Wind Turbines VS Solar Panels: Which is Better?
Renewable energy is energy that’s collected from renewable resources that are naturally replenished and will never run out on a human timescale. As the recognition of its benefits increases, so does the interest of people. The most popular renewable energy sources are wind and solar energy.
Many businesses and homeowners are turning to wind and solar energy sources to become eco-friendly, energy-efficient and money-efficient. If you are considering to install renewable energy system on your property, whether it’s a commercial or residential building, then your decision will fall between two popular renewable energy options of wind and solar energy. To understand which one is better, we will look into the advantages and disadvantages of both wind turbines and solar panels and evaluate their efficiency.
Wind Turbines: Pros and Cons of Wind Energy
Wind energy is significantly more popular in the US compared to solar power. In 2017, 21% of the renewable energy produced in the United States was from wind turbines, while solar panels accounted only for 7%. The big percentage comes from the heavy wind energy utilization of utilities and large-scale operations.
How Wind Energy is Generated
Wind turbines are a modern version of traditional windmills. Any wind turbine consists of four parts:
- Foundation - ensures that the turbine will withstand strong winds
- Tower - usually painted into natural colors to fit the surroundings
- Nacelle - carries the generator and other important components, such as anemometer, that measure wind direction and speed
- Blades - the longer are the blades, the more energy they can capture from the wind
Wind turbines generate energy using the natural power of the wind. The blades capture the wind and instantly turn it into electricity. The electricity goes to a transformer through cables and to the wind farm substation. Later, it is converted to the appropriate voltage for the grid and transmitted into buildings. The anemometer helps to determine the best position for the blades, so when the wind changes its speed and direction, the blades do too, in order to ensure that the maximum amount of energy is extracted from the wind.
- Huge potential
Wind energy has an enormous potential - about 20 times more than the population needs
An obvious advantage of wind energy is that it is renewable, and humanity can’t run out of it. It is also environmentally friendly because does not cause pollution
The setup cost may be expensive, but in the long term, wind turbines will save your household or your business a lot of money due to low operational costs.
Wind turbines are very space efficient. Given their power, only one but most powerful wind turbine is capable of generating enough electricity for 600 homes in the US.
- Growth potential
As more people switch to wind energy, their popularity is massively increasing per year, while driving down the costs.
- Wind fluctuations
Wind energy depends on wind availability. Turbines can’t produce enough energy if there’s no adequate
supply of wind.
- Threat to wildlife
Wind turbines can alter the wildlife. They are especially dangerous for birds and bats and contribute to their high mortality rate. However, keep in mind that wind turbines are not more harmful than any other man-made installations, such as radio towers and cell phone masts.
- Wind is an intermittent source
Wind is a fluctuation source of energy. It may not be suitable to meet an average demand of energy consumption in the US without using any energy storage. So wind energy will work adequately only in windy environments.
Solar Panels: Pros and Cons of Solar Power
The solar energy is an enormous source of power. Only 18 days of sunshine on our planet contain as much energy as stored in the reserves of the Earth’s oil, coal and natural gas.
How Solar Energy is Generated
The solar panels installed on the roofs are called Photovoltaic (PV) Solar Panels, where photo means light and voltaic means to do with electricity. So as the name suggests, PV solar panels convert the sunlight directly into usable electrical energy. The principle that lies in the essence of PV panels is the photoelectric effect. The photoelectric effect implies that certain materials can produce a small electric current when exposed to light. The PV solar panels work with the help of solar cells which are small particles that convert the sunlight into electrical power. When several solar cells are grouped and fixed together, they create the solar panel which can produce a large amount of energy.
Now let’s look at the advantages and disadvantage of solar panels.
- Enormous Capacity
The sun is an enormous energy power. In terms of human timescale, it is an eternal power source.
- Environmentally safe
Just like other renewable energy sources, solar power is safe for the environment. It won’t cause any pollution or environmental degradation.
Although often installed on the roofs, solar panels can be put anywhere you want.
The price of solar panels saw a drastic decline in recent years and the installation costs are affordable for middle-income families and small businesses. Moreover, it is more efficient cost-wise in the long term, as the buyers will have a return on the investment unlike paying for utility costs. Also, they will have the ability to live grid free if the generated power would provide enough energy for the home or building.
- Little to no maintenance costs
Solar panels usually last up to 30 years, so they don’t involve any maintenance costs.
- Weather dependant
Generating energy with solar panels depends on the availability of the sun. The energy collection effectiveness will drop during cloudy or rainy days, and more importantly, sun energy won’t be collected during the night.
- Geographical location
Depending on where you want to install the solar panels, you will need to use different panel sizes to generate the same power.
It is true that solar panels don’t involve maintenance costs, however, they are made of a fragile material that can be easily damaged. That’s why it is important to get an insurance when installing them, to protect you from potential damage cost.
Wind and Solar Energy: Which one to choose?
Now that you know the advantages and disadvantages of both solar and wind energy powers, you can make an educated decision on which one to choose. Despite the cons of both, it’s worth mentioning that the advantages they have are superior to the disadvantages, and switching to renewable energy should be your option in any case. The benefits of renewable energy sources make it a worthy electricity option for your household or business, as they will not only save you money but make you an influencer that urges to improve the environment.
Make your decision based on the special features that solar and wind energy sources have. Consider your geographical location. The benefit of wind over solar power is that it is not dependent on the sun for energy generation, however, it is dependant on the wind. And vice versa for the solar energy. The solar panels can’t produce energy for 24 hours straight, as they don’t produce power at nights, unlike wind turbines.
Wind turbines must be situated high above any obstacles that might block the wind in order to be effective. So if you live in a rural area that has a plenty of open space, then wind turbines will work well for you. However, if you live in the city center that’s full of many residential and commercial buildings, then solar panels might be your best option as they can be installed wherever you want and won’t take much space.
Whether you choose a wind turbine or a solar panel for your home or office, by switching to renewable energy sources, you make a decision to support clean and environmentally-friendly energy sources for a reasonable price. Simply consider your location, preferences and usage and become an environmentalist.