Renewable energy resources are an easy, cost-effective way to reduce both electricity costs and carbon emissions. However, a common criticism leveled at renewable energy resources like wind and solar is: what happens when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining? There are many options to solve for this criticism, from net metering policies to pairing solar with energy storage. One additional new method for combating this critique is through hybrid energy systems: by installing wind and solar hybrid systems, renewable energy developers are finding innovative ways to produce more energy with even greater consistency.
Hybrid energy systems
A hybrid energy system is any type of energy system that combines two or more sources of electricity production. Different types of electricity generation have different characteristics, which means resources can be paired to improve the weaknesses of any one kind of electricity generation. For instance, many fossil fuel-fired power plants require electricity in order to start their generator if the power goes out (i.e., black start capability). This means that solar panels, or a back-up, off-grid generator, are actually very useful pairings for fossil fuel power plants.
In the case of new proposals from renewable energy developers, hybrid energy systems can take the form of a wind turbine plus solar panel hybrid energy system. Solar and wind energy make a natural pairing and can ensure that a hybrid renewable energy system is producing more electricity during more hours of the year.
Why do solar and wind work well together?
Neither solar nor wind energy produce electricity during 100% of hours over the course of the year. As the common criticism of these resources says: what happens when the sun stops shining and the wind stops blowing? However, output from both solar and wind energy systems is highly predictable and follows recognizable patterns, making it easy to plan for times when output decrease from solar panels or wind turbines.
Interestingly, the times when solar and wind energy are at their best are the exact opposite of each other. Solar is best during daylight hours in the summer. Meanwhile, wind turbines tend to produce the most electricity during nighttime hours in the winter, especially in the case of offshore wind. This makes a wind turbine plus solar panel hybrid system a natural combination.
A hybrid energy system with solar and wind energy can produce a consistent source of electricity throughout the year, with the strengths of each resource balancing the other’s weaknesses. As production from one resource dwindles daily or seasonally, the other begins to pick up the slack with more generation.
Use cases for hybrid energy systems
Hybrid energy systems can be expensive, as you’re relying on two separate types of electricity resources to solve a single need. However, there are certain instances when a hybrid energy system makes a lot of sense. Before investing in one, it’s worth considering the specific use cases where these types of systems make the most sense financially and otherwise.
For instance, off-grid or electrical systems in remote areas need redundancy and cannot rely upon the grid for a consistent supply of electricity. In these scenarios, a stand-alone, hybrid wind plus solar energy system can be a great option, especially when paired with energy storage.
At a higher, grid-scale level, pairing solar and wind energy systems allows renewable developers to participate to a greater degree in deregulated electricity markets. By providing more electricity during more hours, as well as by ensuring production during both summer and winter hours of peak electricity usage, hybrid energy systems are a way to open access to greater levels of renewable energy on the grid.
Improve your house’s reliability with solar
Adding a back-up power system has long been a viable financial decision for many property owners throughout the country. However, solar panels provide much more than just back-up power. Check out EnergySage’s free-to-use, online Solar Calculator to estimate how much of your electricity can be offset by going solar. If you’re ready to take the next step, register for the EnergySage Solar Marketplace to receive complimentary, custom solar quotes from local solar companies competing for your business.