It’s a no-brainer that renewable energy sources are great, but if you’re wondering whether you should consider installing a wind and solar hybrid system for home use, this is a must-read!
Unlike standard renewable power solutions, a hybrid system combines different technologies to tap into the full potential of the environment you live in. With a solar and wind hybrid system, your household can generate electricity during sunny and windy weather conditions.
What is a Wind and Solar Hybrid System?
As the name suggests, a solar and wind hybrid system generates energy with both solar and wind sources. The solar and wind power generating components are installed as one, although they’re mostly still detachable.
With a hybrid system, power is generated when either or both energy sources are present. A standard hybrid system uses the solar source to charge the batteries first, and the wind source is used after that if necessary.
The wind turbine can be a vertical or horizontal axis turbine, and this direction will depend on the typical wind speeds in your region.
How do Wind and Solar Hybrid Systems Work?
Wind and solar hybrid systems work by generating power the same way as each system would when used independently. The only difference is that a hybrid system uses hybrid inverters and batteries to store the generated energy.
Because the power generated is stored in batteries, you can still have a power supply later when the sun has set and the wind has settled.
READ MORE: Pros and Cons of Solar Energy
The Advantages of a Wind-Solar Hybrid System
Hybrid systems have significant advantages compared to standard energy systems because the best of two or more are combined. The most notable benefits of a solar and wind hybrid system are:
Wind and solar resources complement one another. Wherever you live, the sun is likely shining, or the wind is blowing. When wind and solar power production are used together, power generation continues throughout the year.
Reduced Storage Needs
When only one method of power generation is used, a large storage need arises. The sun doesn’t shine all day, and the wind doesn’t blow strong enough year-round, which means that if you want to be off-grid, you’ll need more batteries to store power. However, combining solar and wind energy reduces these storage needs. Although you’ll still need to store power, you won’t need to store as much. When there’s no sun, there’s usually plenty of wind.
While solar systems require weekly check-ups to prevent 30 – 40% output drop, wind turbines only need annual maintenance. When you have a wind-solar hybrid system, you’ll spend less time cleaning solar panels.
Despite being a hybrid system, a combined wind and solar system is still easy to install. A person with the skillset to install a solar energy system will be able to install a hybrid one.
You can extend your battery life by as much as 50% when you install an off-grid wind-solar hybrid system. Because the wind will typically blow when the sun isn’t up, there won’t be a great need for battery storage.
A hybrid system uses less space than a standard solar system. When adding a wind turbine, you decrease the surface space needed for your renewable energy source by eliminating the need for as many solar panels.
Breaking Down the Components of an Off-Grid Wind-Solar Hybrid System
Each component of a hybrid energy-generating system works independently.
A solar panel frames many connected solar cells. These cells capture and convert sunlight into electricity. Electricity produced by a solar panel is direct current (DC) and not alternating current (AC) electricity. An inverter is used to change the electricity from DC to AC.
The amount of electricity produced will depend on how many cell panels you have. The energy generated will be stored in a battery, and the cells will re-produce electricity until the battery is full. Electricity produced after the battery has reached its capacity can be used as it is generated.
Solar panels work no matter how strong the sun shines. The panels will capture even the slightest glimpse of sunlight through thick clouds.
Wind turbines use the kinetic energy of wind to rotate. When the blades rotate, an electric generator turns to produce energy.
Most wind turbines have cut-in and cut-out speeds. The type, model, and manufacturer determine these. Typically, 5 m/s of wind speed above 100 m height is the cut-in speed, and the cut-out is 25 m/s. When wind speeds reach 25 meters per second, the pressure is too high for the turbines to handle, and they stop rotating to prevent damage.
While the ideal height of a wind turbine is 100 meters from the ground, vertical axis wind turbines work best in residential areas since they only need to be 20 meters from the ground. This type of wind turbine doesn’t require a specific wind direction, and many installations in urban and residential areas have performed satisfactorily in the past.
When electricity is stored in a battery, it is released as chemical energy. Lithium-ion batteries work best for small-scale solar installations. They’re rechargeable, have a long life span, charge at high speeds, and handle deep discharges. Other battery types include lead-acid, Nickel-Cadmium, and Sodium Sulphur.
When you want to generate power for specific appliance use, the battery needed will depend on the energy capacity, discharge rate and depth, operating temperature, and energy density of the battery type.
How is Solar and Wind Energy Converted to Electricity?
An off-grid wind-solar hybrid system completes four processes before an electric load is available for use from the battery bank.
Naturally, the collection of energy occurs first. Solar panels capture and convert solar radiation to electrical power, while wind turbines generate energy as their blades turn.
Once energy is generated, it runs through a charge controller. The charge controller simultaneously powers the load and charges the batteries.
The charge controller has many protective features in place to ensure that no damage occurs during this process. These features include over-charge -, short-circuit -, and pole confusion protection. The controller also has an automatic load dump function.
When power is not being generated, the charge controller pumps energy into the load.
If you want your solar and wind hybrid system to function off the grid, batteries are non-negotiable. You need to choose storage batteries that can fulfill your load requirements.
To calculate the battery size you’ll need, your installer will look at:
- Your total daily electricity use in watt-hour (Wh)
- The total backup time of the battery
The inverter is often referred to as the brain of the process. During the inversion process, energy is converted from one current to another to make it safe for home use.
The Cost of a Wind-Solar Hybrid System
While solar system installation is cheaper than wind power systems, it is still worth it to opt for a hybrid system instead. Your biggest expense will be the initial one, and if you already have a wind or solar system in place, you’ll only need to pay to add the other.
Hybrid energy systems compete well against conventional energy generating sources. Your initial cost will depend on the brand and system type you choose, its size, the wind resource on-site, and the battery bank required.
To minimize the cost of your hybrid solar and wind system, you need to increase the use of renewable energy resources. In the long run, reduced utility costs will show your most significant investment return.
Energy Use Planning
When you’re living off-grid, it’s good to know which common household appliances use the most energy. Planning your appliance use accordingly can help you remain off-grid with zero electricity bills.
Appliances that generally consume the most electricity in a household per month are:
- Old appliances
- Washing Machines and Dryers
- Air Conditioners or Heating Systems
If you want to stay off the grid, you can make many smart decisions to ensure that you never run out of renewable energy.
While a refrigerator needs to run all day and night, you can limit your kettle use to when the sun is shining. Washing machines can also be pre-loaded to run early mornings, and line drying is an option to eliminate electricity use by dryers. Most portable AC units also use less electricity than wall-mounted ones. Lastly, if you have any old appliances, consider replacing them with newer, energy-efficient models.
Reducing your carbon footprint is essential and using renewable energy at home is a great way to do this. A hybrid energy system takes full advantage of natural elements that occur year-round. If you’re in an ideal location, you’ll be able to generate power every minute of the day.
Standard solar or wind energy systems can be enough when large installations are done, but where that isn’t possible, a wind and solar hybrid system for home use works best.