HOW DOES WIND POWER EFFICIENCY COMPARE WITH SOLAR POWER FOR VAN LIFE
With renewable energy sources gaining a strong tailwind in many consumer-grade applications, wind power efficiency is better now than it was before.
Given the increasing popularity of van life and associated lifestyles, a rapidly growing number of people are considering installing such green power sources into their vehicles to save on electricity bills.
But which of the two front-runners in this field, wind power or solar power, is more efficient? Which is best to install in a custom campervan? This short guide is going to tackle that crucial question.
HOW TO GENERATE ENERGY USING VAN-MOUNTED SOLAR PANELS
Over the past century, solar panels have proven themselves as reliable, cost-effective power source, especially in large-scale industrial or domestic applications. But are they as efficient when used on a much smaller surface area, such as the roof platform of a van?
How Do Solar Panels Work?
To understand whether solar or wind power is more efficient, it is essential to understand how they function from a technical point of view.
Solar panels are composed of many individual photovoltaic cells that are arranged in an interconnected grid. The term “photovoltaic” refers to the ability to convert sunlight into electricity.
Photovoltaic cells do this by means of their physical construction. They have a thin semiconductor wafer inside that is made from positively and negatively charged layers of silicon that form an electric field.
When sunlight hits the surface of a photovoltaic cell, it disturbs the electrons and separates it from atoms – this motion of electrons releases energy, which can then be utilised or harvested by whatever the solar panel is connected to.
The Best Locations and Conditions for Solar Panel Installation
Any solar panel is only going to be as effective as its mounting location will allow for. Given the way in which they function, solar panels require consistent and unobstructed exposure to sunlight to be effective.
In fixed applications, the most efficient orientation is facing geographic south in the northern hemisphere and geographic north in the southern hemisphere, respectively. The reason is that the solar panels facing in these directions will receive the maximum amount of sunlight throughout the day.
Thankfully, vans are much more flexible in this regard compared to traditional homes, making installation a lot simpler.
A van’s roof and side panels can be re-oriented depending on the weather and time of day. Thus, the amount of light that the solar panels receive no matter where exactly they are mounted can be maximised very intuitively.
As for the angle of the solar panels, the perfect configuration will depend on the user’s priorities.
Theoretically, maximum efficiency could be achieved by employing a solar panel facing the sky at 90 degrees (such as mounted on the roof of a campervan) – but only at or very close to the equator. At different latitudes, finding the perfect angle for solar panels becomes a lot more complicated.
Many owners choose to fix solar panels at an angle that maximises exposure during the summer months, at the expense of less exposure during winter. Alternatively, if energy needs during the winter are more urgent (for heating, for instance), then the reverse is also possible.
HOW TO GENERATE ENERGY USING A PORTABLE WIND TURBINE ON A VAN?
One of the main alternatives to solar panels today that remains emissions-free while offering some unique advantages of its own is wind power. But is wind power efficiency more reliable than solar power when employed in the form of portable wind turbines? Find out below!
How Do Wind Turbines Work?
It is essential to understand the principles of the technology first before investing in it in any way.
In basic terms, the wind turbine provides electricity by means of a generator, usually built into a housing at the back of the device. This generator is powered by a driveshaft that in turn is connected to a number of concentric blades.
The blades are moved by ambient airflow. The resulting rotational energy flows through the shaft, which in turn feeds that energy to the generator to be converted to electricity.
The Best Locations and Conditions for Wind Turbine Installation
Wind turbines can work at nearly any level of ambient airflow, though naturally, wind power efficiency can be improved in environments where the air is passing at particularly large volumes.
Small-scale wind turbines reach their peak efficiency when airspeed is at or above 4 meters per second. In the context of a campervan that is always on the move, it might not be possible to predict with any accuracy the movements of air currents and their expected speed.
However, a good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that wind speeds will almost always be more favourable at higher altitudes than at lower altitudes. Van lifers will benefit from taking this in mind and planning their movements accordingly to maximise available power when it is needed.
CAN VAN LIFERS DEPEND ON WIND POWER EFFICIENCY?
Van life is an incredible option for individuals who want to maximise their independence while living a lifestyle that is environmentally conscious and travel-friendly.
To do so, van lifers can draw on plenty of power sources that function well off the grid, with both wind power and solar power being the front-runners in terms of low ecological footprint.
Solar or wind power efficiency depends largely on environmental conditions – from both daily and seasonal weather changes to differences in altitude and geographical location.
In some cases, local conditions can be so overwhelmingly favourable towards either solar or wind power as to make one significantly more efficient than the other.
Because such conditions are rare, using either system tends to involve compromises in one direction or another.
This does not mean that powering a campervan sustainably must involve only limited efficiency. Far from it: by combining wind and solar power into a hybrid system, it is very much possible to reap the benefits of both and maximise returns.
Take, for instance, Texenergy’s portable wind turbines. Attractively small yet powerful, they are capable of charging devices up to 18V. Even minimal airflow is enough to deliver a charge, which allows them to be used in a wide variety of environments.
The savings in space and cost from opting for such a versatile power source instead of a bulky generator can be further invested into any of our sleek, low-profile compact solar panels.