Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

May 04

Which is More Efficient, Solar or Wind?

Posted in Solar Power | Wind Power

Solar Wind Thanks for participating in our recent energy poll, where we asked you to choose your favorite renewable energy sources. Voting is still open, but so far it looks like solar power is the most popular choice, with wind power in second place. We recently came across another interesting NWA news article that examines the differences between solar and wind and concludes that wind energy is more actually more efficient than solar energy. Among other factors, they quote UCEI director Severin Borenstein as stating “wind power still remains much cheaper to produce than solar.” What do you think?

  • buzz saw

    Wind is great, we have a bunch of it here in Oklahoma. I still favor the addition of 500 MW of thermal solar.

  • Upaya

    Wind turbines can produce during all day and night whereas solar (at the minute) is just day only. Wind has potentially longer life span even if they both have around 25 year life span, this is because you don’t need to replace the whole whole unit, just the bits that are no longer working. Wind turbines can be made to always face the most efficient direction, whereas solar trackers increase price immensely and limit the quantity you can have in one area. However, solar hot water can be a very efficient way of transforming energy and my vote would go towards this if I was able to specify.

  • Tom

    Personally I think wind turbines are a bit of a blight on the landscape…as efficient as they may be. I suggest that we need to consider not only the efficiency of any given technology but its aesthetics. Current PV technology may be a bit behind in overall efficiency, but I think that if you were to give it a ranking which also takes into account other merits such as the fact that it has no moving parts and makes no sound at all and can be completely unobtrusive when installed on building roofs…making an important double use of valuable land space, then the technology would have a much better overall ranking.

  • Upaya

    Interesting points Tom. I agree that other aspects should be considered. As someone who loves escapes into the wilderness; treks, walks, climbing and unobstructed views of nature, I feel it something essential to protect. I also feel as though much of the landscape we feel as natural, beautiful or even sublime is most likely already changed so much by human hand that i really wonder what sort of aesthetic we are protecting. The English countryside I write this post from at the minute is a delight but I think the surrounding farms & rolling hills, would not be blighted enough by wind turbines that it should stop turbines being built, it’s a value judgment but in view of current human needs I think places like this should not be thought of as sacred.

    I make this point, however, we now have the technology to build colossal wind farms out at sea that are distant they could not infringe upon aesthetic desires. These are more efficient than PV’s but unfortunately do not have the inspirational quality that some land based turbine have. Also, “no moving parts” is not always a benefit as the entire object may need to be replace upon failing rather than certain bits of it. PV’s are great, so too are passive solar collectors, concentrators, wind turbines as well as all the others .

    Our solution is in combing these in the right way and in the right places. Lastly, in this midnight message, I think efficiency for solar should apply to the unit’s performance as well as the fact that land which other technologies have to use does not with solar because of its “double use” abilities. How on earth could such a thing be quantified and analyzed though?

  • Tom

    “and in the right places.” Exactly… cover industrial areas with wind turbines, not highly productive (some might even say beautiful) farming land. Here in Australia, someone thought was a good idea to cover our best, most productive, seemingly never-affected-by-drought land with…Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and just about every other town on the coastal fringe. Believe me, you don’t know what you’ve got until its gone.

    But enough about that. The “entire object” of a solar system is at worst 1 solar panel…weighs about 8kg, comes in a box about 1m x 2m and costs roughly AU$1000. It takes 10mins to install, 5mins if you know what you’re doing (I used to work in the industry). The solar panel IS the part, but I have never had to replace one…and I’ve installed a fair few (Now, the following experience was a personal ‘turning-point’ for me). The one exception was a solar tracking system we installed on a remote cattle station in the far North West of Australia that was hit by a Cat5 cyclone with 300kph winds at ground level. It was a 6Kw system and only 6 of the 72, 85w panels needed replacing because of cracked glass even though they were still producing voltage.

    The station hands even wired up a couple of the new panels themselves after a 5 second demo. A bit of welding, grinding and careful-ish bending by the station hands had the passive solar trackers taken care of. 4 days and $5400 later the whole system worked fine. During that time, the station’s diesel genset ran
    for a few hours each day to help the panels that were still working. A 7Kw, $25000, wind turbine on a station 20Km away was blown away and got full of water from lying on the ground for 12 hours in the driving rain. Needless to say, it was destroyed. The tower was bent and buckled, bearings, stator, rotor were all rusted and full of sand and we found one of the blades and the tail.

    It was 3 weeks before a new turbine could be sourced, we were able to put it up 2 days later. During those 3 weeks, the station had to run its 50hp diesel genset 16hrs a day, every day. Diesel costs us $2.00/L right now. Yes, per litre not gallon. These are extreme examples, I know, but its a story I’ve been busting to tell.

    On “double use” of any given land space, I want to reiterate the point that before using relatively ‘attractive’ ground we should utilize the thousands of acres of ugly, baron wasteland that is factory/warehouse/industrial roofs which is, for the most part, completely un-utilized. Small VAWT’s can even
    be mounted on most industrial roofs! It’s even been suggested that some sort of PV technology could be embedded in tarmac roads. Personally this sounds fairly impractical, but thats the sort of thinking that we need…”thinking outside the square”.


  • Bob Wallace

    I’m having trouble with the “most efficient” part of this thread. What does efficient mean in this case? Solar is easier to install and should soon be significantly less expensive than wind. And will be more acceptable in urban areas (less NIMBY and more distributed).

    Wind is not restricted to when the sun is up. By tying together widely distributed wind farms we can achieve something like a constant flow to the grid. Solar and wind are two parts of a complex solution to our power problems. Both are needed, along with geothermal, wave, tidal, hydro, and bio-generation.

    And we need affordable storage (compressed air, pump-up hydro, hydrogen, flow batteries, and flywheels are some options).

    The question is not efficiency, it’s one of finding the right mix needed to get the job done for the best price and within a reasonable time frame. Coal and natural gas (our big sources) are just going to get more expensive and will continue to pump undesirable substances into our environment.

  • Adam Morse

    Wind, solar, and all other “renewable” energy sources are all a bunch of bunk. None produce reliably or efficiently. Anywhere they are used they have to be massively subsidized by government (read taxpayer). A moderately thorough search on the web will produce a number of sites that point out the problems of these “renewable” resources. It seems that the costs of operation and eventual production make the energy produced by these cost up to 5 times what coal and petroleum power production cost. These figures are never refuted by the “pro” sites.

    Then we get into the religion of environmentalism: since when was CO2 or CO ever a pollutant? Why are we fussing over microscopic amounts of “greenhouse gases” (CO2, N2O, et al.) when in fact, water vapor is the most prevalent greenhouse gas in the atmosphere? Let us couple that with the fact that man’s contribution to worldwide CO2 levels is just 33 parts per 100,000. Oh yeah, there has also been no temperature increase on this planet since 2000. And did anybody know that the total rainfall amounts on this planet have been the same for over a century?

    We have nothing to do with global warming. The sun is in charge of it all. But with nearly all computer models, the sun isn’t factored in or it is a constant. All of the models have been proven wrong and all will be in the foreseeable future.

    All of this junk science is calculated to play on the fears of the ignorant. We are NOT destroying the world, nor do we have the capability to do so. The earth is a hardy system that has survived for 4 billion years and will survive despite our attempts to “save” it with government solutions and junk science. What we really need to save is liberty and capitalism. They will pull us through because they have before.

  • Bob Wallace

    Tom, Tom, Tom….

    A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

    See if you can’t get some professional help and get your life turned around before it’s too late.

    If not you might end up a drug addled, sexually impotent lush like Rush….

  • Bob Wallace

    Oooppppsss, sorry Tom. I wasn’t talking to you. My bad.

    Adam, Adam, Adam…..

    I just re-read your post.

    It’s just plain stupid. Very, very ignorant from the get-go…

  • admin

    Adam, the purpose of this site is to discuss and encourage renewable energy technologies, because the harmful effects of human pollution already been scientifically proven. You can take an entry-level earth science class if you would like to learn more about it.

    Bob, Adam has every right to voice his opinion. Please avoid name-calling.

  • PeterG

    Wind turbine aesthetics definitely can be quantified – but only because a company “Neuroco” in the UK has finally assembled the technology available to do this.

    Formerly this was strictly and university and hospital technology only.

    They use quantifiable neurological and biological markers to finally quantify (numerically) the emotional impact of a design’s aesthetics.

    Here’s the company:

    Here’s a link to a summary of how they use EEG technology, plus additional body language indicators, to quantitatively measure “emotional impact”:

    Here’s an excerpt:

    The new product, D-Trac, uses electroencephalography technology that interprets electric oscillations recorded from the scalp to measure levels of engagement and recognition of a wide range of visual, design and creative features, including product design, packaging and packaging display.

    Skin sensors, eye cameras and blood pressure monitors are also used to track subtle physical responses from subjects involved in trials and testing.


    I cannot say that others agree with my view that wind turbines are “uglier” than solar thermal power stations, nor can I say what what value we associate with ugliness – but I can safely say that we can finally measure that impact quantitatively, and commercially, ie: this is no longer only a university psychology experiment, or a hospital rehabilitation function.

  • Upaya

    Adam, I wonder where your argument comes from? It is very creative and appears to be the same old, same old rhetoric used by the PR machine of Dino Tech. No serious scientist takes your position on climate change, it is an illusion that there are still meaningful debates about ‘weather’ it is happening or we are causing it. I suggest you take a healthy dose of websites like or

    Because your position is weak and in the wrong place I shall save energy and not bother addressing other issues with your opinions.
    Peter G, it seems like an interesting company but I just can’t see how aesthetic appreciation or value can be objectified or measured. Can something that is different for different people as well as different for the same person at various times, be measured and quantified? My opinion is no.

    Also, I reckon that because it is now commercial rather than a university experiment, shows that results have been good enough to commercialize the idea, however the results may now be influenced by commercial aims. Who knows?

    Tom, I was going to reply to your comment but got side tracked. I agree with your entire comment. I think the original question was put in a troubling way for an answer is largely about preference. There are so many factors involved with efficiency that the two technologies cannot be compared simply,

    I’m off to make my morning coffee and take a walk to the shops on a typical cloudy and windy day in england. I hope you are enjoying the sun down under 🙂

  • PeterG

    Re measurement of different people’s appreciation for aesthetic value of wind turbines: I think you were conveying two problems:
    1) what is being measured ?
    2) how statistically significant is the measurement ?

    The measurement technology used by Neuroco only measures one person’s cognition responses to familiarity + like + dislike – the standard marketing metrics.

    The underlying technology is that the intensity and frequency of the person’s cognitive and body language responses translate into differing frequencies and amplitudes of their brain waves (EEG) and body language (twitches) – and those are converted into an intensity of like, dislike and familiarity as follows:

    First the system is calibrated for an individual by providing that individual with predetermined inputs which the person agrees verbally conforms to:
    a) maximum like, ambivalent like/dislike, maximum dislike,
    b) maximum familiarity and no familiarity.

    The cues provided to the person should be similar in terms of their subject matter, so that they activate the same parts of the brain and body as will the target subject matter. Eg: if you want to measure the response to wind turbines then you’d probably need to calibrate a persons responses against something like a countryside without turbines, and some old-style Danish windmills (I’m no expert here – sorry)

    Then the same person is subject to the actual inputs for which you do not know what the person’s response will be in advance, eg: movies of windmills with sounds of windmills, movies of solar thermal power stations, etc…


    Form the statistical significance perspective, this has to be repeated hundreds of times to provide a statistically large sample from which we can start to draw conclusions.

    Obviously that’s expensive when there’s only one company with the monopoly on the technology. Initially we’d have to perform “batch” samples using small groups of people from different demographics.

    Over time more and more marketing companies will have to compete and they will also setup similar systems, and then the price will come down.

  • Tom

    Thanks for clearing that up Bob (I recognize your name from another forum somewhere? ‘Difflock’ is the one that comes to mind)

    I think Adam just threw those comments in to “put the cat amongst the pigeons” because ‘blind Freddy’ could see how absurd they are.
    I’ll waste a bit of energy here and point out how he conveniently forgets that fossil fuel industries are themselves heavily subsidized to pay for the massive costs imposed on the health system and through other “favorable” tax environments. Not to mention the billions spent on military activity to secure oil supplies.
    To claim that fossil fuels are “efficient” energy sources is to have one’s head buried in the sand. They are called fossil fuels for a good reason…that is they have taken millions of years and countless megajoules of heat and pressure energy to create from from dead plant material. Now, even plants are horrendously inefficient at absorbing solar energy to start with, somewhere below 1% in fact.

    To calculate the real efficiency of fossil fuels is impossible but it would be something in the order of 0.000000000001%. Don’t fool yourself Adam, petroleum companies don’t ‘create’ anything, they suck it out of the ground after eons of hard work that they didn’t do.
    The words ‘efficient’ and the term ‘fossil fuel’ do not belong in the same sentence.

    At the end of the day we’ve only got a few decades of coal and oil supplies left regardless of what damage they do or how much they cost.
    The best quote I’ve heard that can be applied to the topic was “The stone age didn’t end because they ran out of stones” i.e. they had brains and they used them.

    That ‘mind reading’ technology does sound interesting but wouldn’t some sort of simple ‘score card’ which allocates a certain number of points for each different advantage of a given technology (i.e. wind or solar) do the same trick? I think that would give people the chance to make conscious (literally!), objective and well reasoned decisions. But indeed I do like to hear that companies are working on ways to “quantify” the aesthetic and other intangible advantages of different power production methods rather than just focusing solely on efficiency.

    “admin” maybe we could have a poll where people are given a scenario to consider and then from that choose a renewable power source that best suits them. E.g. “You own a 5 acre block of land just out of town with a house on it. Its a nice spot near the top of a ridge with a scattering of trees and some open ground, so sun and wind aren’t a problem. You are connected to the power grid but you want to produce at least as much energy as you consume. The solar option will cost AU$30000, will be silent, require no major maintenance and produce power even when the wind doesn’t blow.

    The wind option will be much cheaper at AU$20000 and can produce power day and night even when its cloudy. Which will you choose?”
    Something like that. But you have to be careful not to create a scenario which gives favour to one technology over the other.

    For everyone who is interested if you type “vertical axis wind turbine” into YouTube, there are some great little designs around. At this link you will find a video of a new horizontal turbine designed to be mounted on house roofs…very interesting.

    I think thats enough ranting & raving for one Sunday.

  • PeterG

    A scorecard measurement of the aesthetics of wind turbines isn’t considered reliable because it’s subject to the person’s memory and interpretation of the questions being asked. EG: what was I thinking 5 minutes ago while I watched that mini-movie of that turbine ? EG: which of the turbine pictures are they referring to in this question, because I liked some of the turbines but not others ?

    Real-time measurement of different people using a consistent algorithm (program) is not subject to such human memory glitches, but is subject to code errors – which are gradually removed over time and old measurements can even re-analyzed using the corrected code. However human memories fade and are actually modified over time.


    As much as I like your suggestion for some of the poll scenarios to provide more complex examples comparing one city’s or town’s or large farm’s options for power generation, I agree with the current emphasis that the polls and forums are designed to attract DIY enthusiasts.

    I believe that a serious discussion of the topics you propose, with two-way education (not one-way education), would require participation from consulting engineers – ie: university and industry-trained persons.

    This site seems to be based on an advertising-revenue-only model, targeted specifically at DIY enthusiasts. I have no problem with that.

    This site is still missing enough detailed HOWTOs and detailed price comparisons et al to attract enough regular contributing consulting engineers to achieve a critical mass of consulting engineers.

    Anyone can participate in any discussion, but it is extremely rare to find a consulting engineer who will stay attached to a discussion which is progressing at high-school science level, not university-science or large-scale-industry level.


    That having been said, if the admin can get the serious funding to purchase content which will attract and keep consulting engineers, then so much the better.

  • Adam Morse

    OK, here’s my point on alternative energy. They can be fun to tinker with on the micro level. That is, if you want to put it on your house, go ahead. You may well save 10-20% on your utility bill, after a few decades of paying it off. But this “science” is not fit to run a massive power grid such as the United States’. All “renewable” energies are second hand. They rely on some primary energy system to first do its thing before we get this energy.

    I am so sorry that I attacked this religion, as I really did not mean to cause any distress. However, the refutations of my statements seem to come in the form of personal attacks, rather than scientific data. Most data showing global warming has been debunked as the computer models are always wrong. The most telling fact is that now, global warming is called “climate change”, in order to make use of cooling periods that happen to come just at the wrong times. And no, the debate is far from over.

    I believe that our energies are better spent researching “alternative” energy like nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, better use of petroleum, and more efficient hydrolysis. These are technologies that are here, and will remain with us for centuries to come. They do not cut into the food supply like the “food fuels” (ehtanol, biodiesel), they will not take massive amounts of real estate like wind farms or “solar” farms.

  • Bob Wallace

    “But this “science” is not fit to run a massive power grid such as the United States’. All “renewable” energies are second hand. They rely on some primary energy system to first do its thing before we get this energy.” Sorry, Adam. That’s just not correct.

    Most of the renewables are “first hand”. They take energy from the sun. Fossil fuels are “second hand”. Long ago some organism had to capture sunlight, convert it to mass, and get buried under a lot of pressure for a long, long time before we could use it.

    Now, I’m not saying that we are in position to supply 100% of our electricity from renewables, but we know that we can supply up to 20% (or more) from wind and much of our peak load from solar. Going to/approaching 100% would require solving the storage problem. And we’re making progress there.

    The machine plugged into the grid doesn’t care where or how the power was generated. It just sucks it up and uses it.

    Advanced nuclear. It’s quite far into the future and not proven. If and when it appears then we can decide whether to include it in the mix or even plow under our solar and wind farms and go 100% nuclear. Again “if and when”. Most likely decades and decades from now. Long after our renewable systems have paid for themselves several times over and reduced our carbon output. (And cash drain for oil.)

    New nuclear – along the lines that we now utilize nuclear. I wouldn’t be surprised to see zero or close to zero new plants built in the US (and a few other countries). New nuclear is quite expensive. And if PV and thermal solar (rapidly dropping prices) take away peak hour electricity sales then new nuclear won’t pencil out.

    Biofuels. Most people now understand that growing fuel on food croplands is a bad idea. That’s why the research is migrating to algae and other crops that can be grown where we wouldn’t grow food.

    Please give this page a read. Growing fuel on “wasteland” isn’t a proven technology. But promising.

  • Bob Wallace

    “I am so sorry that I attacked this religion, as I really did not mean to cause any distress. However, the refutations of my statements seem to come in the form of personal attacks, rather than scientific data. Most data showing global warming has been debunked as the computer models are always wrong. The most telling fact is that now, global warming is called “climate change”, in order to make use of cooling periods that happen to come just at the wrong times. And no, the debate is far from over.

    The only part about this that one might call religion is a basic belief that the universe operates on fixed and discoverable principals.

    That’s the belief that underlies science. All science. Including the science that allows you to live in something other than a cave and grub for grubs.

    (Actually, scientific thinking got us into caves and taught us to harvest grubs.)

    If you want to believe in a capricious universe controlled by ‘magic fairies’ or something, then that’s your privilege.

    Personally, I won’t join you there.

    Now, let me simply state that “Most data showing global warming has been debunked as the computer models are always wrong.” is wrong. Very wrong.

    Present some actual data that supports your assertion.

    Blovations from “media experts” does not rise to the level of actual proof.

    We are now starting to use “global climate change” rather than “global warming” because it is more descriptive of what is happening and is likely to continue to happen.

    The Earth is warming. Period. (Need some data?)

    But that warming is not universal. Some parts have warmed, some cooled. And the climate change models predicted exactly this.

    And we have experienced some periods of cooling in the past. We had a period following WWII when overall global temps dropped, apparently due to the SO2 that we were pumping into the atmosphere. When we cleaned up our emissions that cooling ended. (Read up on Global Dimming.)

    And we get short term cooling from things like volcanic eruptions close to the equator. They pitch a lot of junk into the air, reflect sunlight back out before it can turn to heat, and last a year or so.

    We also know about an 11 year solar cycle that makes things hotter and colder. And we know about massive Pacific Ocean current changes (El Nino and La Nino) that can make things hotter and colder.

    Interestingly 2007, while a pretty hot year as things go didn’t set any new records. In 2007 we probably got helped by being in the cool part of the solar cycle and at the same time enjoying a La Nina. So when people say that global warming is over based on 2007 remember that during 2007 someone left the refrigerator door open.

    “Warming” is an average. And it’s happening.

    Will it continue or will 2007 be the last year? Who really knows? But until we observe a prolonged period of cooling and/or someone identifies a reason why we might cool in the future the smart money would be on ‘more of the same’.

  • Bob Wallace

    “I believe that our energies are better spent researching “alternative” energy like nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, better use of petroleum, and more efficient hydrolysis. These are technologies that are here, and will remain with us for centuries to come. They do not cut into the food supply like the “food fuels” (ehtanol, biodiesel), they will not take massive amounts of real estate like wind farms or “solar” farms.”

    I suspect that we’re spending enough money on that science. I haven’t heard of any great cries from the researchers that they need more. Have you?

    Solar and wind are definitely here. Right now. No more research needed. They’re being plugged into the grid as we speak.

    Solar and wind can be improved with additional research of course. Interestingly ‘deep pocket’ people see the potential for these technologies that a lot of current research is being funded by private, not government, money.

    Private money tends to back ‘sure things’. Government money tends to be used for things that ‘might’ pay off down the road.

    (Land, food, etc. – bogus issues. Need details?)

  • Tom

    “All “renewable” energies are second hand. They rely on some primary energy system to first do its thing before we get this energy.” Yes and uranium just magically produces electrical current when you dig it out of the ground!
    I dare say that direct photovoltaic conversion of solar radiation to electrical current is the closest thing to a primary energy source, which, as far as humans need be concerned about, will never run out. It takes a few minutes to reach a solar panel from the sun and probably 1 millisecond or less to convert it to USABLE energy. The whole process happens within about 8 minutes of the primary energy ever being created.
    Wind is a direct result (making it 2nd hand) of solar radiation itself and doesn’t take much longer to convert to usable energy.

    Fossil fuels may about 4th hand by your reasoning, but don’t forget to squeeze ~50 million years in between 2nd and 3rd hand.

    Just to update everyone…we have something like 100 years of commercially viable quantities of uranium left. A limited amount can also be extracted from sea water.
    I won’t try and guess how much sunlight we have left because when we run out…we’ve got bigger problems to worry about.

  • Bob Wallace

    Don’t we have a scheduled “too much sun” event for 5-8 billion years or so from now?

    As the core of the sun burns out it will become a ‘red giant’, expanding to engulf Mercury, Venus, and the Earth.

    Our worries will be over before the sun quits sending us solar fuel. Your solar panels will never fail you.

  • Jeff

    Both would work well, I personally prefer wind over solar because of reasons previously stated, wind lasts day and night.

  • carley

    I personally believe that the Earth is warming, and that our future generations- NOT US- are in big trouble. We need to use whatever we can- not argue about which one is better for the sake of pride. Wind and solar are being used right now. Don’t waste your time using YOUR energy to argue the finer points of energy that’s already being used- and we don’t care about which is better- just that we’re getting energy.

    I believe that our energies are better spent researching “alternative” energy like nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, better use of petroleum, cheaper gas (such as using natural gases) and more efficient ways to get more energy. Wind and solar powers — these are technologies that are here, and will remain with us for centuries to come.

    We need to explore the finer points of energies we don’t have. The future. You old gray men are dwelling in the past!

  • Bob Wallace

    We are being effected by global warming right now. Play with this little graphic and see how US zones have changed over the last dozen or so years.

    Now think about how people who were able to scrape out a living by farming or grazing areas that were “almost too hot” have been effected.

    Might that not be why people are dying in Darfur as grazers who have lost use of their traditional lands trying to take over the lands of farmers in slightly less hot areas?

  • Broda Dunka

    In my studies at NJIT I found out that it is easier to store solar than wind and I work at a solar energy plant so i prefer solar.

  • Bob Wallace

    “easier to store solar than wind”

    How about more details?

    Store each how?

    Cost per energy unit stored?

  • Simon

    This is the wrong question to be asking, as it is comparing apples with bowling balls, and asking which makes a better couch.

    Wind is the right technology where there is a good wind resource, and solar where there is a good solar resource. Often the two can be combined to good effect.

    I can’t understand the comments above by Broda, as wind, solar, whatever, the energy is all stored by exactly the same technology. The wind turbine converts wind energy into electrical energy. Solar PV converts sunlight into electrical energy. Solar thermal converts sun heat into electricity (assuming a steam turbine for the sake of this topic). If you want to store the electricity, it is just electricity. The PV electrons are identical to the wind electrons.

    And Adam who further up decries renewables a bunk that doesn’t work and needs capital subsidies to even get a look in can come visit me anytime. I will take him to one of any number of remote indigenous communities where diesel fuel costs AUD$2.00 plus per liter, and the payback time for solar v diesel is under two years. Solar powered water pumping (in central Australia) costs less (capital upfront) than an equivalent diesel system, and then you don’t have to buy the diesel.

    And if it doesn’t work, I can’t understand how my lights and laptop are running.

    For the record I am a renewable energy consultant. I have overseen systems (PV, wind, hybrids) in several developing countries and throughout Australia.

  • Cyril R.

    Aesthetics, right. It’s not possible to make decisive conclusions on the basis of aesthetics, whether completely or partially, because aesthetics is not an objective criterion. Some people like the sight of windmills, others don’t.

    Moreover, wining about aesthetics strikes me as a typical case of not taking our energy conundrum seriously.

    As for wind vs solar it should be realized that this depends firstly on location. In high insulation areas with only occasional gust of wind, direct solar technologies have an edge. And vice versa.

    Right now, wind has economics advantages, and there’s a lot more potential for cost reductions, my favorite right now is Tubercle Technology being commercialized by Whalepower. And there are others as well, permanent magnets, bigger turbines, more advanced drivetrains…

    Solar is less mature but also has even more cost reduction potential because of that. Most startups are high risk, high return investments.

    The most prudent course of action is wind and solar. And geothermal, and tidal, wave, and whathaveyou.


  • R.S.Khuba


    The office buildings use much energy, which can be tapped from the solar panels and utilized without any need to store. If somebody comes up with a unit to synchronize the grid power uniting with solar panel the same will find great acceptance.

    May the almighty show us the way to survive,

    R.S. Khuba

  • Luke

    Wind is better. A recent study was done using the average power needed by a mid-sized home in the US in 2002 and using 100 sq feet of space of solar panels and 1 turbine which took up 100 sq feet of space, the turbine powered 282 houses compared to 62 houses for solar. The study stated that in 2002 the average house took in 121.788 watts per second, the optimum solar panel in optimum placement in the US gave off 7,500 watts per second per 100 sq feet, that the optimum wind turbine in optimum conditions gave off 34,236 watts per second, that the highest average wind speed in the Us is in Dodge City, Kansas with 13.9 mph as their average, and that 1 turbine takes up 100 sq feet.

  • Brett

    Luke –
    I’d be interested in learning where those numbers came from, because something’s not right. A ten by ten foot area is way too small to generate that much solar power with the technology that exists today. The best hybrid technology panels put out about 210 watts for roughly a 15 square foot panel. That’s 14 watts per square foot. The numbers you cite claim 75 watts per square foot. Perhaps you mean 7.5kWh/day with older technology. There aren’t any 34kW windmills that can fit within 100 sq ft, either. The Bergey 10kW windmill puts out 10kW at 29 miles per hour wind speed, and it has a 7m (22foot) diameter, plus you typically need guy wires to steady the towers, which extend quite a distance from a tall tower. They’re not very meaningful numbers anyway, because ideal conditions do not exist except in ideal locations, at ideal times.

    All Others — interesting comments. I think you can’t absolutely say which electricity-generating technology is better, because it’s always an “it depends” situation. Solar PV is pretty good, and is getting cheaper, plus it’s quiet and lasts a long time. Wind, when you have it, is available for more hours during a 24-hour day than is the sun, but it requires maintenance, can be noisy, and it’s very visible. They both have their drawbacks as do nuclear and fossil-fuel power generation. Hydroelectric is pretty good, but it too has its drawbacks. One thing to remember — the closer we are to the generation source, the less we lose to line losses. If line losses are 20-50%, then every kilowatt hour we generate ourselves means 1.25 – 2.0 kWh that didn’t have to be generated elsewhere.

    And R.S. Khuba – most solar PV installations are now grid-tied and net-metered, so if you generate more than you use it turns your electric meter backwards (essentially) and puts that electricity out on the grid for someone else to use. If you generate too little, you get the rest of what you need from the grid.

  • Bob

    I think that they cannot be decided on which is better. Here is why. Say it is bright and sunny outside with no wind, solar is better. But then say at night there is a disastrous wind but there is no sun out, wind is better. Personally, I like solar power better. But logically thinking, the two power sources are unreliable depending on weather. Hope this answered any questions!


  • Bob

    Another thing, why not just install both to your house or whatever you are trying to power and you can have power almost all the time and you might ever run your kilowatt meter backwards. =P

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