solar-wind-hydro-power-vsMatthew Stein, author of When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency wrestles with that very question in his book.

Here’s an excerpt:

No single RE source works best all the time in all situations. Hybrid systems often yield the best year-round performance. Wind and micro-hydro usually perform well during stormy periods, while photovoltaics work best in dry summer conditions with long sunny days. Photovoltaics have the benefit of no moving parts, no maintenance, high reliability, and a long life averaging about 25 years or more for solar panels.

In 2008 solar panel cost of about $5 per watt (remember that batteries and inverters will add significantly to this cost) has been steadily dropping as sales of solar cells have doubled every few years.

The recent invention of solar roofing panels and the introduction of major PV incentives in several countries are expected to continue to boost sales and significantly reduce prices over the next decade.

Advantages

Hydropower:

  • Lowest cost per watt hour
  • Usually a predictable year round power output
  • Often does not require a large battery bank
  • System is quiet and often can be made unobtrusive
  • Typically low maintainance

Windpower:

  • Low cost per watt hour in a good location
  • Smaller systems can be low maintainance
  • Predictable power output in some locations

Solar power:

  • Can be used almost anywhere
  • Extermely low maintainance
  • Very long system lifespans
  • Can be operated unmonitored for extended periods of time
  • Predictable power output in most locations
  • Simple installation
  • Silent , unobtrusive operation

Disadvantages

Hydropower:

  • Not suitable in many locations due to lack of resource
  • Often requires substantial modification of water resource (except for in-stream type generators)
  • Initial installation cost can be high if damming or dirtwork is required
  • In colder climates, freezing of pipes, etc can be a problem
  • Moving parts will eventually wear out

Windpower:

  • Not suitable in many locations due to lack of resource
  • Towering can be expensive for larger units, and may require heavy equipment to erect.
  • Some people object to the tower aesthetically
  • Birds of prey run into tower and guy wires (similar to but smaller than utility installations in this respect)
  • Power output can be sporadic in some areas, nescesitates the use of a large battery bank and / or altrenate power source
  • Many people report that considerable noise is generated in high winds
  • Even routine, minor maintainance on a windmill can be difficult on the top of a tower. Systems to reduce / eliminate this problem typically add to the cost and complexity of the system.
  • Moving parts will eventually wear out

Solar power:

  • High initial cost for solar panels
  • Power output can be variable in some areas, nescesitates the use of a large battery bank and / or altrenate power source
  • Requires good solar exposure (not practical in shaded areas, etc.)

The major problem with ANY power source is the “Opposition special interest groups”. Lets see now of course we all know about the evils of the nukes, windmills have been know to cut birds in half and the “It destroys my view” people. “Solar panels are ugly” people. Hydro hurts the fish. I suspect that if we all used a generator with a hand crank someone would find a problem with that.

Bottom line is that no matter what we do, there WILL be a side affect somewhere, people need to deal with it!!

Greg,

Read the rest of discussion

Each system must be optimized to the location and aplication for which it will be used. Installation and maintainance requirements can be a signifigant factor, and should be weighed heavily in the design process.

Hybrid systems using two or more of these power sources, or using a fuel powered generator as a supplement usually provide superior performance over a wide range of conditions.


About Author //

author-pic

Edvard Csanyi

Edvard - Electrical engineer, programmer and founder of EEP. Highly specialized for design of LV high power busbar trunking (<6300A) in power substations, buildings and industry fascilities. Designing of LV/MV switchgears. Professional in AutoCAD programming and web-design. Present on



15 Comments


  1. Gina
    Apr 30, 2014

    THANK YOU SO MUCH! This article has really helped me for my school project!


  2. Gina
    Apr 30, 2014

    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SHARING! You can’t believe how thankful I am! I have searched everywhere for this information. You have saved my life!

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