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Solar Power or Wind Power for Home?

Solar power and wind power are two of the most advanced sources of renewable energy at this point in time.  Wind power, like solar power, has been increasing in installed capacity year over year.

In fact, 6.33% of the energy in the US comes from wind power while only 1.13% of our country’s power comes from solar.  Why is there such a big difference? And, if wind power is such a viable power source, why don’t we see more residential wind power installs in NJ?

The quick answer to the difference in capacity is how well wind energy does in a large grid supply scenarios as an alternative to fossil fuel or nuclear power plants.  

In the great plains of America, wind capacity is at its greatest, and many utilities have adopted this technology in an effort to achieve a more well rounded Renewable Energy Portfolio.  In fact, Texas, the state known for oil and gas, is the nation’s largest producer of wind power, with over 20,000 MW in installed capacity as of 2017. The 30% tax credit, the low cost of materials, and other state incentives have made this growth possible.  Solar also has its place in grid connected scenarios, but in most of the country, you can fit more MW of wind per acre than solar.

In New Jersey, wind capacity is minimal compared to the rest of the country and also when compared to the state’s own solar capacity.  

New Jersey has offshore wind capability, and part of Governor Murphy’s renewable energy goals include offshore wind on a larger scale. What New Jersey has been known for in the renewable energy space is solar energy.  New Jersey has incentivized homeowners and business owners to install solar energy through an energy credit program known as the SREC program. A program like this is not available for wind power producers at this point  In New Jersey, your alternative power installation for your home will most likely be a solar power installation. When you install solar power on your home in New Jersey, it can be financed for $0 down or purchased outright, and the return on investment can be as quick as 5 year sometimes.  This is because of the energy savings, the 30% tax credit, and the SRECs. With wind, you would only get the tax credit and the energy savings.

Even with a program similar to wind, it is still less likely to find its way on homes in New Jersey.  Most townships in New Jersey are going to have restrictions off the bat.

There is a safety concern with a rotor that can operate at high speeds in residential areas.  Furthermore, in order to get a decent capacity out of a wind turbine, a clearance of approximately 30 feet above nearby roofs and trees is often needed. This means that wind is best suited for farms or more rural properties and will have a harder time becoming mainstream in a residential space.  There is also the issue of cost. Many wind power installs on homes will have a small capacity and will not offset the home’s power needs. A wind power installation on a home in NJ is best suited to be coupled with a solar power installation. Even a turbine with large capacity for a home would cost upwards of $5/watt to be installed which is almost double the going rate of residential solar power installations in New Jersey.  

Other concerns would be around maintenance.  One of the selling points around solar is that they are virtually maintenance free with no moving parts.  With wind power installs there is need for yearly oiling and tightening maintenance. And finally, wind energy can be inconsistent in a residential scenario.  If the wind is less than 5 mph then there is absolutely no output, even on the sunniest of days.

If you are interested in having a green energy solution for your home, consider a solar power installation first and foremost.  Wind energy can be great if you have a farm and more open space, but most properties in New Jersey will stand to benefit more from a solar power installation over a wind power installation.

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