Sibling Rivalry: Wind Turbines vs Solar Panels

Skyrocketing energy prices, power blackouts and growing environmental consciousness have reignited our fascination with home-based renewable energy systems in recent years.  Wind and solar power are the two clear favourites.   But which technology is better – wind turbines or solar panels?

Choosing a suitable renewable energy system for your particular needs, both now and in the future, is important if you want to see a return on your investment.  Doing some homework upfront will help you manage expectations, save money and avoid years of frustration and headaches.  After all, you are about to install a miniature power plant in your home.

To help you, we explain the differences between wind and solar power and explore why a wind turbine is just as worthy of consideration for your home as its sibling, the solar panel.

What is Wind Power?

At its simplest, wind is the movement of air caused by the Sun’s uneven heating of the Earth’s atmosphere.  The wind’s motion (kinetic energy) is captured using the aerodynamic blades of a wind turbine which spin a generator to create electricity.

Benefits of Wind Power

Wind power is currently the fastest growing renewable energy source in the world.  The two biggest drivers behind Wind turbine at night - myHomewindpowerthis meteoric rise are down to the wind turbine – it can operate day and night to generate electricity and its energy production is far more efficient than a solar panel.  What this means is that because a turbine can transform wind into electricity much better than a solar panel converts sunlight into electricity, you need many, many solar panels to give you the same power output as a single wind turbine.

So how could a wind turbine possibly benefit me I hear you ask? Well, think about when you and your family use the most electricity.  Not during the day – you are at work and the kids are at school. More likely, your family is using the most electricity between 5pm and 8pm when you are all at home.  Solar panels won’t do you any good at these times.  But if there is wind, your turbine will spin away and produce energy to help reduce your consumption from the grid or top up your batteries for the following day.

Drawbacks of Wind Power

Wind is a fickle natural resource and turbines don’t like anything that interrupts their airflow.  Little or no wind, trees, hills and tall buildings all conspire to interfere with a wind turbine’s ability to produce electricity.  That’s why it is a good idea to mount the turbine on a tall pole to get clear of these obstructions and tap into the stronger air currents above 10m (33ft).

You do need to find a prime spot on your property to catch the best wind for generating electricity.  And when you do find that perfect spot, be ready to face some paperwork from the local authorities on raised structures in your backyard.

4 Myths about Wind Turbines Busted

Despite renewable energy sources becoming more mainstream, some opposition to wind turbines remains.  Here are four common misconceptions about wind turbines that often stand in the way of homeowners using wind power at home:

  • High maintenance costs.  A wind turbine has moving parts. And like a car engine, it requires maintenance.  Most domestic wind turbines these days are virtually maintenance-free and the routine upkeep required – checking or replacing blades, bolts, electrical connections and tower guy wires for example – is likely to cost tens or hundreds of dollars at most, not the thousands of dollars that some would have you believe.
  • Noise. Compared to solar panels which are silent in operation, wind turbines make some noise.  For small wind turbines used in the home, noise levels range from 40 – 65dB (decibels).  To put that into perspective, it is equivalent to the sound level found in a library or polite conversation at a restaurant.  With the average washing machine producing about 70dB, your laundry will cause more of a hullabaloo than a wind turbine ever will.
  • Visual pollution.  Whilst there is no accounting for taste, there are some people who flat-out object to residential wind turbines because of the perceived impact on the local landscape and skyline.  This is an unjustified criticism because the first question any rational person would ask is – “What are you comparing the wind turbines to?” Fossil-fuel burning chimney stacks, oil refineries or suburban powerlines? Not likely.  Given that choice for the backyard, wind turbines would become an instant winner.
  • Bird cemetery.  Bird deaths are often cited as a reason for opposition to wind turbines. Yes, wind turbines have been known to kill birds and bats, but nowhere near as many as buildings, cell and radio towers, power lines, oil fields, cars and of course, cats.

What is Solar Power?

Solar power is the conversion of sunlight into electricity using a grid-like collection of semi-conducting receptors called photovoltaic cells, or solar panels.

Benefits of Solar Power

The major advantages of solar panels are that they are easy to install, silent in operation, take up less room (if installed on the roof of your home) and require little maintenance.

Drawbacks of Solar Power

Solar panels aren’t without their issues.  There a few downsides to solar power – some obvious, others not so much:

  • Night.  A very common problem with solar power is that it doesn’t work at night.  Solar panels only capture energy from Solar Panels at Dusk - myHomewindpowerthe Sun for about 6 – 8 hours on a good day and for the remainder of the day, sit there and do nothing.  That’s a lot of downtime and lost electricity production.
  • Shade.  Buildings, chimneys, and trees can cast shadows on your roof and reduce the efficiency of the solar panels. Modern solar power systems can still function with a small amount of shade but for best results, you want your roof to be free of shade all day long.
  • Snow and ice impairment.  If you live in an area that snows or ices up during the winter months, this can impair a solar panel’s ability to access direct sunlight and generate electricity.  Sometimes the snow will slide off the panels because of the angle they are mounted on; if it doesn’t, you will have to remove that snow and ice yourself if you want the solar panels to generate any electricity.
  • Roof orientation.  You want at least one side of your pitched roof to be facing the south if you live in the Northern Hemisphere and to the north if you live in the Southern Hemisphere. Why? Because this is the best orientation for exposing the solar panels to sunlight for as long as possible while the sun tracks along the in the sky from east to west each day.  An east-west roof orientation is not an automatic fail for solar power, but you may have to consider putting panels on both the eastern and western faces of your roof, which increases the installation costs, or you use a ground-based panel mount that follows the sun across the sky to maximise panel output.  Again, this increases installation costs and ongoing maintenance costs because you have now introduced a moving part to your solar power system.
  • Roof strength and integrity.  This is an issue you rarely hear solar enthusiasts talking about, but it can be a big and expensive headache.  Solar panels are heavy, and your typical home installation can be 200 – 300kgs (kilograms) in weight when complete.  You will want to ensure your roof has the strength to take the additional load.  And while you’re checking your rafters for sturdiness, make sure you don’t have any leaks or other maintenance issues with the roof.  If you need to repair your roof, do so before you install a solar power system.  Because if you don’t, it will cost you big time – when you remove the panels from the roof, when you fix the roof, and then again when you reinstall the panels.  And in the meantime, you have also lost all that clean, free electricity from the sun.

Take the Pain out of Installation Costs

Direct cost comparisons between wind and solar power systems are never simple.  Many variables can impact on the cost of a renewable energy system and are often specific to the installation site.

The average US household consumes just under 11,000kWh of electricity each year, so if you are looking to use wind or solar as your main source of electricity, you would need to install 5kW of wind capacity or a 7kW solar system.

According to the American Wind Energy Association, the indicative average cost of installing small wind turbines (<10kW rated power) is about $5,000 per kW of rated power.  In comparison, solar panels are cheaper to install with an average cost of about $3,400 per kW of rated power but you need more panels to get the same electricity production (kWh) as a wind turbine.  These costs do not include any tax credits or other incentives for renewable energy.

LED lightbulb - myHomewindpowerSo, for the average American home, wind and solar systems have very similar establishment costs.

Before investing in any renewable energy system at home, we always recommend homeowners take steps to improve the energy efficiency of their home first.  Think about replacing incandescent lightbulbs with LED bulbs, buying new appliances with high energy efficiency ratings, insulating floors and ceilings and investing in double-glazed windows.  Fixing areas of energy wastage in your home now will reduce the size of renewable energy system required and make your investment in a wind turbine or solar panels a much more affordable and enjoyable experience.

The Cheat Sheet: Wind Turbines vs Solar Panels

Wind vs Solar Comparison Chart - myHomewindpower

Final Verdict

Wind and solar power are both clean, sustainable and affordable alternatives to the traditional energy sources.  Which one you use in your home will depend on your energy needs and the natural resources available at your place.  And using wind or solar power does not mean you have to give up the grid. Both renewable energy sources can be tied to your existing electricity setup and used as a supplementary power supply.

For homeowners looking to live off-grid and generate 100% of their home’s electricity needs themselves, then a combination of a wind turbine and solar panels is perfect for clean, green renewable energy all year round, day and night.

Whilst solar power would appear to be the straightforward choice in most urban communities, if you live in a region that has better wind speeds than sunshine hours, it makes sense to look at installing a wind turbine in preference to solar panels.  To do otherwise would mean missing out on a lot of free, easily accessible energy.

If wind power sounds like an appealing possibility at your place, check out our essential checklist for the five most important factors you need to consider before using wind power in your home.

Please follow and like us:

28 thoughts on “Sibling Rivalry: Wind Turbines vs Solar Panels”

  1. I think that your points are valid for supporting wind turbines and that they are more efficient than solar panels is reason enough in itself to get them over solar panels. Do you personally have a wind turbine or seen one in action and are they worth investing into in the future?

    • Thank you Jon.  If you live in an area with average wind speeds greater than 6 metres per second (~21kmh), wind turbines can produce a lot of electricity and therefore represent an excellent return on investment. Many countries also offer you the ability to sell any surplus power you generate back to the grid so you can earn income from exporting this unused electricity.

      As governments and local utility companies struggle to keep up with the energy demands of the population and transition out fossil-fuel power plants, there is some uncertainty for homeowners around energy security and the impact on the environment if these old plants continue operating.  Having your own wind turbine gives you a large degree of self-sufficiency, provides a buffer against power blackouts and generates eco-friendly electricity for your home. That has to be a great investment, now and in the future

  2. Hello, I really appreciate your effort in putting this great website together and writing this article. I have always been of the impression that solar energy is better than wind turbine but with this explicit write up, my views about these two power sources have changed. Thank you a lot.

    • Thank you Benny for your kind words.  I’m glad we we able to show you an option other than solar panels from which you can generate your own power at home.  If you have good average wind speeds in your town (higher than 20kmh), a wind turbine would be a great asset for making savings on your electricity bill, both day and night.

  3. What a very nice article. Thank you for clearing up the misconceptions. I’m a big believer in solar panels and I actually asked for a quote many years ago. I don’t know now, but back then the prices were astronomical which didn’t make financial sense. But the future of solar is exciting, though. Solar City came out with solar shingles that cost less than a roof replacement and recently I saw window panes capable of storing solar energy. 

    Thanks for sharing this very informative article


    • Thank you for sharing your experiences with us Sonny.  Advances in both solar and wind technology are pushing down the costs, making it much more affordable nowadays for homeowners to acquire their own renewable energy systems.

      The solar shingles are an innovative idea – the big downside though is that if your roof was damaged in a storm or hit by a tree, you would have a broken roof and lost part of your home’s energy supply.  Having the solar shingle paired with a wind turbine would give you a backup power supply if something affected your roof.

  4. Many thanks to you for sharing with us a beautiful teaching article. I have heard a lot about wind turbines and solar panels before, however, I did not know in detail. After reading your article I found out more. 

    In my cousin’s house I saw he had solar panels. He used to say that with the power of this panel they can play light television and so on. But he told me about some disadvantages. Since solar panels generate electricity from the sun, they do not get this power when there is no sunlight. And in your article I learned about wind turbines which create electricity from the air. Since I have a refrigerator in my house, I don’t know what to take. I hope you will let me know.

    • Hi Shanta, thank you for your kind words. I can’t advise what specific system, wind or solar, for you to get because I don’t know enough about your home’s energy requirements. 

      I would recommend following the essentials checklist on this website before making any decision on what renewable energy system to invest in.

  5. Wow! This is really an article that I really need! I see that what you wrote is true. Where with solar panels I can’t generate electricity at night. Unlike the wind turbine. And I think this is a good solution, for me to save electricity because I do bitcoin mining.
    By the way, after I read your 5 Essential Checks for Wind Power at Home article, I did not find noise number caused by wind turbine. Is it very noisy?
    Because I really want to generate electricity around 5500W in my house. Is it possible to use wind turbine?

    • Hi Asmadi, I really appreciate you taking the time to read and comment on this post. You will be pleased to know there are 5kW and 10kW wind turbines available to power your home.  I will be looking to do some reviews on turbines of this size in the future so stay tuned to this website for further details.

      As to your question about turbine noise, it is the blades rotating in the wind that generate the noise. However most small wind turbines (under 5kW) for use in a private home have operating sound levels of between 40 and 65 decibels.  As mentioned in this post, that is less than the average washing machine so if you are doing your laundry using electricity from the wind turbine outside, it would be very hard to hear the turbine over the washing machine. 

      Check out the 11-blade Missouri Freedom II which operates at about 45 decibels (level of library conversation).

  6. I definitely had to bookmark this article! I live in PR, which if you’ve been watching the news or around social media, we’re getting hit every day by mid to wild earthquakes and tornadoes. Not to mention hurricane season is really another stressful situation. When any of those things happens the first thing we lose is the electricity. I’ve been looking online trying to find everything based on solar energy. So far, I got a solar powerbank, flashlights and a fan, but I never thought about having a wind system that could actually moderate electricity for my house. Though, I saw that there’s some requirements that I may need permits for the government, why is that? 

    • Hi Stephanie, I’m glad you found this article useful. In regard to your question on permits, sometimes local planning authorities or town councils can have height restrictions in place on certain structures and if you want to build above that pre-determined height, you would need to apply for a building consent or permit first.  This is done for many reasons such as preventing the obstruction of your neighbour’s views, public health and safety, aviation requirements around an airport or to maintain a certain ambience in a town, particularly towns or cities of historic significance.  It pays to check what rules and regulations apply in your area before erecting a wind turbine tower.

      If you do install a wind turbine, consider adding battery storage to the system so that you still have some electricity available to your home if the local power grid gets knocked out for any reason.

      Stay tuned, we will be covering off many of the components of a wind turbine generation system in future posts.

  7. Thank you so much for giving the insight of both wind turbine and solar panel. I live in high area, so we always get the sun needed. We may be inclined to get the solar panels built, but can the panel store the energy to be used at night-time? Or will it make the installation cost increase significantly? Thanks for your answer.

    • Thank you Alblue for your comments and questions. If you want to use the electricity generated by solar panels at night, you will need to install battery storage. Solar panels currently do not have any capability to store the energy internally.  And yes, adding battery storage will increase the installation cost of your system, typically by as much as 30-40%.

      Because wind turbines can operate at night, it can be providing your home with some of the power it needs that a solar panel cannot.

  8. I have this question in my mind for years which needs an answer or explanation…. 

    I am thinking if solar energy can be stored for future use or we can use it only when the source is available? 

    I mean, there are times when the weather is sunny and there can be a lot of time getting solar energy and storing them to a storage device so that when the raining season comes, we can have power available even if the sun does not appear, we can use the energy we have gathered in the past days.

    • Hi Gomer, thank you for your insights.  Yes, you will need to install battery storage as part of your solar system if you want to benefit from that energy at night-time.

      Pairing a wind turbine with solar panels can be a great way of generating electricity for your home day and night, rain, hail or sunshine.

  9. I’ve always been interested in solar power. Slimming down the electric bill while being economically friendly is a huge plus for me. You make a good point  when you mentioned the maintenance required in winter months. I don’t think I’d be up to the removal of snow in the winter. I usually only see wind turbines on the highways. I didn’t realize wind turbines was available for residential areas. Thanks for the review because it seems as if a wind turbine would be a better fit for my family. It would sure be nice to have this power plant in my backyard one day. Seem as if you get more for your money and less maintenance (for me). The only set back for me would be the noise. I like peace and quiet at times. 

    • Thank you CeCemorgan for taking the time to leave your thoughts.  Most wind turbines built for use in a residential setting have an operating noise level between 40 – 65 decibels. Given the noise that surrounds us in our everyday lives (home appliances, city noise, aircraft flying overhead, etc.), you would have to be listening very intently to pick out the turbine noise over daily urban background noise.  In other words, you are unlikely to notice the sound of the turbine at all.  I hope that puts your mind at ease about the benefits of using a wind turbine in your home.

  10. Well, I have never been around anyone that made use of a wind turbine but then, what I read about it is simply amazing and really great. Thumbs up for the detailed research evident in this post. But I would always go for the solar panel because I have used them in the past and they were awesome. Hence, I would still go for it anytime.

    • Hi Rodarrick and thank you for your comment.  Absolutely agree you should stick with what you know where it makes sense both economically and from a power generation perspective.  There is no point erecting a wind turbine in a region that has very low wind speeds just as there is no benefit in using solar panels if your local climate does not have the sunshine hours to make electricity generation cost-effective.

      If you do live in an area with a good wind resource at some point in your life, I hope you will consider installing a wind turbine to help supplement your household’s energy needs.

  11. Thank you so much for providing such beautiful information. I understood very well the difference between electricity generated by wind energy and electricity made by solar. Most people in the village use solar, but I think the electricity generated by wind is more efficient than solar. In this case, the cost will be less than solar. The electricity created by the air is certainly environmentally-friendly. Reading your article, I understood the facts very well.

    So thank you again for giving me such a wonderful article.

    • Thank you for your feedback.  I’m glad to hear your local community has invested in renewable energy to meet its continuing energy demands.  Wind turbines certainly generate more electrical output per rated kW than solar panels, however the key is to match the generation device to the renewable energy source that you have the most of in your region (ie. lots of sun, go panels; lots of wind, go turbines). The added bonus is that the energy generated is eco-friendly and free.

  12. Hello Randall,

    Wind and solar energy are both very clean. The choice between them depends on the general weather of the country. My home is located in Australia and we have solar cells which work perfectly as no snow here.

    I think having both solar cells and turbine in the areas with snow is still worth it as this can reduce the cost of electricity bills dramatically. The user can even sell some watts back to the energy company as we do.

    I have to thank you for raising such information for people so that they get the right choice for them.

    • Hi Safia and thank you for your comments. Solar power certainly makes sense in Australia, a country which gets a lot of sun. There are still places in Australia though where wind turbines would be viable alongside solar panels. Perth, for instance, is one of the windiest cities in Australia as well as the sunniest so you could generate significant electricity for your home by running a hybrid wind/solar energy system.

      The point you raise about selling your surplus power back into the grid is an important one. I believe the more people who can do this, the sooner many of these fossil-fuel electricity generators will have to reconsider their business models and whether or not it’s worth continuing power production.

  13. Hey there! Interesting contents you’ve got here! For me, I also prefer wind turbines as wind energy is a source of renewable energy. It also does not contaminate, it is inexhaustible and reduces the use of fossil fuels, which are the origin of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

     In addition, wind energy is a “native” energy, because it is available practically everywhere on the planet. 

    • Thank you Evagreene. Your feedback is a good reminder to us all that the ultimate goal here is reducing our dependency on fossil fuels.  This can only be realistically achieved at the moment by increasing our renewable energy capability – wind, solar, hydro, geothermal, biomass – and empowering people to wean themselves off the traditional fossil fuel power companies. Installing clean, green electricity generation – either wind and/or solar – in your own backyard is a great start.

  14. Here in our place, solar power for homes are now available in hardware stores or home depots. The price of solar power is based of how many wattages. If you buy a bigger wattage, the price gets high. We are planning to buy solar power to save some money from electric bill.

    • Hi Bong, great to hear that renewable energy systems are now more widely available through your local hardware stores. The greater the availability, the more likely homeowners are to consider the installation of these systems.  And that has to be a good thing all-round for the environment and your electric bill.


Leave a comment