Solar panels and wind turbines in a Canadian mountain region.

Summary

  • The costs of solar and wind technologies have gone down dramatically over the years, making production, installation and maintenance more affordable. However, for the technologies to take over fossil fuels in Canada, it is essential to find a practical and cost-efficient way to store solar and wind power when the sun is not shining, and the wind is not blowing.
  • With Canada being so big, it has many different geographical characteristics. Some parts of Canada are better suited to solar power, while others are more suited to wind power. In sunnier regions, solar panels will produce far more energy than wind turbines. Of course, wind turbines in a windy Canadian valley will produce more power than solar panels.
  • Wind turbines are considered more energy-efficient than solar panels. However, due to all the moving parts which make up a wind turbine, the difference in maintenance costs often makes solar power more economical.
  • In some Canadian provinces, such as Alberta, solar and wind work well together, providing multiple renewable energy sources and more local jobs.
  • Both renewable energy sources help reduce energy costs and have a positive impact on the planet  – with an equal role in reducing Canada’s dependence on fossil fuels and helping to fight climate change.

Introduction

Among the many renewable energy sources, solar power and wind power are two of the most popular green energy alternatives for fossil fuels. They can both be used as a domestic source of energy or installed for large-scale energy production, which means they can power a single household to whole communities.

The equipment used for extracting solar power is called a solar panel. The panels house photovoltaic (PV) cells, which transform the sun’s radiation into electricity. Wind power is produced using wind turbines. When the wind turns the turbine blades, a generator converts the energy of the rotating blade into mechanical power.

Nations worldwide are adopting both renewable sources into their net-zero initiatives, and Canada is one such country pushing hard to roll out solar and wind projects. So, both sources have their part to play in balancing out the number of greenhouse gasses produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere – but which one comes up top in the Canadian energy market?

Making Canada Cleaner and Greener

To take over fossil fuels in Canada, it is essential to find a practical and cost-efficient way to store solar and wind power when the sun is not shining, and the wind is not blowing.

Solar and wind power are clean sources of energy that help cut down toxic pollution – making Canada cleaner and greener. They can also help boost local infrastructure and the Canadian economy by creating job opportunities for local people. In addition, both renewable sources can be installed in the most remote regions, making them an excellent option for Canada’s diverse geography.

The price of solar and wind technologies has gone down dramatically, making production, installation, and maintenance more affordable. However, economic sustainability is still the main issue getting in the way of wide-scale renewable energy implementation. To take over fossil fuels in Canada, it is essential to find a practical and cost-efficient way to store solar and wind power when the sun is not shining, and the wind is not blowing.

Both solar and wind power have advantages over one another.

The advantages of solar energy over wind power:

  • Unlike wind turbines, solar panels have no moving components.
  • Solar systems can be installed in even the most extreme environmental conditions.
  • Solar panels are reliable and tend to come with a 25-year warranty.
  • Once installed, solar panels do not require much maintenance.
  • Solar panels make no noise when generating power.
  • The solar installation process is quick and requires minimal cables.
  • Solar energy technologies are constantly being improved.

The advantages of wind power over solar power:

  • Wind turbines can convert over half of the wind that passes through them into usable energy.
  • Unlike solar panels, which only work during daylight hours, wind turbines can produce power around the clock.
  • Wind turbines can work in whatever direction they are facing.

Where In Canada Is Solar or Wind Best?

There are locations in Canada where solar or wind work better than the other. Which is more effective will depend on where they are installed.

Canada with abbreviations of provinces and territories.
Canada is a vast country with many different geographical characteristics. This results in some parts of Canada being better suited to solar power, while others are more suited to wind power. For example, renewable energy experts have highlighted Saskatchewan as ideal for solar arrays as it is exposed to the greatest amount of sunlight in Canada.

Solar panels are a better option for energy production in mountain regions, especially when the ground is covered in snow. It has been found that snow-covered mountains can boost solar power production, which is excellent news for those living in mountain communities that often experience power cuts.

There are locations in Canada where solar or wind work better than the other. Which is more effective will depend on where they are installed. In sunnier regions, solar panels will produce far more energy than wind turbines. In a windy Canadian valley, wind turbines will produce more power than solar panels.

Wind systems need almost barren environments, with few large windbreaks and buildings – making large lakes and oceans ideal for power generation. Large solar arrays are also best suited to large open spaces such as fields and wastelands, but they also fare well in domestic and commercial settings and suburban areas when installed on rooftops.

As solar panels can be fitted on the rooftops of buildings, schools, businesses and even homes, they are more practical than wind turbines for suburban or urban regions. Moreover, as they provide silent energy production and do not take up much space, they cause little disturbance to those living close by or under solar panels.

Although wind turbines can be erected in suburban areas, most local Canadian authorities do not permit them because they create noise and can be a nuisance for those living in the neighbourhood. Wind power is better suited to rural communities that require electricity and are situated far away from cities.

A single wind turbine can produce the same amount of electricity per kWh as about 48,704 solar panels. With Canada’s booming agricultural industry, some are opting to build wind turbines on farms or ranches. It has a minimal effect on the farmers working on that land, and they get additional revenue from the rent paid by wind power plant owners for using their land.

There are concerns with wind turbines as the moving parts produce noise and have a substantial visual impact on the landscape. The other downside of wind energy is that the wind is not always strong enough to turn the turbine, and when too strong, it can push the turbine too fast, which can cause damage.

Due to all the moving parts which make up a wind turbine, they need regular maintenance. On the other hand, solar panels require less monitoring and less maintenance, so they are ideal for remote locations requiring little human intervention to keep functioning.

It has also been found that solar power provides more predictable energy output based on Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) data. In addition, solar power is less susceptible to damage and breaking down, so they work out as a more reliable renewable energy source than wind.

Which Is More Efficient and Cost-Effective?

While wind turbines are more energy-efficient than solar panels, the difference in maintenance costs compared to solar panels can level the playfield, making solar more economical.

Solar panel and wind turbine efficiency is determined by how well they can convert sunlight or wind into usable electricity, respectively – it is a matter of engineering and the limits of physics. Wind power efficiency is a measure of how much of the kinetic energy in the wind is converted to electrical energy. Some of the energy will inevitably be lost in the conversion process. Even when a wind turbine is generating power at maximum capacity, the usable electricity generated is only 50% at best, which is only a fraction of the energy in the wind.

The most efficient solar panels available on the market can convert around 20% of energy harnessed from sunlight into actual electrical energy. There is, however, lots of research going into improving solar cell efficiency, and it could soon match wind power of 50% efficiency.

Although wind power currently comes up top as far as efficiency, all the moving parts in a wind turbine leaves room for many things to go wrong than in a solar panel. Wind turbine maintenance includes lubricating the moving parts, checking connections within the system, and discovering and correcting any unforeseen issues. In addition, wind turbines can require two or three preventative maintenance check-ups every year. As the wind turbine ages, the frequency of these maintenance check-ups may need to increase, costing more money.

One of the benefits of a solar energy system is that there are no moving parts, resulting in less potentially going wrong and less maintenance required than wind power. As a result, very little needs to be done when maintaining a solar system apart from the occasional panel clean.

When it comes to comparing the cost of wind and solar power installation, there are too many variables to answer accurately. Many factors come into play – from the size of the system, the environmental factors (such as wind and sun exposure) to local ordinances and incentives. As a general benchmark, the average for residential and commercial installation costs about $2.19 per watt to install solar energy. According to the American Wind Energy Association, wind power costs around $1.50 per watt of generating capacity. While wind turbines are more energy-efficient than solar panels, the difference in maintenance cost compared to solar panels can level the playing field making solar more economical.

Closing Thoughts

Determining which is the best renewable energy market in Canada will be down to where the project is being considered in Canada. In some Canadian provinces, such as Alberta, both wind and solar should provide multiple renewable energy sources.

The popular opinion is that wind power makes sense on a utility scale or for home and commercial use in rural communities with lots of space to spare. On the other hand, solar panels are great for the hard to reach places such as mountain regions or in densely populated cities where space is scarce.

Both renewable energy sources help to reduce energy costs and have a positive impact on the planet. Wind and sunlight are both sustainable, abundant and inexhaustible – playing an equal role in reducing Canada’s dependence on fossil fuels and its fight against climate change.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do wind turbines or solar panels produce more energy?

Wind energy is more efficient but less abundant than solar energy. Currently, renewable energy experts consider wind turbines to be more efficient than solar panels. The high-efficiency solar panels available on the market can capture and convert about 23% of sunlight into energy, whereas wind turbines turn roughly 50% of captured wind into energy.

 

How many solar panels equal a wind turbine?

A 5kW wind turbine will produce around the equivalent amount of energy per day as 24 solar panels. This is enough energy for an average six-person household. Wind speed will, of course, affect this number, so another way to look at the comparison is if a local wind speed is ten mph, a wind turbine will generate an average of 2.8 kWh per day – which is the equivalent of around eight solar panels.

 

Is solar or wind a better investment?

All investments come with their risks. Solar panels, however, are cheaper than wind turbines per kWh. They are also a cheaper way to generate power and cost less when it comes to long-term maintenance. Wind turbines require more upkeep due to their many moving parts and are more prone to breaking.

 

Where is the largest solar project in Canada?

The largest solar farm in Canada is called Travers Solar, located east of Champion (Alta). It is a massive solar array with a projected 1.3 million solar panels spread across 3,330 acres. The project is in the early stages and is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2022. The capacity of the solar project is 465 megawatts AC – enough to power more than 150,000 homes.

 

How many wind farms are operational in Canada?

There are currently over 300 wind farms operating in Canada, including projects in two of the three northern territories. In 2019, Canada’s wind generation grew by 597 megawatts (MW) spread among five new wind energy projects – representing an investment of over $1 billion.

 

Westbridge Energy Corporation

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