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What are Wind and Solar Energy?

Article Details
  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 18 February 2017
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2017
    Conjecture Corporation
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Wind and solar energy are two popular sources of sustainable power. Both methods generate electricity using natural resources that do not diminish in supply. This makes them very attractive in terms of environmental friendliness and cost efficiency for both governments and consumers.

Wind energy is generated by the wind blowing the blades of large turbines or windmills. This in turn rotates a generator to create electricity. Solar energy also generates electricity, by using solar panels on the roofs of buildings or towers. The panels absorb the sun’s rays and run it through wires which then turn it into electricity.

Although similar, wind and solar energy are very different in many ways. Each has its own unique advantages and disadvantages, as well as differing mechanisms used in the generation of power. The most obvious, of course, is that wind energy is created using wind, while solar energy uses the sun. Other differences involve access to the systems by the masses, as well as the cost of using them.

Though wind and solar energy are both renewable, wind energy is not suitable as a constant power source. Wind is unpredictable and unstable, and therefore cannot generate enough electricity to maintain a consistent supply. Since it is reliant on the wind blowing in a specific location at a certain speed, less wind will not produce adequate power.

Solar energy, on the other hand, is relatively stable as an energy source. The sun is generally a constant presence, even generating some power on cloudy days. Although solar energy may only be suitable as a supplementary source of energy in very rainy or cloudy areas, in many locations it is generally capable of supplying all power needs.

Other differences in wind and solar energy include accessibility. Wind energy, to produce adequate amounts of power, requires large turbines. Often, dozens of these are needed for all day power, although using one or two could work for a small home as a supplementary source. These can be ordered online, although homeowners may be left to do the install work. Solar energy, however, is becoming increasingly available in most areas.

Cost is another factor in wind and solar energy use. Both can be pricey to install, especially in areas where there are few companies who specialize in renewable energy. Many homeowners opt to install their renewable energy system themselves. This a feasible option for those with handyman skills. Others must rely on experienced professionals, putting renewable energy sources out of reach for many lower and midle-class citizens.

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