The biggest story in renewable energy sources over the past decade has been a consistent increase in the percentage of the energy mix from solar and wind power. Despite an unexpected 2020, both renewable energy sources remained resilient amidst the onset of COVID-19 and economic strife. What’s more, urgency around the planet’s health has sparked rapid innovation and a decline in cost for renewable energy generation, turning many homeowners, renters and businesses to greener energy alternatives.
Solar and wind generation are both critical to decarbonizing our energy grid. There’s no question that the most practical residential renewable energy system today is solar but many homeowners have the option to benefit from wind power. In this piece we’ll break down everything you need to know about solar energy vs. wind energy, to help you determine the right option for your electricity needs:
What produces more electricity, wind or solar?
Solar is the most common residential renewable energy system, but is it more efficient than wind energy? The most efficient residential solar panel on the market is able to convert 20% of energy harnessed from the sun. On the other hand, wind turbines can convert between 60% – 90% of the energy they harness from wind. So technically, wind energy is the front runner in efficiency. Wind energy has its advantages as it doesn’t depend on daylight or sun to generate power, therefore it can produce electricity around the clock. In fact, one wind turbine can generate the same amount of electricity in kilowatt hours compared to thousands of solar panels.
Of course, no energy source comes without drawbacks. Unlike solar, wind turbines aren’t suitable for densely populated areas, which is why they are most commonly seen in rural regions around the world. A typical residential wind turbine towers around 80 feet, therefore it would only make sense for homeowners on large parcels of land located in rural, windy regions.
Solar panels have the key advantage of being able to be installed on almost any roof or mounted on the ground, making it a more realistic solution for residential homes looking to tap into greener energy alternatives. Another common way for many homeowners, businesses and renters to go solar without actually installing anything on their roof, is through a community solar program. Participants can subscribe to a nearby solar farm and pay a lower price for the electricity sourced from it.
In conclusion, even though wind is more efficient at generating electricity, solar is the much more feasible choice…unless you have a very large backyard!
Cost of solar vs wind
Comparing the cost of solar vs. wind is not as simple as it may sound, since there are a lot of components that go into it, installation cost, energy output, tax credits, maintenance, etc. So, let’s look at it from an energy output perspective:
A 10 kW wind turbine can generate an average annual production of around 14,016 kWh. Small-scale residential wind turbines can cost up to $75,000 before tax credits.
Unlike wind turbines, solar panels don’t have any moving parts that could cause more wear and tear, resulting in more maintenance costs.
Based on the numbers above, solar energy comes out ahead as a cheaper way to generate power for residential use. It’s also much more feasible to install. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re ruling out wind power completely; wind power still remains an effective technology at a utility-scale level (think large solar farms with dozens of windmills) and there are ways for homeowners to tap into wind energy. Read on to find out more.
Combining solar and wind for your home
If you already have solar installed on your roof or are subscribed to a community solar farm, there are ways to tap into wind energy, too.
In deregulated markets, utility customers are able to select a third-party provider, also known as an ESCO (Energy Service Company). Many ESCOs generate electricity or purchase Renewable Energy Certificates (REC) on the open market equivalent to their customers energy usage. RECs are essentially proof that energy has been generated from renewable energy projects, such as wind farms. The end result, you save money on your electricity costs and promote growth in the green energy market.
Both solar and wind depend on nature’s resources, but overall, solar panels remain a great option for small-scale electricity generation. Whether you choose solar or wind to power your home’s electricity needs, there is no winner or loser. There are only differences between the two, and both are valuable resources to paving the path towards a decarbonized future