Solar Vs. Wind Energy (The 5 Key Differences)

It is becoming increasingly more popular for the average homeowner to go ‘off the grid’ and install a renewable energy source in their homes. The two most practical options to choose from when converting to renewable energy are wind energy and solar energy.

Before you decide which of these energy sources is the best option for you, you should make sure that you know what their differences are. So what are the differences between solar vs. wind energy?

Wind energy is generated through wind turbines using large vaned wheels attached to turbines that rotate in the wind generating electricity. They require wind speeds of at least 12 Mph. Generating solar energy requires solar panels to absorb and convert the sun’s rays into heat or electricity.

Knowing the primary mechanisms involved in producing wind and solar energy is just the basics. There are many essential differences between these two renewable energy sources. These differences include the type of natural resources needed to produce energy, the type of environment they need, their manufacturing process, maintenance, and their impacts on the environment around them. 

Solar Vs. Wind Energy

What Are The Differences In Design Between Solar and Wind Energy?

Solar Power

You harness solar power using panels of photovoltaic cells that can either be placed on a rooftop or mounted on the ground. These photovoltaic panels capture the sunlight, converting it to electricity. 

Another type of solar power is called Concentrating Solar Power, and this uses lenses and mirrors that focus the sun’s light energy, converting it to heat. This heat, in turn, creates steam which turns a turbine, producing energy.

Wind Energy

You harness wind energy through the use of windmills designed along two axes. The first is the horizontal axis made with 2 – 3 propeller-like blades attached to a long thin base; the blades extend outwards from the top of the windmill and rotate in the wind. These blades spin a shaft located inside the turbine, which turns a generator, creating electricity.

The second design is along a vertical axis that uses blades parallel to the base. They spin around the turbine’s bottom instead of turning perpendicular to it when they spin. This windmill works the same as the horizontal ones regarding internal mechanisms.

What Do Solar and Wind Energy Require?

Installing Solar Pane

Solar Power

Solar power needs the sun to generate any electricity. Luckily this is an abundant source and readily available in the right circumstances. You can place your solar panels both on the roof of a building and mounted on the ground. 

The cons involved are that the sun is not available at night; thick cloud cover can also reduce the amount of the sun’s rays. Places that have reduced hours of light during winter will also be affected. 

Wind Energy

Wind energy can generate electricity at night, and its location can be both onshore and offshore. Wind turbines also require to be located in an area with no obstacles blocking them from the wind. Due to this, you need wind turbines around 80 feet tall if you plan to erect them in residential areas.

Unfortunately, it relies on the wind and will not operate in areas without adequate winds. Typically you will need wind speeds of 12 miles per hour at least. They also create visual pollution and are hazardous to birds. Reports of birds and bats being injured or killed after flying into turbines are numerous. 

Solar Vs. Wind Energy: What Types Of Costs Are Involved?

Energy Costs

Solar Power

You would need to factor in a substantial initial cost with solar energy. You can expect to pay varying amounts per solar panel depending on where you purchase them. An average house requires approximately 25 – 35 panels to get off the grid and gain energy independence. 

Gaining this independence is also tricky if you consider the sun’s unreliability. In the majority of cases, you would still need to have a backup electricity connection or a battery backup that will come with its costs. Luckily, they require little maintenance other than a clean every few years, and the average lifespan of a panel is 25 years.

Wind Energy

There is a substantial initial cost when installing a wind turbine to harvest wind energy. The prices of installing your turbine will vary depending on permitting, local zoning, and utility interconnection costs. Most turbines have a hefty upfront fee for a system that would fully offset your average electricity usage.

The other costs involved include maintenance as the turbines move objects, requiring regular specialized maintenance. They are also prone to get struck by lighting and suffer wind damage. They have a lifespan of around 20 years.

What Are Environmental Impact Differences Between Solar and Wind Energy?

Generating solar energy produces no greenhouse gasses, but unfortunately, the manufacturing and recycling processes do. Producers use toxic chemicals during the manufacturing of the photovoltaic panels, and this process also uses an abundance of electricity and water. 

The material used in the design, namely glass, silicon, aluminum, and plastic, makes the panels recycling difficult. Overall though, records state that if you can generate enough solar energy to power your home completely, you will be reducing your households’ carbon footprint by 80%.

Reports show that wind energy is one of the cleanest energy sources available. It produces a minimum emissions footprint, including manufacturing, transport, running, and disposal. One worrying environmental issue is that wind turbines can degrade and reduce natural habitats.

Solar Vs. Wind Energy: So Which One Is Better?

Solar vs Wind Energy Winner

Your budget and space will be the main deciding factors in answering this question. These systems are greener than the traditional fossil fuel power, even though they are significantly more expensive. 

Overall solar panels are less expensive, have more options for placement, and are more acceptable in suburban and urban areas. Most consider them more reliable as they can absorb light even on cloudy days, and they do not require wind to produce electricity. They are the safer option for a homeowner as they have a lower initial cost and are easier to maintain.

Overall, wind energy is the more environmentally friendly and efficient option. Although wind turbines are best for more rural situations with fewer obstructions and more space, open flatlands or oceans are prime for this energy harnessing. 

On the utility side, this form of energy harnessing is a good option as it harnesses more energy on the whole than solar. As a utility-scale operation, the installation and maintenance costs are easier to handle than they would be for a homeowner.


Both solar and wind energy have many benefits and a few issues involved with their usage. Solar has a lower initial cost when compared to wind, and its maintenance costs are lower in the long run. Wind energy is more environmentally friendly than solar due to the manufacturing and recycling processes. Overall, solar is better suited to residential usage, and wind is better suited to utility usage.

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