When you think about the shift from traditional forms of energy to renewable energy, mainly two technologies come to mind: Solar and wind. By now, living in the United States, nearly everyone has seen a large solar array or solar thermal plant, or driven past a large wind farm. But which one is more effective atgenerating power?
That is the question that researchers at Inland Power and Light in Washington state were attempting to answer when they initiated anexperiment to test the power generating capabilities of solar vs. wind.
The experiment pitted a 35-foot wind turbine against solar panels — bothcosting $22,000 each to install, and both capable of producing the sameamount of power under perfect conditions. The results were quitedefinitive.
Solar outperformed wind power by a factor of 5. Thereason for this was mostly due to the fact that, while solar battlescloud cover for optimum power generation, wind power, for the most part, is only effective at 3 to 12 mph. So, even on a windy day, windturbines are not operating at maximum effectiveness because they aredesigned to brake to prevent the gearbox/hub from being damaged.
The main argument for wind, however, is the price. Wind is still muchcheaper than solar. However, as solar cell efficiencies improve, solarmay prove to be a better bet for clean power generation.