solar vs. small wind electric Systems: Which system to choose?

Choosing between a solar photovoltaic and a wind powered system is more than just a question of solar and wind resources in your area.

It depends on the average wind speeds and the number of hours of sunlight, but also on... Wind  vs. Solar System

- the intended uses (electricity for domestic uses, farm electricity, recreational vehicles and sailboats, etc.),

- where you live (wind power systems are mostly intended for rural areas).

- relative prices.


Wind generators vs. Solar photovoltaics
In very sunny areas, with small wind activity, photovoltaic systems are obviously more advantageous.
But in very windy areas, a wind generator has the potential to produce power during all the 24 hours of the day, which is a big advantage. On the other hand, wind generators are mostly intended for rural settings, and that’s a big limitation.

Solar and wind systems for home electricity production

Solar systems have some obvious advantages over small wind turbine systems: they are safer (they do not pose any significant risk…), quieter and on average with a larger lifespan and warranty period.

Besides, contrary to small wind, photovoltaic systems can be used in urban and sub-urban settings…

As to prices and the effectiveness of each system, things are a lot more muddled. Prices are changing quickly and depend on promotions and local conditions and state incentives.

Photovoltaic Costs and Paybacks
Size and Output of Photovoltaics
Before Installing a Solar Photovoltaic
Small Wind Power Systems & Energy Efficiency Guide

Solar vs. wind systems for recreational vehicles

Solar photovoltaic systems for recreational vehicles have several advantages over wind generators in terms of prices, maintenance, warranties and safety…

There are now solar kits with prices around $1,000 or below, but the most reliable wind generators will cost you a bit more (often around $2,000). When the wind speed decreases by half, the output of a wind system decreases to a small fraction of the previous value, in some cases to a eighth (the reverse is also true, obviously…).

Besides, solar systems are risk-free and almost maintenance-free, while wind power systems require routine maintenance. Most solar systems also have a larger lifespan (often several times the lifespan of wind systems), though it varies with the type of application and vehicle.

But wind generators may have a huge advantage: a better output in windy periods; a wind generator has the potential to produce power during all the 24 hours of the day, and take advantage of the currents of air produced by the motion of the vehicle, while solar panels will produce all or most of its power during the day, in favorable solar conditions. 

Bottom line

Take into account the solar and wind resources in your area, and the various pros and cons mentioned earlier… Or consider a hybrid solar-wind system, in areas where solar and wind resources complement each other.




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