I guess it depends on who’s asking, both solar and wind have their own unique advantages and disadvantages. For me, the key is the reference point and the end goal in mind.
Solar energy systems are generally more affordable and straightforward if you are looking to generate power for your own home. Some of the advantages here are that you can start out small and add on panels as you have the finances, the ease of installation of additional solar panels once the main system is up and running makes it perfect for someone that doesn’t necessarily have the capital to make a total switch at once. Aftermarket maintenance is limited as most solar panels have a life span of 20 years.
A solar panel system usually consist of the panels itself, which collect the sun’s rays and turn them into electricity, a battery system that stores the incoming DC currents, and an inverter that converts the DC signals into AC power, which is what we would generally receive from the grid. I came across an amazing website, SOLARNATION that explains the whole process in detail.
Solar panels are ideal for urban areas where space is limited; panels are installed on rooftops, which means no extra ground space is needed. For a household of two adults and two children it would cost between R70 000 and R100 000 to make a total switch to solar power.
Wind energy systems are generally more suited for larger commercial systems, where power is generated for small towns or to supplement the existing grid. These systems work well in a network, were a “wind farm” can be established. This means that a lot of space will have to be available not to mention the massive start-up capital. These systems are generally not used for the generation of personal power, and private people don’t often opt for this option.
Having said that, the progress in terms of research and technology for home wind turbines have grown leaps and bounds in the last 5 to 8 years and there are quite a few options on the market for wind turbines that are more suited for use in urban areas, but you would still need about an acre of space if your goal is to switch a 100% to wind power. Kestrel is a renewable energy company that focusses on wind energy systems for urban customers. Other companies that can assist in home wind power systems include The Green Connexion and Ecotech Energy. A reasonable price, for a wind turbine system that generates about 3.5KW/h, is in the area of R85 000. A turbine system with this kind of capacity should be able to produce enough electricity to power between 60 – 100% of your household’s electrical demand; this of course would depend on a number of variables. Maintenance for wind turbines are limited once they are set up and they rarely need servicing at all.
So, to put it all into perspective for you and to help you with the decision making process, an average South African household with two adults and two small children uses between 550 and 750KW per month. This figure will vary of course depending on any number of factors such as appliances used, energy saving habits, and the time of year. So if you take into consideration your budget, energy demand and space available you should be able to work out the best option for your situation.