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Solar Panels vs. Wind Turbines: What’s Better?

Solar panels or wind turbines: which is the best option? Learn the benefits and downsides of both solar power systems.
Solar Panels
7 minutes
Written by:
Joey Cheek
Updated on:
March 27, 2023

Solar panels vs wind turbines, which is the superior choice for renewable energy? Wind turbines offer a significant energy output and can sustain large-scale energy production, whereas solar panels have no moving parts, operate quietly, and require little maintenance. Even though wind turbines are more efficient, they take up more space and cost more than solar panels. To make a smart choice, you should think about the pros and cons of each technology in relation to your energy needs, where you live, and your budget. In either case, installing solar panels or wind turbines will cut your carbon footprint and utility bill.

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What You Should Know About Residential Solar Panels

Both solar and wind power are renewable sources of energy. That means they do not use fossil fuels. That also means you can generate power for your home or business and lower your energy costs by not relying on the local utility company to meet your needs. Yet, there are different options to consider, and producing usable electrical energy cost-effectively is essential to most people. Are wind turbines an option, or should you consider solar panels?

Solar panels are typically installed on a roof, though there can also be ground mount systems. They collect the sun’s energy through direct sunlight and then convert it into electrical energy that can power the home. 

To work, solar panels have photovoltaic cells. These are layers of semi-conductive material, most often silicon, that can absorb the sun’s UV rays. This then stimulates electrons to move around, resulting in an electrical current.

Most of the time, a solar panel for the home can produce between 150 and 450 watts of solar power. That is typically enough to meet most needs in a home. Solar panels are about 15 to 20% efficient, which isn’t always as efficient as many think.

The average US home needs about 30 kilowatts per day of power, or about 20 residential solar panels, to eliminate their electricity bill. There are a lot of variances here. For example, where you live affects how much sunlight you have, and the solar panel efficiency rating will differ from one provider to the next.

Typically, you can expect to spend between $10,000 and $15,000, sometimes more and sometimes less, on solar panels. That may include the solar battery and all the components you need to get your solar system up and running.


  • Sufficient energy production for most property needs
  • Requires little space and compatible with most roof types
  • Lower installation and maintenance costs compared to wind turbines
  • Quiet operation and no moving parts 


  • Less energy production and efficiency
  • Only produces electricity in sunny conditions

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What to Know About Home Wind Turbines

Wind turbines can produce a significant amount of energy. About half of the energy from a wind turbine can power your home. That is a far higher energy efficiency than the average solar panel system.

Though they are less commonly used, wind turbines are an option for some people. Wind turbines look like giant windmills and are made up of propeller blades that turn on a rotor. Most of the time, these turbines are very high in the air to benefit from the winds. The wind causes the blades to turn, sending kinetic energy to the generator. This then converts the energy into a usable AC electrical charge.

Most of the time, the rotor diameter of these wind turbines will be anyplace from 3 feet to up to 23 feet. They can also stand from 60 to 100 feet tall, making them extensive fixtures. There needs to be enough space to dedicate to the wind turbine, which is generally around 30 feet above any obstacle in the area. It is estimated that a residential wind turbine can create as much as 900 kilowatts per month as long as the location has 14 miles per hour wind speeds. 

The average cost of a home wind system will range significantly by location and due to things like the height of the turbine and the amount of space required. In general, it costs around $40,000 or more to create a wind turbine that is powerful enough to meet a person’s electrical needs.


  • High energy output and efficiency 
  • Supports large-scale energy production needs 
  • Can produce energy at night 


  • High installation and maintenance costs 
  • Requires more space and equipment
  • Energy output depends on consistent wind speeds

Which One Is Better for the Environment?

When considering solar and wind power, costs and energy production are essential. Still, it is also important to consider which one can generate energy in a way that is safe for the plant. Both solar and wind energy can be valuable tools, as both do not require the use of fossil fuels, which reduces the impact on the planet. They are both green energy source options because the energy harnessed comes from unlimited energy sources – the sun and wind. That makes it a solid overall choice.

Both of these systems do not produce greenhouse gas emissions. That makes panels and wind turbines popular green energy alternatives. However, it is critical to consider which one may be better for the environment.

Solar panels have an energy source that is 100% renewable. That means it is a green energy solution. However, it is not a carbon-neutral system. That is because manufacturing and recycling solar panels can create carbon emissions. That is, the fabrication process for panels requires the use of numerous toxic chemicals. It also requires a significant amount of electricity and water to occur. The material used, such as glass, silicon, plastic, and aluminum, are recyclable, but the design of solar panels makes them harder to recycle, which can also impact the environment.

Wind power is also a clean energy source and is considered the cleanest of such sources. Undoubtedly, the emissions footprint is much lower than coal and natural gas. In fact, the emissions footprint of wind power is about four grams of carbon dioxide equivalent for each kWh produced. For solar, that’s about six grams. By comparison, gas results in 78 grams, and coal, one of the most common fossil fuels for electricity production, creates 109 grams.

It is important to recognize that there are some downsides to wind turbines. For example, they tend to require a lot of space, which means they can degrade natural habitats, especially when numerous wind turbines are created. Solar panels do not take up that much room. They can also harm animals, including bats and birds that collide with them.

Which One Is Best for You?

Wind turbines work well in areas where you have a lot of available space and do not have to worry about cutting down many trees. You also need higher average wind speeds (at least 14 miles per hour) to make it worthwhile. In addition, a home wind turbine will be more expensive to purchase and install, and though it can last as long as 20 years, it will need to be replaced over time. Wind turbines release no harmful emissions, but they do go through the manufacturing process, which impacts their overall environmental friendliness.

By comparison, solar panels cost less, often half the cost of wind turbines, though this depends on how many solar panels you need. To work efficiently, they need exposure to the sun’s radiation, which means the photovoltaic panels need direct sunlight to produce enough usable electricity efficiently; in some areas, that can be hard. Solar cells will last from 20 to 25 years and do not require much maintenance during that time frame.

When it comes to which one is a more efficient power source, there is no doubt that wind turbines work the best. The electricity generation ability of wind turbines is much higher than that of solar panels. Yet, many factors play a role in that, including location, atmospheric pressure, and more.

Joey Cheek

Find the Best Clean Energy Source for Your Home

To learn more about which option will produce enough energy for your home, whether wind and solar power or a combination, reach out to our team to learn more. In many situations, both solar and wind power will qualify for government subsidies, which could lower your costs for installation. 

A well-designed system, whether a large wind turbine or solar farm, can also be designed to meet the needs of a group of homes, opening the doors for shared costs.

To learn more about how wind turbines and solar power can help you, contact our team at SmartSolar. We can help you determine which renewable energy, including solar energy or both solar energy and wind energy, could be a good choice for your needs. 

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Meet the author:

Joey Cheek

Joey Cheek spent 10 years on the US National Speedskating Team where he competed in two Olympic Games, winning gold, silver, and bronze medals. He attended Princeton before diving into the startup and tech world. In 2011 he launched a livestreaming platform for sports before leading a team of engineers building next-gen news and content apps for Fortune 100 companies. He is the CEO and co-founder of, whose mission is to move the earth to cheap, abundant, carbon-free energy.

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