Solar Panels vs. Wind Turbines (part 1)

What often troubles a new home builder bent on a sustainable building is determining whether he should go for a PV Solar Panel (with Solar Thermal Panel) Installation or a Wind Turbine system.

Now with the petroleum product price coming down the selection has become more mindboggling. Whether you like it or not the economics will play a big part in your decision. In addition the availability of government subsidies and incentives, the suitability of the geographic location of your building site and many other factors will influence your decision. The worst part is that when it comes to the technicalities involved the average public is unfortunately not conversant of it at all. Both the applications are simple by the looks of it, but making the final selection will also depend on resolving a few technical aspects.

Technical Factors can affect!

• The location should provide maximum wind flow for most part of the year:
In the case of the solar panel the availability of sun light for a reasonable part of the year is important. Preferably the building design should incorporate solar panels integrally as mostly done nowadays. (This eliminates the need for external envelope as well).
For wind turbines you do have to provide valuable real estate extra as the tower needs to be installed at least 30m away from the nearest structures unless of course they offer a funnel effect while the turbine itself is installed within the building structure eliminating the need of a tower.

• Availability of Grid Power near by:
In the event of non availability of solar or wind power during certain days, grid power may come in handy. On the other hand if heavy power cables have to be drawn over a long distance for the grid connection this may not be economically viable in some instances. The reverse process of supplying the grid with the over produced turbine or solar power too is possible under the circumstances.

• Means of Storage of generated electrical power
The generated power in both wind turbines and solar panels can only be stored in lead acid storage battery banks if it is a small scale facility, though much is yet to be desired of the reliability and durability. The much anticipated development of Flywheel battery storage (with no losses and indefinite life span) may take another couple of years at least to go in for commercial production. (The larger generation stations may utilize underground thermal storage designs which technology is available right now).

• Means of conversion of Direct current (DC of solar panels and battery banks):
Inverters have to be used and are relatively costly. This is a factor applicable for only Solar Power (unless storage battery banks are used in awind turbine installation).

While appreciating these differences one might be interested in the financial side of the issue even casually. Please look for Part two of this article (that will follow) for some interesting facts and figures in this regard.

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