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More and more homes are turning to renewable energy to cut down on power costs and reduce their carbon footprint. The mot popular clean energy options are solar, wind and hydro, but which is the best for you? Many factors come into play and you have to assess your own needs, but here is information that can help.
Solar energy is the best option for homes because it generates consistent power and can be installed in any residential property. Hydro is more affordable but is only suited for properties with access to flowing water, and wind power is ideal for utility use due to its requirements..
Solar vs. Wind vs. Hydro Comparison
The following is a general overview of the pros and cons for each. Your specific circumstances could make one or the other more favorable, and there are several factors that affect results, consistency and performance.
|Solar Power||Wind Power||Hydro Power|
* Solar power systems can be installed virtually anywhere
* Runs quietly
* Power output is reliable
* Small wind turbines now available for homes
* Great for locations with consistent wind force
* Can be a reliable energy source in some locations
* Cheapest form of renewable energy currently available
* Delivers power night and day
* Consistent output
* Installation cost is high
* Location must be free from obstruction
* No power production at night (storing solar energy in a battery can resolve this however)
* Wind turbine tower requires elevation and space
* Power output can be inconsistent in certain areas
* Wind speed must be at least 12 miles/hour to operate
* Not suited for most residential properties due to stringent requirements
* Moving components will eventually wear down
* Extensive water resource restructuring requires special permits
How Wind Power Works: as the wind blows, it spins the wind turbine blades. The wind’s kinetic energy is absorbed by the blades. This activates a shaft that turns on a generator which increases the spin 100 times, generating electricity.
How Hydro Power Works: flowing water produces kinetic energy which is accumulated by hydropower plants. A turbine converts this into mechanical energy and passes it to a gearbox, which produces electricity.
How Solar Power Works: solar panels have photovoltaic cells that convert sunlight into direct current (DC). An inverter transforms DC current into alternating current (AC) so it can be used by household appliances. There is more information available hereL
Why Solar Power is Better Than Wind Power For Homes
Wind is more popular in the US than solar, especially utility companies with large projects. But solar makes more sense for residential properties. A comprehensive study showed that solar panels generated five times more power than wind. The comparison was done over a 14 month period and dispels some widely held solar power myths.
It is true that wind can produce electricity 24/7, but it’s not that simple. A wind turbine needs to be at least 30 feet higher than anything else within 500 feet of it. You also need a tower to install the turbine, and that height is impractical for most homes. The wind speed has to be 12 miles an hour at the minimum. And strong gusts isn’t as prevalent as you might think. Wind speed slows down dramatically during hot and cold periods for instance, so production can be inconsistent.
Solar panels however, can and do produce electricity even during cold days. You can store excess energy generated in batteries when solar production is limited. You can install solar panels on any any type of house roof, an RV or even as awning.
Flexible solar panels can be set up on irregular surfaces too. PV systems don’t have moving parts so less maintenance needed. Wind turbines have moving components that eventually wear down and require regular maintenance.
Wind power is a good option if you live in the countryside, with strong winds and no large obstructions in the vicinity. Otherwise you’re better off with solar panels. Cost wise they are about the same as home wind turbine prices have dropped. But wind power just can’t produce electricity as consistent as solar, at least for homes. For utility and large scale projects, wind works great though.
Why Solar Power is Better Than Hydro Power For Homes
Hydro power is the second most popular form of renewable energy in the United States, just trailing wind power. Microhydropower (hydro power for homes) installation cost is about the same as solar, at times even cheaper. Hydro power can deliver electricity anytime, and unlike solar, rain and winter does not affect production.
The biggest disadvantage of hydro power is the requirements. Your property must have access to flowing water. The stream, channel or canal must have sufficient water to run the pump, generator and other components. You can install solar panels almost anywhere there is sunlight, but many places in the US forbid hydropower generation.
A microhydropower system needs a sizeable land area. It’s ideal for ranchers and farmlands, but if you live in the suburbs it’s impractical. Even if your land has flowing water, expect rigid requirements and regulations to be put in place.
Setting up a hydropower at home can impact the environment. That’s why many states have stringent rules where hydropower power plants can be set up. Large scale hydro power projects like dams can affect area residents, alter the course of rivers and disrupt fish navigation and habitats. That could happen on a smaller scale with home based hydro power, thus the restrictions.
Solar power doesn’t pose that kind of a threat to the environment. You will reduce your carbon footprint and eliminate noise pollution. You can install solar panels with minimal requirements. In fact the government is encouraging homes to go solar, offering tax credits and rebates. There are now even rental properties that provide solar power.
Solar panels take up some space if ground mounted, but nowhere near the land area needed by a microhydropower system. Just like wind turbines, hydro power systems have a lot of moving components that need frequent maintenance. Once up and running hydro power delivers, but it’s a long road to get there.
The bottom line is, hydro power is ideal if you have a farm or ranch with access to flowing water. Once you get the local permits you can build the system. Once set up it becomes a reliable source of renewable energy. But just like wind power, the requirements are beyond many people’s reach, and solar can produce reliable power without any hassle.
Whichever type of renewable energy you choose, research is important. Cost of renewable energy has dropped and continues to drop. But this isn’t just about the cost as shifting to renewable energy means a change in lifestyle as well. The more you learn study renewable energy the better prepared you will be to reduce dependence on the grid, or leave it completely.