Renewable, or "green," energy is becoming increasingly popular today, due in no small part to constantly rising energy prices. More and more, homeowners are installing green energy devices to generate free electricity. Solar cell and wind turbines for the home have emerged as the two most popular green energy devices, due to their ability to be installed anywhere, their simplicity, and relatively low cost of installation. Of these two, solar cells are perhaps the most popular, due to their less obtrusive appearance and relatively low maintenance requirements. There are certain situations, however, when solar panels are not practical. In these cases, wind turbines for the home are the best option. If you are trying to decide between installing solar panels or wind turbines in your home, here are some things to consider.
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Solar Panels vs. Wind Turbines for the Home
First, solar cells only generate electricity during the day when the sun is out. This is especially a problem in the winter, when there are fewer hours of daylight. Energy consumption also tends to rise in the winter, especially if you have electric central heating. In other words, solar panels provide the least amount of electricity at the time of year when you use the most.
Wind turbines, on the other hand, can operate day and night, day in and day out, all year long (given the right geographic and weather conditions, of course). Winds also tend to be stronger and more constant in the winter. In other words, wind turbines produce the most electricity during the time of year when you need it most.
Just as there are certain parts of the United States where solar panels are more effective (such as the Southwest), there are also places when they are less effective. The Pacific Northwest, for example, is famous for it cloud cover and rain on an almost daily basis. Another consideration is elevation. If you live in a valley with hills and mountains surrounding you (such as in the Rocky Mountain states and the Appalachians of the Upper South), this reduces the hours of direct sunlight you can receive. On the other hand, valleys are usually good locations for strong, steady breezes.
The best locations to install wind turbines for the home are in the Midwest and Great Plains. Here, the flat, wide-open plains and prairies present few obstacles to block, break up, and slow down the wind. Consequently, you can get constant, strong winds for most of the year.
In addition to valleys as discussed before, mountaintops and hilltops are also good locations for wind turbines for the home. Coastlines (whether ocean or lake) are also good places to get strong, steady wind.
On the flip side, locations that are bad for wind turbines for the home include anywhere that gets weak or inconstant winds. Areas with a lot of trees and hills are poor locations, as are big cities where buildings break and weaken the winds.
Are Wind Turbines Right for You?
If you live in a geographic area that is bad for solar cells but good for wind, then the choice is obvious. On the other hands, there and many places that are good for both solar panels and wind turbines. In California, western Texas and some parts of the Southwest, flat, featureless geography provides strong winds, and weather provides near-constant sunshine. In a location like this, should you go with solar panels or wind turbines?
Why not both? Solar panels and wind turbines for the home compliment each other nicely. Cloudy, stormy weather is often accompanied by strong winds. In other words, when you solar panels are generating less electricity, your wind turbines are generating more. Wind is generated by differences in air temperature, which is why there are more breezes at sunrise and sunset. When the sun goes down for the night, and you solar panels stop working, the evening and early morning winds keep your wind turbines spinning.