Installing a renewable energy system on your property is one of the best ways to save money on your electricity bills while reducing your impact on the environment. Often, your decision will be between solar energy and wind energy. If you’re a homeowner weighing your renewable energy options, you already know that thorough research is the best way to find the right system for your home. Here’s everything you need to know about the benefits of residential wind vs. solar so that you can make your decision with confidence.
Wind vs. Solar: Comparing the Top Renewables for Residential
In the United States, wind power is significantly more popular than solar. Out of all the renewable energy produced in the U.S. in 2015, 19% came from wind, while just 6% came from solar power. Utilities and large scale operations prefer heavily utilize wind energy while homeowners prefer solar energy.
The primary benefit of wind over solar power for your home is that wind turbines aren’t dependent on sunlight. This means that they have the ability to generate power 24 hours a day, whereas solar panels only generate power during sunlight hours. Wind come with a significant caveat, however: in order to be effective, wind turbines need to be situated high above any obstacles that would block the wind.
A typical wind turbine for residential use is about 80 feet tall, and it needs to be in the path of some serious wind to produce power efficiently. Most installers recommend sites with average wind speeds of at least 12 miles per hour. If you live in a rural, windy area with lots of open space and few obstructions blocking the wind’s path, then installing wind turbines at your property can be a great option for renewable energy production. If you’re looking for a supplementary power source, rather than a primary one, you can also find smaller wind turbines at a relatively low cost that will provide an extra ‘boost’ of electricity.
In contrast, solar panels can be installed on almost any roof, as well as on the ground, and still produce enough power to meet the majority of your electricity needs. In the EnergySage Solar Marketplace, the average solar shopper met 84 percent of their annual electricity needs with solar in 2015.
Wind turbines also have moving parts, which can result in more wear-and-tear and higher maintenance requirements. Unless you choose ground-mounted solar panels with a tracking system (a technology generally reserved for utility solar installations), your solar PV system will be stationary and require limited maintenance.
All things considered, solar isn’t as popular as wind on the utility scale, but is generally a more practical renewable option for residential energy production. An experiment by Inland Power & Light, a utility in the Pacific Northwest, underscores the comparative benefits of residential solar. After fielding many inquiries about the benefits of solar vs. wind energy for homes, the utility actually installed both technologies at their corporate headquarters in Spokane, Washington to provide a definitive answer to their customers. Their result: Over the course of 14 months, the solar panels produced about five times as much electricity as the wind turbine.
What About Renewable Options Other than Solar and Wind?
There’s no reason that a solar panel system has to be the renewable energy that you use in your home. Solar thermal technology, which can provide both heat and hot water for your home, is often installed alongside solar PV. If you’re looking for a renewable heating and cooling system to pair with your solar panels, you can also install a geothermal heat pump to use the naturally existing heat underground to regulate the temperature of your home.
Compare All Your Options Before Making a Decision
Whatever renewable energy option you’re considering, it’s always a good idea to compare multiple offers before making a final decision. Solar can save you thousands on your electricity bills. Want to see for yourself? Check out EnergySage’s Solar Calculator to get an instant estimate of how much solar could save you. Once ready, compare quotes from solar installers on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace to find the best deal. Solar shoppers in the Marketplace generally save up to 25 percent off the costs of installing a solar panel system simply by shopping around first. There’s no better way to go solar.
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This post originally appeared on Mother Earth News.