Solar power and wind energy are considered to be the two primary sources of renewable energy. While the former provides sustainable and clean energy, the latter is a more conventional energy source. It is not, however, uncommon for both solar energy and wind energy to be used together, with the output combined and fed back into the grid. This article will discuss the distinctions between the two, as well as the various ways in which they function together.
The Growth Of Wind Energy And Solar Energy
As the planet confronts the climate crisis, more and more people are turning towards renewable energy sources. Wind energy and solar energy are considered to be the two primary sources of renewable energy, due in part to their ability to provide a clean, sustainable alternative to traditional fossil fuels. In 2017, renewable energy sources provided 24.2% of the world’s total energy supply, and that share is expected to more than double by the year 2040.
The deployment of solar energy and wind energy has grown steadily over the past few decades. As of 2017, the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that there are more than 400 gigawatts (GW) of installed capacity for solar energy worldwide, and that number is projected to reach 1,600 GW by the year 2040. The IEA also projects that the amount of installed wind energy capacity will increase from 88 GW in 2017 to 454 GW by the year 2040.
These figures are indeed impressive — but it’s important to put them in perspective. The global energy demand will increase by more than 40% by the year 2040. This means that the share provided by renewable energy will remain relatively low (24.2% in 2017, according to the IEA).
The Differences Between Solar Energy And Wind Energy
Solar energy and wind energy are both forms of renewable energy, but they serve different purposes and operate under different conditions. Solar energy is derived entirely from natural resources, such as the sun, and does not depend on fossil fuels, nuclear energy, or hydroelectric dams for operation. It is, therefore, completely sustainable. Wind energy, on the other hand, is dependent on resources such as air and gravity (winds), and thus is not necessarily sustainable.
One of the most significant differences between the two is their daily cycle. Solar energy only produces energy when the sun is shining, which is why it’s often described as “24/7” power. The sun doesn’t turn off, so with solar energy you don’t need to worry about power generation during times of no sunlight or bad weather. Wind energy, on the other hand, does produce energy even when the sun isn’t shining, which is why it’s called a “capacity factor” of 40% (the lower the capacity factor, the less reliable the energy source).
Another significant distinction between solar energy and wind energy has to do with how they function. While solar energy is a form of direct current (DC), wind energy is a form of alternating current (AC). In terms of power delivery, the output of a solar cell is DC, which means that it operates at a steady voltage (electricity is measured in volts, while power is measured in watts). Wind energy, on the other hand, operates at a more sporadic voltage, which makes it more difficult to store.
The Coexistence Of Wind And Solar Energy
One of the significant differences between solar energy and wind energy is that the first can be deployed almost anywhere, while the latter requires more careful planning and forethought. This is especially important because, although the IEA projects that the amount of installed wind energy capacity will increase by more than 40% over the next decade, solar energy is still more widely available and can be put to use more easily. The IEA also projects that 15.9 gigawatts (15.9 GW) of combined solar energy and wind energy capacity will be installed by the year 2030.
The reason that so much of the existing wind energy capacity is connected to or integrated with solar energy and/or other alternative energy sources is that connecting wind farms to the grid is both expensive and unreliable. Wind turbines are typically large in dimension and require more space than a typical residential or commercial building. They are also very sensitive to temperatures, as they need to be kept cold in cold climates and hot in hot climates. This makes them more difficult and time-consuming to maintain.
Renewable Energy Sources Play A Part In The Mix
The energy crisis has led to the creation of a number of renewable energy sources, including solar energy and wind energy. The IEA projects that renewable energy will account for 24.2% of the world’s total energy supply in 2017 and will more than double that share to 48.6% by the year 2040.
Hydroelectricity, nuclear energy, and fossil fuels continue to play a part in the world’s energy mix, but their contributions are declining as more and more people look towards alternative energy sources. These alternatives are considered “renewable” because they are extracted from natural resources and thus do not pose the same environmental threats as their non-renewable counterparts. The growing availability of renewable energy sources will, therefore, play an important role in reducing the world’s energy-related CO2 emissions, which contribute to climate change.
While hydroelectricity provides a relatively stable source of energy, its usefulness is somewhat limited due to its dependency on the environment. For example, hydroelectric dams generate a great deal of controversy because they play an important role in altering the natural landscape. They also create social and economic disparities, as the communities that the dams affect tend to be the poor and disenfranchised. It is estimated that, due to climate change, the number of places where hydroelectric power is viable is shrinking rapidly.
Nuclear energy provides a more reliable source of energy, but the environmental concerns associated with it cannot be overlooked. While the world’s nuclear power plants produce approximately 4% of the planet’s energy supply, they also emit significant amounts of harmful radiation into the atmosphere. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the nuclear energy industry causes more than 25 million cancer deaths per year and calls for its continued reduction in the face of the climate crisis.
Fossil fuels — the source of energy for most of human history — are the single largest source of carbon emissions globally. The IEA projects that, by the year 2030, fossil fuels will still account for more than 60% of the world’s energy supply. Despite its significant contribution to the world’s energy supply, fossil fuels are highly combustible and cause significant air pollution when used in motor vehicles and industrial settings. The cost of extraction and refinement is also significant, contributing to significant global economic inequality.
These concerns have led to a rise in the popularity of solar energy and wind energy as viable alternative energy sources. Their growing popularity is most evident in rooftop solar energy, where the ability to generate power and energy when needed is highly convenient. Since much of the existing wind energy capacity is intermittent, connected to the grid, or integrated with solar energy, it is made more reliable by allowing for “capacity sharing” between the various energy sources. This is made possible through advanced metering and communication technologies, which allow for the measurement and monitoring of energy production, any imbalance in supply, and the automatic and remote control of appliances and systems to optimize consumption.
The combination of these two dominant forms of renewable energy, if used efficiently, can reduce the strain on the traditional fossil fuels still used in most parts of the world. Furthermore, because they do not contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, solar energy and wind energy provide a significant opportunity to combat the climate crisis. Wind energy and solar energy production are both on the increase, and it seems that the future of energy generation may look a lot like the present, with the dominant forms of renewable energy integrated and coexisting alongside fossil fuels.