Solar vs. Wind Turbine
So you're considering adding a renewable energy system to your home. That's great! With the financial incentives, rebates and tax credits available this year, there has never been a better time to invest in your own pollution-free electricity! But which type of system, a home wind turbine or home solar panels, is the better choice for you?
Comparing Home Solar to Home Wind Power
- Generating Your Own Power: If you want to make a long-term investment in producing your own energy to reduce your carbon footprint and protect yourself from rising energy prices, then either type of system can help get you there.
- Lowering Your Bills Today: If your primary motivation is to lower your utility bills while spending the least amount of money up-front, you should consider an energy retrofit first to make sure you're not wasting a lot of energy in your house right now. To use a simple analogy, before you pour water into a bucket, you should first make sure that the bucket isn't leaking.
- Making an Investment: If you are looking for an investment opportunity (selling the energy you produce back to your utility for a profit for example) then the numbers probably won't work out in your favor, regardless of the type of system you choose — at least not yet! However, the rebates and tax credits available right now for renewable energy systems may make it a better deal now than over the next few years.
To get started, find out how much solar and/or wind resource you can capture on your home or property because renewable energy is very site specific. For example, solar panels and shade from tall trees and nearby buildings don't mix well. As a result, the amount of solar energy you can harness may be quite different from your neighbor. But where shading may rule out solar electric panels, solar hot water systems can work quite well even with some shading. In many cases, solar hot water systems are even more efficient in capturing the sun's energy than solar panels are!
As far as home wind turbines go, most wind turbines have so far have been in rural areas, but newer models exist for urban/suburban settings which offer quiet, low-maintenance electricity generation. An average annual wind speed of 10 mph or more is the only fuel they need.
The U.S. Department of Energy has great information and maps to help you get started evaluating the energy resources in your general region to compare wind energy potential and solar energy potential.
Evaluating Your Home for Solar and Wind Potential
To know for sure if your site has enough sun or wind for a system of either type to make sense, a contractor in your area needs to do a site evaluation. You can either contact a solar panel installer and a home wind turbine dealer to ask each of them for an evaluation, or we can help you find an independent energy consulant who can evaluate your site for the feasibility of each option, and potentially find ways for you to reduce your utility bills through energy efficiency upgrades at the same time.
Finally, figuring out the dollars and cents for either type of system will depend on the different rebates, production incentives and tax credits available to you through your utility, city and state legislation. While these vary tremendously around the country, EnergySavvy's guide to rebates and tax credits can help you identify the unique set of incentives available to you, wherever you live.
Last Updated: March 2010
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