We receive questions about solar and wind energy on a regular basis. The truth is, is that to truly take advantage of the capabilities of solar and wind you need to ensure that your home is as energy efficient as possible before adding any renewable energy sources to your home. By making other energy-efficient improvements first, you greatly reduce the number of solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries you need to power your home. Check out our blog “Ways to Reduce Energy Demand in Your Home” to learn more about making your home more energy-efficient.
Solar vs. Wind
Solar is more popular than wind as an alternative energy source used to power our homes. Solar provides a more consistent production of power as an independent generator of energy. Sunlight shines more than the wind blows. But where the wind blows more than the sun shines, wind can be an acceptable alternative. Combining solar and wind, if it makes sense, is always the preferred method of harnessing the most out of renewable energy. But to truly maximize the freedom of using renewable energy, you need to add a way to store the energy produced.
On-Grid, Off-Grid, Combined Systems, and Hybrid Systems
When it comes to adding solar or wind to your home you can have an on-grid system, an off-grid system, or a hybrid system.
With an on-grid system, energy is produced and used during daylight hours, off-setting energy used from the national grid with energy produced by the panels on your home, at night your home would use energy from the national grid.
An off-grid system has battery storage which powers your home and is not connected to the national grid. Energy is produced by solar panels or wind turbines and stored in batteries, whatever energy is needed by your home comes from your batteries.
To help generate as much power as you can, on an almost 24-hour basis, a combined solar and wind system can help make an off-grid system even more efficient.
A hybrid system is connected to the national grid and has battery storage, providing multiple options to power your home and reduce your energy cost at the same time.
Did you know that the sun delivers enough energy to the Earth to meet all our energy demands every hour? About 11 square feet, or 1 square meter, of direct sunlight, can provide about 1,000 watts of energy. This amount of energy captured by a solar panel can produce about 170 watts of usable electricity, which is enough to power over a dozen energy-efficient light bulbs or a big screen tv. This is also enough energy for a solar cooker to boil a pot of water, or for a hot air collector to heat a small room or garage.
Solar System Components
A solar panel alone is good enough to run small fans or charge a cellphone. But for larger items or items that are powered by AC, you need a few more components. A basic solar system is made up of three main components, solar panels, a charge controller, and an inverter.
Solar panels collect sunlight,
the charge controller regulates the power going into the batteries, protecting them from overcharging,
and the inverter converts the DC power coming from the batteries into AC power, which is used by most appliances and electronics.
An on-grid system that does not have battery storage only needs solar panels and an inverter in order to power your home. But if the national grid goes down you will not have any power when the sun is not shining or have a limited amount depending on the size of your system.
The components that make up a wind system are similar to those used in a solar system, the difference is that instead of solar panels that collect sunlight to create power, a turbine is used to harness wind energy to create power. Proper site planning and turbine sizing are the most important steps in choosing whether or not wind is right for your home and needs.
Solar has different space requirements than wind, making installation decisions easier. A wind turbine needs to take advantage of the best wind streams in your area, this means you need to not only consider horizontal spacing, but also vertical spacing.
A wind turbine needs to be upwind and at least 30 feet above any trees or structures within 300 feet of the turbine. You also need to be able to raise and lower the tower for maintenance and if it has guy wires to help hold it up, space for the wires must be taken into consideration.
Another consideration is wire run from the turbine to load, or where the power is needed, such as your home, battery storage, water pump, etc. The longer the wire is the more power that is lost along the way. Longer and larger wires also increase the cost of the system.
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