
The best way to decide on a winner is to assess your situation. If you live on a ranch or farm where the wind is a regular occurrence, a turbine can be perfect. But if you live in a city where every square inch matters, solar panels are probably going to work better. Think about the installation and how practical it will be to put a huge turbine in the backyard.
When all the pros and cons are compared, solar energy is the more practical choice for homeowners with limited space. They cost less than a turbine will, they require less maintenance, and they don't make a noise while harvesting energy.