In an era where climate change is high on the agenda, we must start to look towards energy-efficient and renewable sources to generate our power.
The world has leant on fossil fuels for too long in our quest to produce energy, and although they are very efficient at doing the job, once they’re gone, they’re gone.
At Powerguard, we’re committed to offering alternative power and sources of renewable energy, and in this blog, we’ll be discussing the difference between wind and solar power, and which, if any, is the best option.
As far back as 700-900 A.D., windmills were used by the Persian Empire to grind grain and pump water. The idea soon spread across the middle east and was eventually adopted in Northern Europe sometime around 1000 A.D.
The first windmill for the sole purpose of electricity production was built in Glasgow by Professor James Blyth who experimented with three types of turbine design, the latter of which, powered his home for 25 years.
The UK’s first onshore wind farm was opened in Cornwall in 1991, consisting of ten turbines creating enough energy to power 2,700 homes.
One of the most significant advantages of wind power is that wind is all around us, and it’s free, so it’s relatively easy to find the right location for a turbine.
Wind harvesting is a clean and environmentally friendly way to generate electricity, and what’s more wind turbines are capable of producing over 6 million kWh in a twelve months period – enough to supply 1,500 average homes with electricity.
Although wind is all around us and it is free, it’s not a constant energy source. Although the UK is one of the windiest countries in Europe, the wind is not always consistently strong. In fact, when the wind is weak or non-existent, a wind turbine is redundant.
In addition to this, wind turbines require a great deal of expensive, specialist maintenance, particular the parts that are continually moving.
They also need to be incredibly tall, which in some cases can cause visual pollution, and despite their often-serene appearance, they can be loud, which could cause issues for nearby homes. And, although it may seem like a simple task to decide where to install a turbine, since there’s wind everywhere, the area still needs to be clear of obstruction that could affect wind flow.
In August of this year, the National Grid was forced to deny claims that a power outage which affected large portions of the UK was due to a considerable wind surge which overloaded the national grid – another disadvantage to wind.
In its earliest incarnations, solar power was used through magnifying glasses and burning mirrors, which were used to light torches for religious ceremonies.
In 1767 Swiss scientist Horace de Saussure built the world’s first solar collector. Over seventy years later, French scientist Edmond Becquerel found that electricity generation increased during exposure to sunlight – this is known as the photovoltaic effect.
During the 18 and 1900s, many great minds set to work on contributing to the advancement of solar power, including the inventor of the bolometer, Samuel P. Langley; Albert Einstein, who produced a research paper on the photoelectric effect; and Jan Czochralski, who grew single-crystal silicon.
It wasn’t until 1954 that a solar cell was developed that was capable of converting solar energy into power by Bell Labs.
Earlier this year, a rail line in Hampshire, became the world’s first to be powered solely by a solar farm.
Solar power has many benefits. For a start, just like wind power, the sun is everywhere.
Solar energy gives you two ways of using the sun: you could either use the heat (CSP) or the light, which is what creates electricity. And, if you do opt for solar panels finding the room isn’t particularly difficult since they don’t require the same amount of space as a turbine – which is why they are often seen on rooftops.
As well as the fact that solar panels don’t require a vast expanse to operate, other benefits of solar power include the fact that the technology is silent, and they don’t require costly expert maintenance. They just need a clean from time to time.
Solar power is mostly advantageous; there are a few disadvantages though. The biggest drawback, of course, is when the sun’s not out, the panel can only collect minimal energy.
The other significant disadvantage is the fact that most standard solar panels are only capable of converting between 15 to 17% of the energy collected into power. In fact, even the best solar panels on the market are only capable of a 23% energy conversion.
Both solar and wind power are sources which aim to generate energy cleanly and efficiently. The only difference is the way they achieve that goal: solar utilises the light and the heat of the sun, whereas wind turbines take advantage of wind power.
Although they both share a common goal, these two energy sources do share their own set of advantages and disadvantages. So, the answer to ‘which is best?’ isn’t so cut and dry.
This is mostly because the answer will depend on each individual circumstance. For example, just because solar has fewer disadvantages, it would be tempting to assume it’s the best option. However, in some areas, such as offshore, where the wind is far stronger than on land, it’s the better option.
Both solar and wind power are excellent alternative sources of energy. They both have outstanding strengths and some unfortunate drawbacks – it’s simply up to us to use them where they are most efficient.
If you have any questions about anything we’ve covered in this blog, or you’d simply like some more advice about renewable energy, don’t hesitate to contact us today.