The idea of generating your electricity sounds too good to be true. At least, that’s how many people have felt many years ago. But nowadays, this idea is already a reality. As technology continues to improve, more and more companies are starting to explore the possibilities of harnessing energy from renewable sources. Because of this, what used to be an expensive investment has become affordable so that households are now able to get their pieces of the pie.
Lowering your home’s carbon footprint should be your priority, and the use of renewable energy sources is a great way to start.
Many people know about the benefits of Energy Star-Qualified appliances, as they use 10% to 50% less energy compared to the standard model. Just imagine how much more money you’ll save if that small amount of energy you’re using has been generated for free!
Among the different sources of renewable energy sources, solar and wind are the most widely used. Now, for argument’s sake, which is better between the two?
If you’re planning on switching to off-grid electricity, you have to consider factors such as the costs involved, your location, maintenance, ease of installation, efficiency, and the manner that each operates.
Read on to find out how wind and solar power fare against each other when it comes to these factors.
Though wind energy has long been a favourite among corporations, many see solar power leading the way for the next few years. This is mainly because the costs of solar panels, as well as installation, have steadily been decreasing.
An average solar array for a home costs around £6,000 to £8,000 including installation. Wind energy, on the other hand, costs more. You also have to make sure that wind turbines are installed a certain height above the ground for optimum energy production which adds more to its cost.
Another thing to note is that wind turbines have a lot of moving parts which make them more susceptible to wear and tear, unlike solar panels which are stationary most of the time. This means that you’re likely to spend more maintaining wind turbines than solar panels. At the moment, solar power seems to be the winner in this department.
Both wind and solar power need to be installed in suitable sites to get the best results. While it’s true that solar panels can easily be installed anywhere (ideally on the roof), they’re limited since they can only gather sunlight during the day. This can be remedied by having more batteries for energy storage but doing so means you’ll have to spend more.
Wind energy is slightly at an advantage here because once wind turbines are installed in an area that receives strong and consistent winds, you’re sure to have a steady supply of energy. However, that ‘perfect location’ is not as easy to find especially for urban areas. Solar energy, though limited because of day and night, can be installed pretty much anywhere.
In this case, the choice between the two will mainly depend on where you’re located and how much energy you need to be generated.
The maintenance of solar panels is relatively easy compared to wind turbines. This is very true especially in the UK because of the rain it receives which makes the cleaning of solar panels easier. This means that you can expect your solar panels to work for years with very little maintenance.
Wind energy, unfortunately, is somewhat behind in this aspect. Because they’re situated high above the ground, the maintenance of wind turbines is already a tough task. And again, wind turbines are more at risk of wear and tear because of the moving parts.
Solar power is the clear winner as far as setup is concerned. They don’t have moving parts and require less space to operate allowing for an easier set up compared to wind turbines. There’s also less cable needed since the ideal location for solar panels is the roof of your house.
Wind turbines, being way up above, makes installation difficult. Aside from the long cables which you’ll have to invest in, being up high makes them at risk of getting hit by lightning. Unfortunately, there’s nothing that can be done about this vulnerability of wind turbines yet.
And while it’s true that you can opt for smaller turbines to cut down on the cost, doing so puts you at a disadvantage too. Small wind turbines are not as efficient as the bigger ones which means they won’t produce as much energy as they should. They may also fail to utilise the power when faced with strong turbulent winds.
When it comes to efficiency, it would appear that both wind and solar power have their own sets of pros and cons. But if both power sources are used in ideal situations, wind power would have the upper hand.
With wind energy, you have a guaranteed and steady supply of energy. Solar panels rely on sunlight which is only available during the day, so it puts it in a slightly disadvantageous position compared to the always-available wind.
However, the reality is that there’s no such as thing as perfect in this world. Regardless of how favourable the conditions are for both energy sources, there will always come a time when something will go wrong along the way.
Another advantage that solar has over wind power is operation. Pretty much, solar panels can be left alone after installation, provided that you install them correctly. And regardless if there’s not enough sunlight, you’d still be able to gather energy though not as much as when there’s full sunlight available.
Wind power, on the other hand, requires strong and steady winds to perform efficiently. Unfortunately, the strength as well as the direction the wind blows changes which makes wind turbines unable to work efficiently all the time.
Another important thing to look at is the noise that wind turbines produce. This can be difficult to deal with especially if you have neighbours who might complain about the noise. Even the largest and quietest of turbines can still produce enough sound to get yourself an angry neighbour. This also makes turbines a challenge to install in suburban areas.
Based on the above, it can be concluded that solar beats wind energy. However, the latter is still a viable source of off-grid electricity. Besides, both of these renewable sources have ways to go in technological advancements. And as time passes everyone can expect more improvements, especially when it comes to the financial investment required.
Nevertheless, what’s important is that everyone’s on the right track towards living a sustainable and eco-friendly way of life.
Salman is a prolific environmental writer, and has authored more than 300 articles in reputed journals, magazines and websites. He is proactively engaged in creating mass awareness on renewable energy, waste management, sustainability and conservation all over the world.
Salman can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org.