wind turbines and solar panels

How Does Wind Energy Compare With Other Renewable Energy?

Jane Marsh - June 19, 2017

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What do LEGO, Google and IKEA all have in common? They use wind energy to help power their business—and they may have celebrated Global Wind Day on June 15.While wind power may be a popular choice for companies like LEGO, it’s not everyone’s go-to renewable energy source. Other renewable options, like solar and geothermal energy, offer competitive benefits. So how does global wind stack up with other renewable energy sources? Let’s take a look.

Wind vs. Solar Energy

Wind and solar energy are two leading choices for renewable energy. By 2020, it’s anticipated 3.8 million homes will have solar power, and 10 percent of the US’s electricity will be supplied by wind energy. To understand the appeal of these energy sources further, let’s see how they compare and contrast.

Power Generation

Because wind and solar rely on natural environmental factors, weather conditions influence their energy productions. Wind depends more on location. Scotland’s 115 mph winds, for example, produced enough wind energy to power the country—turbines need only 12 mph winds to generate energy. Solar energy functions well almost everywhere. Daily weather conditions, like in the Mojave Desert, also influence power generation. The Mojave Desert receives twice as much sunlight as the rest of the US, which is why it houses several solar plants.

Cost and Payback

It wasn’t until 2016 that solar power dropped below the price of wind power installations. The new, low cost of solar applies only to emerging market economies, like China and India.In Europe and the US, wind power costs less than solar arrays. Wind energy systems are priced around $30,000 for powering entire homes, but smaller grid-tied systems can cost between $4,000 to $9,000. Depending on the turbine’s size and price, it can take up to 30 years to recover costs.Solar power users in the US can take advantage of a 30 percent tax credit when they purchase a solar array. The final price for a solar system ranges from $10,000 to $32,000. Most homeowners can recover their investment costs in seven years, though more expensive systems can take almost 20 years.

Visual Appeal

Because wind power requires open areas with high wind speeds, it’s common for landowners or companies to capitalize on an area, resulting in wind farms. For some, wind farms take away from the landscape.Some users consider the aesthetic of solar panels on their home’s roof. However, solar array designs, like Tesla’s, mimic a roof’s appearance.

Wind vs. Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy is a growing option for states like California and countries like Iceland. Wind and geothermal energy differ in a few ways, similar to solar and wind power.

Power Production

Geothermal energy, unlike wind, does not depend on day-to-day weather conditions. It’s reliant on the Earth’s heat, which is constant. Systems for geothermal energy also use underground springs or geysers to produce energy.Location is a factor for wind and geothermal energy. While wind thrives in the US’s Midwest and offshore locations in Denmark, prime geothermal locations are found in the Western US Areas outside of these regions can still use geothermal energy, though.

Cost and Investment

 A residential geothermal energy system costs between $15,000 to $40,000 — a wind turbine costs around $30,000 to power a home. Geothermal energy benefits from a 30 percent US tax credit, which can reduce your upfront costs.Three to seven years is the general timeframe for receiving a return on your geothermal investment, which compares to a wind turbine’s minimum payoff time of six years.

Environmental Impact

Because a geothermal energy system is located underground, users do not need to factor in its appearance. The environmental impact of both geothermal and wind power, however, is something to consider.Turbines are known for causing the death of birds. Geothermal systems, depending on their type, also impact the environment. Open-loop, industrial geothermal systems, for example, release carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.Wind, solar and geothermal energy all have drawbacks when providing renewable energy. However, investing in these renewable power sources offer the opportunity to adapt and improve these systems, while reducing emissions from non-renewable resources.Have your own ideas, comments or questions about our wind energy articles? Contact me so we can work together on creating helpful articles regarding wind, solar, or geothermal energy while making the world a better place to live.

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About the author

Jane Marsh

Starting from an early age, Jane Marsh loved all animals and became a budding environmentalist. Now, Jane works as the Editor-in-Chief of where she covers topics related to climate policy, renewable energy, the food industry, and more.