When it comes to renewable energy, there are two heavy hitters: solar power and wind energy. We’re ultimately relying on green energy to break our dependence on fossil fuels, and to create a better environment for us to live in. Renewable energy creates jobs, reduces pollution and it can provide power to the densest populations and the most rural regions in the world.
But when it comes to wind energy and solar power, is one better than the other? The answer, of course, isn’t just as simple as stating which technology is superior – both have their advantages and drawbacks, and the idea that one is better than the other very much depends on the application and the location of the system.
For large scale applications, for example for commercial scale power production for the national grid, the most obvious solution would appear to be wind turbines. Large scale wind turbines are efficient and effective, and they can be installed in a range of locations comparatively quickly.
Is wind energy more efficient than solar power?
If we look at efficiency as a measure for comparison, then in this case we could argue that wind power is a more efficient power source than solar. When compared to solar panels, wind turbines release less CO2 into the atmosphere, consume less energy and produce more energy overall – one wind turbine can generate the same amount of electricity per kWh as almost 49,000 solar panels.
However, this doesn’t necessarily make wind energy the overall winner; we also have to factor in that wind turbines aren’t the most attractive addition to a landscape, they take up a lot of room, they’re noisy, and they can also hurt wildlife. Furthermore, they don’t tend to be suitable for densely populated areas, meaning they’re often located far from the cities that are most in need of their power.
Does solar power represent the next era?
Although they are not cheap to implement, wind power systems are historically less costly than solar power systems. But this trend is on the brink of changing, as solar power systems are now thought to be more economically efficient than wind systems. In fact, it’s likely that solar power will likely fall to half the cost of traditional fuel sources.
Wind is still largely seen as a more powerful and consistent source of energy; however, many see solar power leading the charge in the next wave of clean energy installations for suburban and urban regions. As we’ve already touched upon, wind turbines are decidedly more controversial in the sense that they take up significant space and can be seen for miles, whereas solar panels are more unassuming and therefore less disruptive to both urban and rural landscapes.
Unlike wind turbines, solar power can be sourced from anywhere, including urban areas – we couldn’t place a wind turbine in the middle of London city, but we could build solar-panelled offices there. And finally, thanks to the scalable size of solar power solutions, smaller organisations that wouldn’t be able to purchase a wind farm can implement a solar solution and still join in on the sustainability movement.
Ultimately, it’s hard to declare one real winner when it comes to wind and solar power. Both have and will continue to contribute greatly to reducing the use of fossil fuels and developing clean energy, and while historically wind power may have had the upper hand, solar power looks to be paving the way for the future.
Both have their advantages and downfalls, and the best option will depend on the location, size, and requirements of the organisations looking to implement clean energy sources. For some, installing solar panels will be more cost-effective and efficient, whereas others may see greater benefits from wind power.