In the time that climate change is worsening, the imperative to make use of renewable sources to generate energy has never been this high. Our world has relied too much on fossil fuels to generate energy, and though they do the job just fine, they are not easy to get back once they’re fully gone and they’re damaging to our environment as well.
So, yes, we truly do need alternative sources — and luckily, our environment provides us with a lot of choices to choose from. And two of the most popular choices are solar power and wind power.
But you must be wondering: what makes solar power different from wind power? And if it’s possible, which one is the better option between the two?
As the name suggests, solar power generally makes use of the sun to generate electricity. To be more specific, solar power makes use of either the sun’s heat or the sun’s light, depending on the technologies used.
The former utilizes the technology called the Concentrated Solar Thermal Power (CSP), and this technology concentrates the radiation of the sun to heat a liquid which will then be used to drive a heat engine and drive an electric generator.
On the other hand, solar power can also make use of another technology called the Photovoltaic (PV) technology. Compared to CSP, PV modules are used to absorb sunlight, knock electrons loose, and let the loose electrons flow, which will allow a current to be created and captured then transferred into wires.
The Advantages of Solar Power
Solar power actually comes with a lot of benefits. To begin with, the sun is everywhere, so technically any place is a good place for a solar installation.
Additionally, solar energy provides two choices of how you want to use the sun: you can either opt to use the heat (CSP) or the light (PV). And if you do choose solar power, you won’t have any problem installing the technologies since they don’t require that much space. More often than not, you would just need to use the roof.
In addition to the technologies not requiring a huge space, other benefits of solar power include the fact that the technologies are totally silent in operation and the fact that they also don’t require a lot of maintenance. You just need to keep them relatively clean from time to time.
The Disadvantages of Solar Power
Even though solar power is generally advantageous, it still does have a few disadvantages on its side. The prominent disadvantage is the fact that solar power technologies can only be used whenever the sun’s out.
Sure, it’s possible to use solar power when there’s little to no sun through the use of CSP systems. But CSP systems are far more expensive than the other solar technology that is PV. So, CSP is a less attractive option than PV, and not a lot of people go for it.
According to statistics about solar, The other prominent disadvantage is that most solar panels only convert 14% of their available energy to power. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you’d get up to 22%. If you really want to take that percentage higher, then you would need a larger area for installation than what you already have.
A simplistic way to describe wind power is that it makes use of the wind. But in reality, wind power is actually a lot more complicated. For one thing, it is considered as another form of solar energy. And for another, it is caused by a combination of three simultaneous events:
- The sun unevenly heating the atmosphere.
- The irregularities of the earth’s surface.
- The rotation of the earth.
Moreover, wind power makes use of wind turbines to convert the kinetic energy from the wind into mechanical power. After that, the mechanical power can then be used for specific tasks such as grinding grain or pumping water, or a generator can convert it into electricity.
The Advantages of Wind Power
Just like the sun, the wind is free and everywhere, so it won’t be that hard to find an ideal location for the wind turbines. Harvesting wind is also a clean and non-polluting way to generate electricity. And most importantly, wind turbines can convert up to 60% of kinetic energy into power. In other words, the largest of the wind turbines can generate enough electricity to power 600 homes.
The Disadvantages of Wind Power
Even though the wind is free and everywhere, it is still a fluctuating source of energy. It’s not all the time that the wind is strong; more often than not, it will be weak or nonexistent at all. As a result, wind turbines will only be useful during the times that the wind blows strongly.
Additionally, wind turbines require a lot of specialized maintenance, especially the moving parts. They also need to be incredibly tall, which can cause visual pollution, and they make a lot of noise, which can be an issue near homes. And most importantly, although anywhere is technically okay because there’s wind everywhere, there are still some places that are more ideal. So, in a way, it’s difficult to find the perfect spot because the spot needs to be clear from any obstructions that can affect the wind.
Both solar power and wind power are two sources that aim to generate energy in a manner that is clean and efficient. They only differ in the way that they achieve that aim: solar power makes use of the sun (both light and heat) while wind power makes use of the wind.
Furthermore, even though these two renewable energies share the same goal, they do have their own share of advantages and disadvantages. And it’s really tempting to have a definitive answer to the question, “Which of the two is better?” but the reality is that it’s not that easy.
This is because the answer would depend on a lot of circumstances. For example, from the pros and cons listed above, it may seem like solar energy is superior. But that doesn’t make it the ultimate winner because, for some places, wind energy might actually better.
Long story short, both solar power and wind power are great alternative sources of energy. They have their own strengths and weaknesses. It will simply be up to us on how to maximize them to their potential.