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Let's say I have a fixed amount of money that I can either spend on a complete solar PV system (panels, inverter, all the hardware and wiring) or a complete wind system (turbine, inverter, all the hardware and wiring). This is for a typical residential application in terms of power needs and load profile. Let's assume this is an all-electric house with a back-up power source (either the grid, some batteries, a generator, or some combination).

What are the factors I need to think about to determine which choice is better?

Some things that I can imagine could have an influence (but I'm unsure exactly how):

  • Whether my backup source is reliable
  • Whether I can export (sell to the grid) or store (charge batteries) excess power
  • The cost of using my backup source
  • Local weather patterns

Background: A few years ago I read an article arguing that solar PV is almost always better, and that as PV costs decline and wind costs remain stagnant (the projections at the time), the position of PV would continue to improve. I'm wondering if this was accurate, and if it's still the case.

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Generally, solar is more reliable than wind. Ignoring arctic and antarctic latitudes most places get some sunlight during the day, even on overcast days. However, the same cannot be said for wind. Some places may experience no wind for prolonged periods. However, wind generators can be useful on windy nights, when there is no sun and solar panels are doing nothing.

Also, wind speeds can vary greatly and wind generators have to deal with gusts. Wind directions also vary. Domestic wind generators will need to be able to deal with wind from all directions.

Compared to solar panels, wind generators can be noisy.

Municipal councils may have height restrictions that may restrict the height of structures such a wind generator towers.

Ideally it would be preferable to have both, to be able to utilize more weather situations but if one is limited to only one, then I would suggest solar would be a better option for home applicaitons

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  • Also, don't forget about the wind turbines shadow, the effect on the landscape and the issue of wind friction - one of the reasons wind turbines are built larger and larger is so they can reach higher wind "layers" where there's less turbulence and thus more energy to be harvested. Still, there are some innovative solutions for domestic use, e.g. this one (no affiliation, I only happen to have seen these in use) - but I can't give you figures when it comes to the overall energy output per year.
    – Erik
    May 19 at 8:50

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