Is solar or wind a better power source for your home? Choosing between wind and solar energy for your home will depend greatly on your power requirements, budget, and the geographical characteristics of the land around you.
Solar power is cheaper and easier to install, with the option to be grid-tied or off-grid completely. At the same time, wind turbines generate more energy from a single unit than solar does, but they are much more expensive and will require more maintenance.
Before making this decision, there are some additional factors to consider, with each energy source having its pros and cons. Let’s look at these in more detail to make an informed decision.
Solar Energy Vs. Wind Power – Cost
The first consideration for many people looking to become less dependent on the grid is the cost of the system they want to install. From this perspective, an average US home would need a 5kW system to power their home completely.
The Cost & Lifespan Of A Solar PV Systems
Currently, the average cost per watt for solar is $3-$5 per watt, so for a 5kW solar system, this would be around $15000 – $25000 and depending on whether you opt for battery storage, that could add another $5000 to $10 000 to the price.
So for the average home, the cost for a solar energy system with batteries would be around $30 000.
Because solar panels don’t have any moving parts, so they can last for 20-25 years without a stretch, and this is another reason why these systems are more popular with residential properties than wind power.
PV systems require very little maintenance over the lifespan. While you may need to replace the central inverter (if you don’t have micro inverters on your panels), there is very little other cost associated with maintenance.
The Cost & Lifespan Of A Wind Turbine
The average cost per kilowatt for wind turbines is around $9000, so a 5kW wind turbine costs around $45000, 50% more than a solar PV system. Like PV systems, these can be connected to a battery bank and grid-tied so that if there is no wind, there is still access to power.
Wind turbines can survive around 20 years, so they are equal to the solar PV systems in this department.
However, wind turbines have moving parts, gearboxes, bearings, and lubricants necessary for the turbine to work, so you would need to service these units at least twice a year which will add to the cost over the 20 years.
You also need to know that wind turbines are prone to wind damage and lightning strikes, and they would need to be repaired by qualified personnel.
These systems have a common denominator in that both are eligible for a 26% federal tax credit and possibly state tax credits.
Solar Vs. Wind: Source Energy & Space Requirements
Each requires their energy source to generate electricity, so if you live in an area with a lot of wind averaging 12mph-14mph, then a wind turbine could be an option. Still, wind turbines are not an option if you don’t have the consistent wind levels needed.
In terms of space requirements, solar panels are usually mounted on the roof, or the ground with the other components mounted and contained within the home.
If you live in a residential area with houses around you, a wind turbine will probably not work as they require some serious breathing space. The average turbine would stand between 60ft and 100ft tall, have a rotor diameter of between 3ft and 23ft and need to be at least 30 ft above any obstacle within a 300ft radius of the tower.
If your home is located in a more urban area or on a farm where there is a lot of available space and open tracts where the wind blows, then the wind turbine would be a better option than solar.
Solar panels can absorb sunlight even on cloudy and rainy days and, for the most part, can operate in snow conditions as well, but power generation is zero at night.
While wind turbines can only operate when the wind is blowing above the cut-in point, so if there is not enough wind to get the blades moving, you will be in the dark, but they can still generate power at night if the wind is blowing.
Solar Vs. Wind: Energy Efficiency & Environmental Impact
Wind turbines are considerably more efficient than solar panels in utilizing the available energy from the environment.
The best solar panels available today can only harness around 22% of the available energy, while a wind turbine can use 50% of the wind that blows across the blades.
According to the US Department Of Energy, at 14mph, an average wind 4.5kW wind turbine can produce around 900kWh of electricity in a month, enough to cover an average home’s power requirements.
Solar Vs. Wind: Which Is More Environmentally Friendly
Contrary to popular belief, solar panels are not 100% environmentally friendly as their production requires toxic chemicals. Still, they can be recycled and sometimes re-used, and the carbon emission per kWh is 6 grams for solar.
Wind turbines are the most environmentally friendly, with just four grams of CO2 per kWh of power produced. However, the spinning blades are a danger to birds and wildlife, plus wind turbines can be noisy, which is why they have usually installed a good distance from the home.
Solar Vs. Wind: Which Delivers More Power In The USA
Wind power delivers substantially more power to the national grid than solar in commercial and utility installations, but this is because massive wind farms operate across the country with huge available space.
In 2019, only 9% of the energy generated in the US came from solar, while 24% was created from wind turbines.
In residential applications, solar is far more popular and acceptable, and more cost-effective for homeowners, with wind turbines being more favorable in the more rural areas where the properties are much larger and less densely populated and the fact that many are made in the USA and not imported adds an extra sense of patriotism!
Solar is cheaper overall from both upfront and maintenance costs and can cut your electricity usage and costs by around 80% and operate most of the year except in poor weather conditions.
While wind power can deliver all the energy a home needs, provided the wind is blowing. It will cost a lot more overall and needs sufficient space to operate safely, and would be better suited to less urban conditions.
With both of these technologies becoming more affordable by the year, you are spoiled for choice, and you can weigh up the options based on your location and the best available energy source.
Choosing which solution is best for you will require you to be clear about your energy requirements and budget, but if you don’t see any wind turbines in your neighborhood, that’s probably a clear sign that the solar PV option would be preferable.