Solar Energy VS Wind Energy | A Complete Comparison

June 26, 2020
By John Cole

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Over the past few years, an increasing number of homeowners have started using renewable energy sources to power their homes. Why are homeowners switching from fossil-fuel-powered energy to more renewable sources? Simple—solar power systems only need sunlight to power your home (and even allow you to sell extra energy to your utility company!). Wind power can perform the same function by producing energy from wind-powered turbines.

The team at Green Energy Geeks has summarized all the reasons for you to invest in both solar and wind power—helping you narrow down which option is right for you. Read through the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy vs wind energy before making your final decision. 

What Is Solar Energy?

Solar energy is the sun’s radiation that reaches Earth. When sunlight hits the photovoltaic cells inside solar panels, these cells transform the sun’s radiation into electricity that can be used to power your home, vehicles, and create extra energy that can be sold back to your utility company.

What Is Wind Energy?

Wind turbines allow homeowners to make use of the power of the wind and turn it into usable energy. How do they do this? When the sun heats the Earth, hot air rises and cool air settles. This causes a difference in atmospheric pressure, resulting in wind. As the wind blows over the turbine’s blades, the wind is captured and converted into electricity.

What Is the Efficiency of Solar Panels?

Solar panel efficiency is the measurement of a solar panel’s ability to convert sunlight into usable electricity. Most solar panels fall somewhere between around 20% efficiency. With a larger upfront investment on high-quality solar panels, this number can even exceed 22% efficiency in some cases.

What Is the Efficiency of Wind Power?

Did you know that a single wind turbine can generate the same amount of power as more than 48,000 solar panels? When it comes to efficiency, wind power is a clear frontrunner because wind turbines release less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, consume less energy, and produce more energy overall.

Is Solar Energy or Wind Energy More Cost-Effective?

The Cost-Efficiency of Solar Energy

Take a walk around your neighborhood. Notice any homes with solar panels on their rooftops or in their yards? Or maybe you’ll see a wind turbine (although that is more unlikely). Solar energy has become quite popular over the past few years because of its affordability and flexibility – solar panels can be bought or leased at an affordable rate.

Like most things, the specific cost of your solar panels will vary due to the number of panels that need to be installed, whether they’re on the roof or the ground, and local pricing. On average, for a 2,000 square foot home, the monthly cost will range from $100 - $250 dollars.

The Cost-Efficiency of Wind Energy

Similar to solar panels, the cost of installing a wind turbine varies greatly depending on a few different factors. When installing a wind turbine, you will need to consider the turbine’s height, zoning laws and restrictions, permitting costs, and more. A wind turbine large enough to power an entire home typically costs about $20,000, but while your system might be a larger upfront cost, wind energy can be very cost-effective over the long term.

What Are the Maintenance Requirements of Solar Panels?

One of the many benefits of installing solar panels over another option is that they’re relatively low maintenance. Apart from an annual cleaning to remove any excess debris and buildup, there isn’t much else that needs to be done to ensure you’re getting the most bang for your buck. 

What Are the Maintenance Requirements of Wind Turbines?

Unlike solar panels, wind turbines are constantly in motion. Like many appliances, vehicles, and other machinery that is being used regularly, maintenance is a necessity. The moving parts in the wind turbine will need to be monitored and replaced every so often, ensuring your system is operating at peak efficiency to deliver the energy you need. Larger issues could be pretty costly.

What Are the Advantages of Solar Energy?

Energy is an essential part of our lives, and demand for it is constantly growing. Because of this, solar panels have become extremely popular over the last decade—and solar power is likely to remain the leading source of renewable energy for the foreseeable future. Before you commit to the investment, we recommend you consider all the advantages and disadvantages of installing a solar panel system.

Advantages of Solar Energy

  • Ease of Installation – One of the biggest draws to solar energy is the ability for solar panels to be relatively discrete when installed. Solar panels can be installed on the roofs of residential homes, office buildings, educational facilities, and large fields.
  • Affordable – As mentioned, solar panels are a much more cost-effective option for many homeowners and individuals interested in harnessing solar energy. Solar panels can be bought or leased at an affordable rate.
  • Low Maintenance – Because your solar panels rest comfortably on your room or in your yard with minimal disturbances, there is little maintenance that needs to be done to keep them performing at their best. It is recommended that you lightly hose down your solar panels annually to clear off any grime and debris, allowing them to absorb more of the sunlight.
  • Reduced Electric Bills – A huge draw to solar panels is that they can provide substantial savings on your monthly electric bill. Additionally, many states allow homeowners to sell excess energy back to the utility company to use towards future electricity costs.
  • Expansion Options – When installing solar panels, you’ll purchase or rent a specific number of panels that have been calculated to create the optimal energy output needed to power your home. Should you decide to reduce the number of solar panels or add additional panels in the future, it’s extremely easy to do so. Your solar panel system has the ability to grow as your energy needs increase or decrease over time.
  • Rental Options – Unlike wind turbines, solar panels are available to rent if that is more enticing than purchasing them. With a solar panel lease, you can start saving money from day one, and any required maintenance or repairs would be covered by the leasing company.
  • Solar Financing – There are many solar financing options available to homeowners, varying by state. Many homeowners can qualify for a zero-down loan, allowing them to still save money on electric bills while still benefiting from owning a solar system.
  • Sun Is Everywhere – Unlike wind which is more prevalent in certain parts of the globe, the sun shines all over the world. While some parts of the county (and the world!) receive more sun than others, there is typically enough sun anywhere for solar panels to do their job.

Disadvantages of Solar Energy

  • Weather Dependent – Solar panels require sunlight to produce energy. While they will still produce energy on gray, overcast, and rainy days, it will take much longer for them to produce the same amount of energy that they would on a sunny day. With this in mind, your geographic location should play a factor in your choice.
  • Takes Up Space – Although smaller than wind turbines, solar panels can take up a lot of space depending on how many you need to be installed. Your energy needs might require you to install more than your roof can fit, meaning you’ll need to find additional space (like in your yard) for the remaining panels.
  • Unattractive – While many would argue that solar panels are more conspicuous than wind turbines, they are still usually displayed in plain sight. Although looks shouldn’t be the largest concern, and focus should remain heavily on efficiency, it’s a factor to keep in mind.

What Are the Advantages & Disadvantages of Wind Energy?

If you’re in the market for wind turbines, there are definite pros and cons you will want to consider before taking the plunge. While one source of renewable energy might be better in a city, another might be the optimal choice for a rural area. Consider the following advantages and disadvantages of using wind turbines to create energy when making your decision.

Advantages of Wind Energy

  • 24-Hour Energy Production – One of the leading advantages of wind energy is that unlike solar panels, the wind turbines can produce energy 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year while solar panels won’t produce energy at nighttime.
  • Clean & Renewable – Wind turbines don’t require burning any fossil fuels to operate, making them a highly efficient energy source. Similar to the sun, wind energy is renewable since we will never be at a shortage of wind.

Disadvantages of Wind Energy

  • Noise Pollution – Wind turbines aren’t favorable in a suburban area because of the amount of noise that is created. Even the quietest of turbines generate noise, so even though their size might make them seem like an option, they aren’t well suited for residential areas.
  • Require More Space – Even though wind energy is a more efficient option, wind turbines aren’t the cut and dry winner. They’re much larger, causing them to take up a lot of space — making wind turbines an unfavorable option for highly populated areas. Resulting in most wind turbines being added in rural reasons, minimizing the benefits for the cities requiring the majority of the power.
  • Visual Pollution – Wind turbines are very large—both in height and width. They take up a large amount of room, and unless in a rural area, would be extremely crowded in a typical residential neighborhood.
  • Intermittent Energy - It can be difficult to predict the energy that will be created since it all depends on the wind speeds. If wind speeds are too low, or the turbine is in an inopportune location that is blocked from the wind, the turbine’s rotor won’t spin, reducing the amount of energy being produced.
  • Zoning Restrictions – If you’re interested in installing wind turbines, it is going to be a more time-consuming process than installing solar panels. According to most zoning restrictions, wind turbines must be 30 feet above the treeline and placed far from any property line—meaning they might not be the right choice for a residential property.

What’s Best, Solar Energy or Wind Energy? The Verdict:

Both solar energy and wind energy offer clean alternatives to fossil fuels. Ultimately, you need to choose the option that is best for you—your geographic location, your budget, and your energy goals. Our top choice is solar energy due to its affordability, low maintenance requirements, and ease of installation.

The sun isn’t going anywhere anytime soon—providing limitless energy that can be harnessed to produce clean, renewable energy. For smaller scale energy needs, like powering a residential home, solar panels will produce enough energy for the entire property and will often provide additional power that can be sold back to the utility company to offset future costs. In comparison to wind energy, solar energy is a much more convenient source of power for both residential and commercial applications. If you’re looking to save money and reduce your carbon footprint simultaneously, installing solar panels is an easy and effective choice.

Whether you decide to install solar energy or wind energy, you’re on the right track to making the community and planet a better place to live. Any steps a homeowner can take to reduce their dependence on fossil-fuel-generated energy are steps in the right direction and the team at Green Energy Geeks is happy to be a part of your journey.

Have Questions About Solar Energy? Green Energy Geeks Can Help!

If you’re in the market for solar panels or have questions about solar energy, Green Energy Geeks is your one-stop-shop for everything you need to know about using solar energy to make the community and planet a better place to live.

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