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Solar panel vs wind turbine: costs, efficiency and carbon fooprint

Solar panel vs wind turbine: which one is better for you? In this Hourglass article, you can find a comparison in terms of price, effienciency and how green are these power sources.

Of course, we need to remember you that the best energy source for you depends in your region climate conditions and how developed is the green energy market when you’re reading it. For this article, we’re comparing the sources of energy thinking in U.S. customers.

Solar panel vs wind turbine: what do they have in common?

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If you are worried about climate change – and you should – we have great news! Both solar and wind energy are what we consider green energy sources. Which means that they have a minimum impact in the environment.

Both sources of power are clean, renewable and have almost no carbon footprint (as kown as carbon emissions).

Considering that in the United States, 73% of the CO2 emissions come from energy sector, any of these types is extremely helpful on fighting climate change.

However, we can look other angles to define the best qualities of each one.

Solar energy vs Wind energy: costs

When it comes to price, there’s a complicated relationship that confuses most of the American customers. We need to clarify some details to get to an right answer.

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The fact is that the amount of energy that a solar panel for home can produce is pretty different from the generated power of a 656 feet wind turbine.

To clarify the green energy costs we need to compare it equally. Therefore, in this general comparison of wind energy vs solar panels we bring the investment for each megawatt-hour (MWh).

According to the US Department of Energy, we can consider that the wind energy costs were $38 per megawatt-hour (MWh). The average cost of solar energy for utility-scale systems, though, was $68 per MWH.

But we can’t stop the maths here. After all, we’re working with a monumental unit of power. To get a better idea: 1 megawatt means 1,000,000 watts.

Clearly, the energy consumption for American houses depends on the family size and power usage. However, if we consider the info from U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), this average is 1.19 kilowatts (kW) per month.

In order words, the real consumption is not a measure of watts nor of megawatts.

Ok. So, here we go: the cost of wind energy is around 6.8 cents per kWh. The average costs is 12.8 cents per kWh for residential-scale projects of solar energy.

You can use the information in your power bill to compare the energy cost, but in average, residential customers use 877 kWh monthly.

So, the factual numbers would be something about $59 per month with wind energy and $112 dolars with solar panels.

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However, we need to remember that we don’t have actual costs for solar panel generated power. This energy comes from the Sun to your home. No third-party included.

The costs that you have are about installation and maintenance.

To install a 5-kilowatt (kW) system in your home, the cost is about $14,000. On wind turbines, you’ll pay $3000 per kilowatt of energy capacitiy. So, to have the same system, you would spend at least $15,000.

So, basically, wind energy costs less per watt produced, but the instalation and maintenance of solar energy are cheaper.

Solar and wind energy comparison: efficiency

The battle wind turbine vs solar panel for efficiency will have several changes in the next years.

While technology developments are made, the costs and efficiency of clean energy are dropping fast.

In the current scnario, there’s no much for discuss.

The top efficient solar panels on the market have a 23-24% efficiency. Tipicallly, the range is much lower than that: the standard solar panel has a 15-20% effiency.

The story is pretty different for wind turbines. Wind energy in the US has a 35-45% efficiency.

Remember: both efficiencys can vary depending on the region, design, components and operating conditions. These numbers are only the American average so that you have parameters to compare.

Carbon emissions by power source: solar and wind energy

Both of these power sources are clean to the environment. Their carbon emissions are super low compared to coal, the most common power source in the U.S., that emits 820g of CO2/kWh.

Comparing solar and wind energy, we can check that wind energy is the most clean source of energy. While solar panels produce around 50g of CO2/kWh, wind turbines CO2 emissions are 6g of CO2/kWh.

Hourglass disclaimer

Please remember that even if we have a better one, solar energy is 16 times more clean that coal, so replacing the traditional energy source per solar energy is indeed a huge step towareds a decarbonized economy and planet. Let’s fight for climate justice!

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