Science

Solar vs. wind power: Which is better?

WRITTEN BY
12/17/21
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Fact Box

  • Wind energy dates back to 5,000 BC in Ancient Egypt, where the technology was used to propel boats along the Nile. In more modern times, according to the US Energy Information Administration, 'Homesteaders and ranchers installed thousands of wind pumps as they settled the western United States. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, small wind-electric generators (wind turbines) were also widely used.' 
  • Solar power was first discovered by French physicist Alexandre Edmond Becquerellar in 1839 when he 'demonstrated the photovoltaic effect, or the ability of a solar cell to convert sunlight into electricity.'
  • According to eia.gov, renewable energy sources account for 12% of primary US energy consumption and, of that, 26% is from wind power, and 11% is from solar power.
  • According to scientists' estimates of fossil fuel reserves, there are 'about 115 years of coal production, and roughly 50 years of both oil and natural gas remaining.'

Hanna (Solar)

Solar energy has wind energy beat when it comes to choosing and installing a renewable energy source that is space-efficient, output-efficient, and capable of functioning in larger cities. Not only is solar a more predictable energy source, but it also covers a broader range of potential energy. While most parts of the world receive an adequate amount of sun, wind turbines need to be strategically placed in windy locations to function. Even then, research shows wind patterns can be unpredictable and change at a moment's notice. Solar energy is more reliable, as it can be predicted through weather more easily and still even functions with some cloud cover.

While solar panels typically take up space horizontally rather than vertically, they can be installed in spaces that are not utilized by everyday traffic--like the roofs of buildings. In fact, your roof can even be entirely replaced by solar panels, with the energy source doubling as a functional roof or parking cover. And since solar panels require little maintenance after they are installed, you won't find yourself needing to go up to your roof as often as you'd assume. On the other hand, wind turbines require more maintenance on average and can be expensive to upkeep. They also produce a significant amount of noise that would be difficult to live close to, while solar panels are silent.

Turbines are not only loud and less space-efficient, but they are dangerous. Research shows turbines are estimated to kill up to 537,000 birds annually. 

When it comes to choosing a green energy source, solar is the better option.


Martin (Wind)

Wind and solar power are the future of renewable energy--they cut pollution and provide power to rural regions globally. In fact, one of these green energy producers could break people's dependence on fossil fuels. However, although both are better alternatives to non-renewable energy, wind power is the smarter choice for various reasons.

Research shows that wind trounces solar power, as it produces more energy overall--one wind turbine generates electricity equivalent to 48,704 solar panels. You'll also need more physical space to set up your solar units to produce a fraction of what you can attain with a wind turbine. And even though wind turbines may seem costly at first, one can expect a good return on investment in just a few short years. 

Wind power is also a cleaner energy source. Firstly, wind power's carbon footprint is 75% smaller than solar. But, more notably, materials such as sodium hydroxide and hydrofluoric acid, which are harmful to the planet and also produce greenhouse gasses, are used to build solar panels. And that's not considering the enormous volume of e-waste that end-of-life solar panels generate--an estimated 78 million metric tons by 2050. 

Lastly, wind power is better than solar energy because it is abundant and inexhaustible. According to cleanpower.org, 'modern turbines can generate usable amounts of electricity over 90% of the time,' while solar panels rely on sunshine to create energy. Therefore, at night, solar panels are useless for power generation. 

Because it's more powerful and cleaner than solar energy, wind power is the winner in the fight against dependence on fossil fuels.

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