IS WIND POWER MORE EFFICIENT WHEN COMPARED WITH SOLAR POWER FOR VAN LIFE?
In a previous post on “How Does Wind Power Efficiency Compare with Solar Power for Van Life”, we explored how the two renewable energy sources can be efficiently utilised in different locations and weather conditions. In this article, we are going to answer the question, “Is wind power more efficient when compared with solar power for van life?”
Solar panels are a great way to generate renewable energy for van life, but they have one major drawback – they work under direct sunlight. They rely on photovoltaic cells to convert sunlight into electricity. Therefore, murky weather conditions reduces their efficiency.
Wind turbines, on the other hand, use the energy of moving air to spin turbines and generate electricity. They are not reliant on sunlight and can generate energy even on cloudy days, making wind power more efficient than solar energy.
HOW TO BENEFIT FROM INSTALLING SOLAR PANELS ON A CAMPERVAN?
The immediate and long-term benefits of installing solar panels for van life are far-reaching and plentiful.
First of all, solar panels do not incur any major running costs once installed. They do not require fuel or any external charge except for sunlight, and with the exception of accidental damage, they will likely not need replacing for a long time either. Most solar panels are rated for an operational life of at least 20, sometimes 30 years or more.
This makes them incredibly good value for money and as close to “free energy” as any van-mounted power delivery system can get. Solar panels are also entirely sustainable and renewable as an energy source. They do not emit contaminants, do not affect the health of the occupants of the van in any negative way, and are not harmful to the environment.
Coupled with their ability to function entirely off the grid, this makes them particularly attractive to environmentally-conscious van lifers. Finally, one further benefit of using solar panels on a campervan is that, compared to alternatives, they save a lot of precious space. Every van lifer knows that maximising the use of available internal volume and external carrying capacity is a must, and solar panels are excellent in this regard.
In recent years, solar panels have gotten more powerful, yet also thinner and lighter. This sleekness allows them to be used in countless configurations and locations that would not be possible with bulkier power delivery solutions.
HOW PORTABLE WIND TURBINE POWER CAN BE MORE EFFICIENT?
Like solar power, using portable wind turbines offers plenty of unique advantages for powering a campervan.
One of these that the two share is the inherent cost-effectiveness of wind power. Airflow can be found in at least minimal amounts just about anywhere, and wind turbines are self-sustainable.
They generally do not require recurring maintenance costs, and just like solar panels, they are rated for exceptionally long service lives, which makes wind power more efficient.
Wind power is improving at a rapid pace over recent years, meaning that the latest in technology offers extremely competitive value for money. Resale value should also remain favourable given the high growth of the market.
Like other green energy sources, wind power is also entirely emissions-free. It does not pollute the environment in any way and does not pose a health risk to anyone nearby.
BONUS TIPS: PAIRING SOLAR AND WIND ENERGY
The differences between and unique advantages of solar and wind energy should now be clear. However, it is worth pointing out that the choice between solar and wind power does not have to be an exclusive one.
Savvy van lifers seeking to maximise power efficiency can easily combine the two means. This can not only help balance out their respective shortcomings but provide the user with a further increase in energy efficiency and reliability that wouldn’t be achievable otherwise.
The Benefits of Combining Wind and Solar Power
As elaborated on previously, both wind and solar power are incredibly cost-efficient installations, requiring little to no upkeep or maintenance costs past the initial purchase and setup.
Combining the two only makes the most of this key advantage. Running a compact wind turbine in addition to solar panels does not cost the van owner more than either would on their own – but it will reliably increase the amount of energy generated.
While neither airflow nor sunshine is permanently available anywhere, utilising both resources greatly minimise downtimes. This is because the two can balance each other out very predictably over the course of the year.
The warmer months of the year are generally when sunshine hits its peak while heavy winds are less common. Conversely, it is during the colder, darker seasons that wind power is more reliable.
In other words, combining wind and solar power lessens redundancy, providing the user with greater peace of mind and reduced downtimes. The only catch is the higher up-front cost, which pays for itself in the long term, thanks to the minimal maintenance and zero-emissions nature of the devices themselves.
Increasing the Efficiency to Charge a Power Station
Hybrid air-solar energy systems have displayed significant potential in commercial applications already.
One thing that van owners can learn from that success is that the inherent advantages of hybrid, green power systems are multiplied when they are utilised to feed a central power station or a battery. Utilising a battery allows for long-term energy storage.
Should a serious downtime or outage ever occur, this can be a life-saving asset, as it allows the user to rely on a certain reserve level of electricity even with both solar panels and wind turbines inactive.
To connect a hybrid power system to a battery, some additional up-front work is necessary. Generally, wind turbines generate alternating current (AC). Hence a charge controller may be required to supply the energy storage unit with direct current (DC).
Any excess energy, generated when all batteries are already at maximum capacity, also needs to have a viable alternative flow route. This is referred to as a dump load, and it needs to be incorporated into the electrical grid in the right manner to prevent damage to the equipment.
Despite the amount of work required, charging a power station using a hybrid air-solar energy system is the peak in efficiency, long-term reliability, and ease of use.
IS WIND POWER MORE EFFICIENT? A FINAL COMPARISON
Van lifers often acquire renewable energy sources, like wind energy or solar energy, to power their necessary devices and equipment to live comfortably during their journey.
Although a wind turbine is more efficient in campervans, as it only requires wind to generate electricity, its efficiency can be improved by combining with a solar panel.
This hybrid system can produce a good amount of energy regardless of weather conditions.
For instance, Texenergy’s portable wind turbines are compact and powerful and can charge devices up to 18V. Even an average airflow of nine miles per hour is enough to power various small appliances.
Nevertheless, combining these wind turbines with a compact solar panel will be an ideal setup for a van lifer. The portable solar panel will capture the sun’s energy and convert it into electricity, which would supplement the power generated by the wind turbine.
This is an entirely sustainable, eco-friendly van life power solution that can run 24/7 without significant downtimes or high maintenance costs.