Wind Generator versus Solar Panels - Which is Better?

"Going green" is in the minds of many people these days. Because we consume energy in such huge quantities, it only makes sense to look for alternative, more environmentally-friendly ways to generate energy. Wind generator versus solar panels is a common comparison: both forms of energy utilitize natural, renewal energy sources, respectively from the wind and from the sun.

Solar panels are comprised 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.

On the other hand, wind generators use wind to generate electricity. A wind turbine converts the wind's energy into mechanical power, which in turn is converted into electricity via a 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".

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 (eg. 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.

Both wind power and solar power have advantages and disadvantages.

Cost

Neither solar power nor wind power are cheap. A large array of solar panels is usually necessary to power a residential home (the number of panels required varies depending on your location and energy needs), adding to the cost. With either form of energy, expect an investment of several thousands of dollars (more likely, tens of thousands of dollars) if you want to power your entire home.

If you only need a small amount of power, then solar panels would be cheaper.

Efficiency

Obviously, solar panels need maximum sunlight to generate the most amount of energy. Likewise, wind turbines need to be in a windy location in order to generate a lot of 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 -- solar power might be the way to go, especially if you don't have a lot of other objects that shade the panels from the sun. If your location is particularly windy, with typically strong, consistent winds, a wind turbine may be more effective for you.

Suitability for Residential Homes

Solar panels 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.

Wind turbines can also only operate where you get sufficient wind. 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 are sensitive to wind speed. Speeds that are too low will result in no power being generated from the turbine.

Maintenance

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 efficient. Snow, dirt, dust, leaves, bird droppings, and other debris must be removed from the panels.

Appearance / Attractiveness

Some people simply have a preference for the appearance of solar panels vs wind turbines. With solar panels, they're often installed on the roofs of homes. Some people don't mind the way they look -- may even love the way they look! -- while others find it unattractive. The same goes for wind turbines: some people would find the large turbine and the tower objectionable; others don't mind. It all comes down to personal preference... and of course, trying to fit into your community. 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.

Other Issues

Wind power has been a hotly-debated topic - is it really eco-friendly? "Eco-friendly" implies that there's no damage to the environment ... however, wind turbines are known to harm wildlife, particularly birds and bats.

On the question of whether wind generator versus solar panels is better -- it just depends on your location, usage, and preferences. Both forms of power are clean and renewable, both excellent environmentally-friendly alternatives to traditional energy generation. Love both forms of energy? Consider a combination system that utilitizes both solar power and wind power.

 

 

 


 

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