Solar vs. Wind energy: which is better?
Since our planet is running out of fossil fuels, we do not have another option but to switch to renewable energy: wind, water, biomass, and solar power are our future. We have to change our energy consumption habits and maintain a sustainable form of the use of energy.
Global warming is happening, it is time for a change. First-world countries are already making pacts, like the European Green Deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In this article, we will focus on solar and wind energy. Which one is better? What are the costs? Which one to choose for your household?
What is solar power?
Around 12-15% of renewable energy comes from the Sun. With solar panels, we can capture the sun’s radiation that reaches the Earth. Inside the solar panels, cells are transforming the sun’s radiation into electricity.
These cells can store and then, transfer the solar power to households.
What about wind power?
More than 33% of renewable energy is wind power, thus, the wind is the most common renewable energy source. Established wind power plants (wind parks) have one job: the wind turbines’ propellers have to be rotating. With the rotation, the engine in these wind turbines is starting to move, thus generating electricity.
There are two types of wind turbines:
- Horizontal axis turbines
- Vertical axis turbines
The difference between these turbines is that horizontal axis turbines can work only if the wind’s direction is constant, while vertical axis turbines work with any kind of wind (from any direction). Read more about wind energy.
The costs of solar panels and wind turbines
Location is key when establishing a solar or wind power plant. Solar power stations have to be shiny, and the sunshine duration time has to be as high as possible. Windmills have to be created in areas
where the wind is strong. The ideal locations for wind farms are mountain passes because the mountain-blocked wind has to find its way through. Also, on higher altitudes the winds blow faster, making a wind farm more effective.
Solar panels are easier to establish, but still, because it only supplies a smaller amount of households, the costs can be higher. According to calculations it cost about $2.19 per watt to install solar energy, while wind power costs only $1.50 per watt.
Now it takes around 2 to 3 decades to reach the ‘free electricity’ state, but the costs of building a power plant are getting lower as technology advances.
Solar and wind energy vs fossil fuels: pros and cons
First, let’s compare wind & solar energy with fossil fuels, and then with each other.
Pros of renewable energy:
- A good energy source for rural areas
- Low operational costs
- Gives job opportunities
- Very low air pollution rate
- Cannot run out of energy source
Cons of renewable energy:
- High maintenance costs
- Can be inconsistent
- Establishing can be dangerous to natural habitats (for example wind turbine blades harm birds)
- Still have some air pollution
Solar vs wind energy: which one is better? The answer is: it depends.
Pros of solar energy (cons of wind power):
- Silent (while wind turbines can be noisy)
- Can be planted on roofs, only a smaller area is needed
- Little maintenance needed
- No harmful effects
Pros of wind energy (cons of solar power):
- A higher amount of electricity can be produced
- Less polluting than solar panels
- Wind parks produce electricity day and night
- Can be built offshore
Summary: solar vs wind energy
Maybe we will never reach a zero-waste society, but solar and wind energy can help us create a more sustainable environment.
Wind power plants are more efficient than solar panels and can supply a large area of households or industries. On the other hand, solar energy is a better alternative for smaller households.