Throughout the U.S., the sun shines the brightest and longest during the summer months, when the wind speeds are lowest. During the winter, the winds are more intense and sunlight is less available. Because peak operating times are different for these methods of alternative energy, combining the two systems helps generate a steady source of power while increasing your energy independence.
A hybrid wind and solar system is ideal for anyone who lives in a remote location, as these systems tend to be stand-alone systems that are not connected to an electricity distribution system, according to the Department of Energy (DOE).
A study released in April by Reiner Lemoine Institute and Solarpraxis AG reveals that wind turbines and photovoltaic (PV) solar panels complement each other better than previously believed. Prior to the study, researchers were skeptical that wind turbines caused shading on the solar panels, which led to high yield energy losses for these hybrid systems. “This study shows that these shading losses are much lower than expected, provided the hybrid power plant is well designed,” said Alexander Woitas, head of the Engineering Department at Solarpraxis AG.
With shading loss of only 1 to 2 percent, Woitas said the study provided encouraging evidence that “more efficient utilization of space and infrastructure created by hybrid power plants has excellent prospects for the future.”
Combining wind and solar can also help protect residents against natural disasters, snowstorms and man-made disasters, as hybrid systems can maintain power if the grid fails. “The fact that wind and photovoltaic power supply the grid with much more stable levels of energy when working together has a positive effect on grid stability,” said Dr. Christian Breyer, Managing Director of the Reiner Lemoine Institute.
But don’t go running out to buy your backyard wind turbine before considering all the factors.
There are other costs associated with hybrid systems—particularly those that are off-grid. The DOE reveals that additional equipment is often necessary to safely transmit the electricity to the load that will use it, which may include batteries, a charge controller and power conditioning equipment, in addition to meters and instrumentation. This way, when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining, off-grid hybrid systems can provide power through batteries and/or a generator powered by conventional fuel.