Wind turbine versus solar panels: Which is the better option?
Sustainable development requires nations to conserve the environment by adopting cleaner energy and reducing their dependency on fossil fuels. It requires special consideration in corporations and large industries that face pressing issues due to high levels of carbon emissions. It is a wake-up call to increase the utilization of green energy alternatives. Both solar energy and wind power are prominent renewable resources fastly outgrowing fossil fuels.
With this short piece, we have broken down the valuable information related to sustainable power sources to make an informed choice!
What are wind turbines and solar panels?
Modern technology has been the major factor behind the world’s transition towards renewable and clean energy sources. Among these technological devices are wind turbines and solar panels. Wind turbines are machines used to convert wind energy into electrical energy through the medium of generators. This invention was pioneered by American cartoonist Charles G. Bush in 1887. A total of 139 GW of wind power capacity makes it the fourth-largest source of electricity in the US. Wind turbines are located both onshore and offshore.
Another mechanism for the creation of electricity is through solar panels. The journey of creating solar panels commenced in 1839 when a French physicist, Edmond Becquerel, discovered that light could be used to generate electricity. This process is known as the ‘photovoltaic effect’. It was a person named Charles Frittes who
developed a solar cell using the photovoltaic effect in 1883. These solar cells are grouped to form a solar panel.
The U.S solar capacity which was just 0.34 GW in 2008 has grown to 97.2 GW today, which is enough to power about 18 million American homes.
What are the advantages and limitations of wind turbines?
Wind turbines generate clean energy without emitting harmful gases during production. However, it has both benefits and shortcomings, which are analyzed below:
Efficiency: Wind turbines are highly efficient in producing electrical power, assuming adequate wind speeds. However, the solar plant only operates when wind speeds range from 7 mph to 45 mph. In addition to this, there are offshore wind turbines are installed in the sea. They are significantly efficient as there are none or relatively fewer hindrances to wind energy in the sea.
Non-feasibility: Wind turbines cannot be constructed in places enormously inhabited by people or surrounded by big buildings. Thus, they are only suitable for rural or less crowded areas. On the other hand, wind turbines cannot be built on rooftops of houses or buildings, thus making them a relatively less feasible medium.
Associated Cost: The installation of wind turbines incurs huge costs. It is nearly $1,300,000 USD per megawatt, and the average cost of a wind turbine ranges between 2 and 4 million dollars. Unlike solar panels, wind turbines have moving parts that require maintenance at regular intervals, thus adding to the overall expenses. The average maintenance cost is $42,000 to $48,000 per year.
Durability: Modern wind turbine functions for about 20 years. This is only possible if they are timely maintained. Another factor that determines the lifespan of a wind turbine is the environment. With favorable wind speed and environmental conditions, their durability rises to 25 years.
What are the advantages and limitations of solar panels?
The merits and demerits of solar panels are illuminated below:
Flexibility: This is one of the significant features of solar panels. There are different types and models of solar panels, which include monocrystalline, polycrystalline, thin film, etc. Every type of panel has different efficiency levels, durability, and cost. For example, monocrystalline solar panels are the most energy-efficient solar systems and have worked efficiently for a minimum of 25 years. Therefore, people can install the type of solar panels according to their energy requirements.
Feasibility: Solar panels are the feasible option as they are conveniently placed where electricity is needed, thus eliminating any scope of a cluster of wires that has to carry electricity from one place to another.
Less disturbance: Solar panels work silently, as no rotation or movement is necessary for the whole process, making them a perfect device to provide electricity to residential areas.
Cost-effective-: The cost differs according to the type of solar power system. The average cost for the same is about $16000. They have no technical or moving parts and are simple to set up. The main component for producing electricity through solar panels is the sun, which will never run out.
Long lifespan: The life span of solar power systems is typical of 20-30 years, after which its production capacity lowers. This also makes solar panel systems a viable mode of generating electricity.
Not suitable for all rainiest/cloudy areas: This is one of the disadvantages of solar panel systems. Solar cells produce electrical energy with solar energy. Therefore, solar panels do not function optimally when the sky is cloudy. Thus, these are not recommended for rainfall-prone areas of the world.
Which one produces more energy?
Since solar panel is dependent on sunlight to generate electricity, they are less efficient than wind turbines, which can produce energy for 24 hours a day without interruption. An average wind speed of no less than ten mph is required in a barren area with fewer physical obstacles for more efficient wind power.
The other argument is that wind turbines harness 60%-90% of kinetic energy from the wind, unlike solar panels, that harness only 20% of energy from the sunlight. The efficiency of solar power also depends on the direction of installed solar panels.
In the battle between wind and solar energy, which is better: The Final Verdict
Apart from using wind turbines and solar panels separately, various countries use hybrid wind and solar energy systems. This technology is considered a boon as wind turbines and solar panels complement each other and fill each other’s weak points. It is an excellent option, so there is no distress regarding sporadic blackout periods.
This hybrid system works best in remote off-grid locations with no transmission lines and is more reliable. They are favorable to install due to their less expensive infrastructure than standalone solar or wind systems. In closing, the wind-solar hybrid power system is ideal for generating electricity as it is efficient, long-term sustainable, and has quicker recoverable costs.
Frequently asked questions
Are wind turbines good alternatives to solar panels?
There is no clear-cut winner about the effectiveness as both the alternatives do not fit into a one-size-fits-all solution. However, wind turbines consume lower energy and emit less CO2, contrary to solar panels. Further, wind turbines efficiently fulfill the large-scale energy consumption of bigger households and industries as they are favorable for commercial and industrial markets. Wind turbines are a promising investment for sparsely populated areas in rural and windy regions.
How many solar panels does it take to equal a wind turbine?
It takes around 24 solar panels per day to produce energy equivalent to the energy generated from 5Kw of a wind turbine. This is sufficient to fulfill the energy consumption for a 6-member household. This depends on multiple factors, such as the average amount of sunshine and wind speed. Additionally, 48,704 solar panels are equal to a wind turbine while producing a similar amount of electricity.
International Energy Agency data indicates that the market for renewable energy resources is anticipated to grow exponentially, from 29.3% in 2030 to 63.5% in 2050. Also, by 2030, 100 GW is the goal for installed renewable power generation capacity.
Considering the global climate changes and sharper surge in fossil fuel prices, wind and solar power are both cost-efficient resources that will fulfill electricity demands, drive inclusive economic growth, create employment opportunities and reduce dependency on imports.