Solar vs Wind Power Benefits
As peak oil looms closer, people are turning to the solar and wind power benefits to find ways to produce energy cleaner and more efficiently. If the residence is in Yuma, Arizona with 4,300 sunny hours a year the choice is a simple one. The same is true for living in a rural area near Mt. Washington, New Hampshire with an average annual wind speed of 35 miles per hour. As for those somewhere in the middle, there are a few considerations to be weighed.
Solar Power Benefits
One of the largest benefits of solar power is the ability for the power to be localized. Photovoltaic cells can be mounted directly to a household or business, unlike wind turbines, who need significant space to operate and are inherently unable to work within urban areas. Small scale wind turbines are even outlawed in some counties and cities or banned from neighborhood organizations. In this way, solar panels are much more discreet and generally more accepted.
Solar panels can create electricity even if they are not exposed to full sun. In this way, they are much less dependent on their energy source. Whereas wind power can only be created when the wind is actively blowing at enough force (11 to 13 mph minimum). Places with low to medium wind speeds will result in highly inefficient and expensive energy. Heat energy is another efficiency factor in which solar has the upper hand. Due to the sun's energy being heat energy, there is no need to electrically heat air or water when using solar power. If the electricity being generated is for heat, solar is the way to go.
Solar panel technology has improved to include plastic covers which are virtually indestructible and contain no moving parts. In this way, the maintenance on photovoltaics is as simple as soap and water cleaning.
Wind Power Benefits
Wind power, at least on the smaller scale, is significantly more cost effective. Solar photovoltaic cells cost upwards of 20 percent to 50 percent more than wind power systems with the same electricity output. After the initial costs of manufacturing, wind power is valued at about 5 cents per kilowatt hour; comparable in price to coal or oil burning energy. The infrastructure to transport the power is the major draw back of large-scale wind farms. For rural areas, personal wind power is an incredibly economical power source.
Small-scale wind turbines are simple machines which involve either a magnet turning close to a wiring system, or the wiring system turning next a magnet. It is through the vibration of electrons created through turning that the electrical current is created. Unlike photovoltaic cells which are highly mechanized, a wind turbine can be repaired or worked on by the average homeowner.
Even a small-scale wind turbine requires an 80 to 120-foot tower in order to remove all obstructions from the of the turbine. However, a wind turbine can exist anywhere on the property where a tower can be built. In contrast, solar panels require unobstructed south-facing sun which can be an issue for many wishing to retrofit their homes.