Which is more efficient, solar or wind energy?

Published On: 15/03/2022-8.9 min read-

Before we start our reasoning, we would like to remind you that both energies are renewable and therefore both are great energy options to use to improve our planet and to break our addiction to oil and gas.

Today we will try to answer a question we often ask ourselves when we are interested in renewable energies: between solar and wind energy, which is the most efficient?

Solar and wind energy in a nutshell.

First of all, let’s take a look at what renewable energy means. Renewable energies are all those energy sources that are obtained from natural resources. These sources are: the sun, wind, water and plant or animal biomass.

Among the various renewable alternatives for generating electricity, solar energy and wind energy are the most popular options. In this sense, their role is decisive in reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). The technologies for transforming these energy sources are solar panels and wind turbines, respectively. First of all, solar panels convert solar radiation into energy. The fact is that wind is equally generated by solar energy. This is due to the difference in atmospheric pressure caused by solar radiation. Basically, it is an energy based on movement. So, when the impulse of the wind turns the propellers of the generator, the turbine transforms the kinetic energy into direct current.

Without a doubt, sunlight and wind are sustainable, abundant and inexhaustible sources of energy.

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The facts to remember about wind energy

Wind energy can be harnessed at any time of the day, so the use of batteries to store surpluses is optional. A 5kW wind turbine is capable of generating enough energy for a household of six people. This is equivalent to the amount of energy produced by 24 solar photovoltaic panels.

At the utility level, offshore and onshore wind power recorded a decline of approximately 9% year-on-year between 2010 and 2019. Thus, it reached 5.3 US cents or 4.5 euro cents/kWh and 11.5 US cents or 9.9 euro cents/kWh. Moreover,  wind turbines are not suitable for urban environments where there are buildings or other elements that interrupt the wind flow.

Wind energy is an efficient solution

The moving parts of wind turbines produce noise. Apart from that, their visual impact on the landscape and their effects on wildlife cause a lot of controversy. Another aspect of wind energy is that wind turbines wear out due to their use. As a result, they require more frequent and costly maintenance than a photovoltaic system.

In addition, an important consideration when thinking about wind energy is that it will not fully satisfy your energy needs, as it will only provide you with electricity. In fact, your energy demand is made up of electricity and heat. The heat part is the part that is consumed the most and has the biggest impact on both your energy bill and the environment. Thus, the wind turbine option is not a really efficient and complete answer, a fact that is also demonstrated by the fact that wind turbine installations are carried out at sea or in the countryside, thus far from the places of consumption, which means that this energy is transported. But this transport of energy involves enormous losses.

Solar energy is an efficient solution

The facts to remember about solar energy

Indeed, solar panels can be installed on roofs of industrial buildings, roofs and terraces of buildings for self-consumption in companies. Of course, they can also be mounted on roofs of houses in communities for shared self-consumption. In addition, they can be installed on the ground to supply energy to small farms and large agro-industrial enterprises. According to this objective, agrovoltaics can be implemented to create synergy between crops and installations. For this reason, solar energy is practical for urban as well as rural areas and industries.

A solar power system has no moving parts and takes up less space depending on the solar panel you choose. It is also quicker to install, with minimal wiring.

So it requires less supervision and is less expensive to maintain. Generally, quality solar panels have a lifespan of 25 years or more. Solar energy is less susceptible to lightning strikes and damage caused by high winds. Moreover, the operation of solar energy is completely silent.

Finally, if you want to really take advantage of all that solar energy has to offer and get a complete answer to your energy demand, you have to go for hybrid solar technology. This technology produces both electricity and heat, which allows you to respond to your energy needs, making better savings on your energy bills and really lowering your CO2 emissions. Because the biggest CO2 emission comes from heat, you can’t forget that!

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In terms of efficiency, are they the same?

Finally, we come to the part that you might be most interested in: the efficiency of these two energies. When we talk about efficiency, we are referring to the amount of energy produced. According to an experiment conducted by Inland Power and Light, solar energy is the more efficient of the two. The two compared an almost 11-metre wind turbine with an array of solar panels, ensuring that both could generate the same amount of electricity under optimal conditions. Both also had the same cost of $22,000.

The solar panel apparently generates five times more power than the wind turbine, mainly due to variations in wind speed that prevent the turbine from generating power. Solar power is reportedly less intermittent than wind power.

Another advantage of solar panels is that they are easier to integrate architecturally. However, given the amount of energy we need to run this planet, it is good to have both options. Certainly, under certain conditions, wind will be more useful than solar and vice versa. The point is to continue to develop both technologies so that they become more efficient and cost-effective.

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