Renewable Energy Series: Solar Vs Wind | Answers With Joe

Today I wrap up my renewable energy series with a look at solar vs wind energy. Support me on Patreon!

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Legendary oilman T. Boone Pickens called the US the Saudi Arabia of wind and when you see maps like this, you understand why.

As the Earth spins toward the west, it slides underneath the air in the atmosphere, giving it from our perspective a generally eastward direction.

That easterly wind sweeps over the rocky mountains and then rushes back down across the Great Plains, creating one of the largest wind corridors in the world.

And in the last 10 years, investments in commercial wind energy have boomed across the United States. Economies of scale have started to kick in, causing the price of wind turbines to drop.

They also cost little to maintain and operate and help create energy independence for smaller communities and provide a revenue source for local ranchers who lease out the land to the energy companies.

And they’re more space-efficient. On the ground they take up very little space and those ranchers can still use the land below them for agriculture.

Plus it’s a large growth sector for jobs and currently employs over 100,000 people, expected to rise up to 600,000 in the next 30 years.

And there’s a reason I saved saved solar for last. Because there’s something different about solar from all other forms of energy, clean or dirty.

Photovoltaic solar panels, or PV panels, have no moving parts.

Every other energy source creates electricity by using heat or steam or water or wind to turn a turbine. Solar literally just collects the energy coming out of the sun and repurposes it.

When asked if he was interested in fusion power as a source of energy, Elon Musk famously said that we already have a massive fusion reactor in the sky just feeding us energy every day. All we have to do is collect it.

Now there are some negatives to solar power, let’s just get that out of the way…

First the obvious one, there’s no sun at night, so solar power is intermittent. But intermittent more like tidal energy than wind energy because we know the sun will be coming up every day.

And even in cloudy weather, it is producing something.

They take up a lot of land, unlike wind farms mentioned earlier, if you have a solar farm, you can’t use that for other things.

But, you can also use existing infrastructure like buildings and transport corridors.

The big hangups come in the construction of the solar panels because there are some hazardous materials used that need to be properly disposed of at the end of the panel’s life span.

And some PV panels require rare Elements like those found in cadmium telluride (CdTe) or copper iridium gallium selenide (CIGS), which is all the more reason to recycle the panels properly.

Luckily, 96% of a solar panel can be recycled. Unfortunately, the recycling infrastructure for solar panels is pretty small, but expected to grow tremendously in the next 30 years.

But the one that gets the solar haters the most worked up is that producing solar panels does generate greenhouse gasses. Specifically nitrogen trifluoride and sulfur hexafluoride. And yes, that sucks.

But the argument that we should stick with something like coal because PV panels create greenhouse gasses is frankly absurd.

Because with the solar panels, it’s a one-shot deal and then you’re getting clean, free energy for the next 20 or 30 years, while coal is constantly pumping out greenhouse gasses that whole time.

This debate was laid to rest by Wilfried Van Sark of Utrecht University in the Netherlands. In a paper for the trade Nature Communications, he and his team calculated the amount of greenhouse gas emissions created by PV panel production all the way back to 1975 to see how long it would take before they made back their debt.

I didn’t even mention the other type of solar energy, concentrated solar thermal plants.

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40 Responses to Renewable Energy Series: Solar Vs Wind | Answers With Joe

  1. Alec Grolimond says:

    Living in Thailand and going solar tomorrow.

  2. Ethan Goettge says:

    Joe that all sounds wonderful. I just hope smart people figure it out and the government stays the hell out the way because they do nothing cheep affordable or efficient

  3. devan bangert says:

    I like solar but what about energy storage for the night? My experience with battery's is they are expensive and have a relatively short life. Plus where I live power is 5 cents/kWh with no initial investment and is reliable. Until solar is cheaper for the average person with little to no initial investment, it won't be practical for a lot of people.

  4. Karl Haebler says:

    Great job! Thanks for the videos

  5. Q Q says:

    +Joe Scott I love solar, however there is only one problem I have with PV arrays aside from the greenhouse releases from their manufacture: A study I read in the 90s showed that a solar array breaks down and destroys itself in 30 years approximately(correct me if I am wrong the study might be out of date now) and with current electricity prices it takes about 30 years for solar panels to pay for their installation and manufacturing costs. Has this changed? Do they last longer than they used to? If so I might buy and install them.

    I might add something positive about solar though: wind and solar actually can go hand in hand. On days where it is overcast there is usually higher wind(at least in one article I read, I could be totally wrong). And on very sunny days there may be less wind. It would seen that wind and solar could complement one another nicely.

  6. Trevor Russell says:

    Is there a reason why we can't design solar panels that float on top of the ocean that also have turbines underneath to collect wave and tidal motion?

  7. Russell Fine Arts says:

    Great video Joe, thanks! Having worked in commercial wind energy for the past 10 years, I have to admit, wind turbines will not grow nearly as fast as solar as wind turbines will never get as cheap or as available as solar. All turbine manufacturers are scaling up, big time, to extremely large 5mW, land-bases and 10mW off-shore turbines but are only focusing on places where the winds are the strongest: mountain tops, Great Plains, off-shore, leaving solar all other space, which is HUGE! I own both a wind turbine (Skystream) and a 4.5kW PV array, on my house and the solar far, far out-produces the wind and both were about the same price. And, my solar is silent–forget it's ever there but my turbine is loud and always reminds us, it's there.

  8. TT says:

    Teachers inhale sulfur hexafluoride in science class to make their voices deeper.

  9. WestOfEarth says:

    Solar and the power wall really should be a high priority for everyone. Yes climate change…but also national security. If some hostile nation attacks another nation's power grid, whether through hacking or localized bombing, then currently there will be catastrophe. Not to mention if a large Coronal Mass Ejection from the sun wreaks havoc on our current electrical system. But if everyone had their own individual power sources, these dangers disappear. REally should be a national security imperative.

  10. bkingk8 says:

    Can you not just collect the greenhouse gases generated by the production of the panels?

  11. John Hall says:

    We must be careful about letting short-term effects skew our long-term planning. Electricity is abundant and cheap now. But as we electrify more and more of the economy we'll need massive new generating capacity (maybe 2.4x if we electrified everything). Wind and Solar will help but cannot come close to filling the need. For interesting reasons, nuclear has generally gotten a badly misinformed rap in the press. Far from being a corporate welfare queen, per kWh, nuclear gets less subsidy than almost any other generator. But more important is the promise of Advanced Nuclear. Non-water-cooled, inherently safe, much less waste (some designs use existing waste as fuel), no proliferation risk, and cheaper to build than a coal plant. Unfortunately these things are only a promise because in the U.S. we've defunded research and there is no way a non-water-cooled reactor can get a commercial license. China, Russia, and even Canada are not similarly impaired. Sad for us.

  12. David Bland says:

    1. Some electric companies don't buy back excess solar energy from consumers. 2. The cost associated with adding solar panels to your roof exceed the excess and/or output electric savings from having them in a 30 year house loan. Nuclear and fusion power is the future in the short term for the first and long-term for the latter in my oppinion.

  13. Dennis Burdick says:

    I had a grid tied PV system installed on my home in Colorado Springs. Overall I thought it was great. It can get rather windy there, so there was a fair amount of noise occasionally. Not a big deal, but something to consider for some.

    The idea of selling excess electricity back to the utility company was bogus. At least where I was the price was “off peak wholesale”, meaning jack sh*t. They did have a better deal. You could bank the excess kWhs that you could then use during the short snow filled Winter days.

  14. Dennis Burdick says:

    I had a grid tied PV system installed on my home in Colorado Springs. Overall I thought it was great. It can get rather windy there, so there was a fair amount of noise occasionally. Not a big deal, but something to consider for some.

    The idea of selling excess electricity back to the utility company was bogus. At least where I was the price was “off peak wholesale”, meaning jack sh*t. They did have a better deal. You could bank the excess kWhs that you could then use during the short snow filled Winter days.

  15. Gordon Woodroffe says:

    Solar saved me today lol need to get into wind power 😆😈😈😈😊

  16. EvilChairSlayer says:

    In sweden It's illegal to live off only with solar when you are connected to the grid. Only plus is that you can buy the power from them cheaper….

  17. alexa films says:

    this video helped me A LOT. Thanks Joe!!

  18. Sean Settgast says:

    You should do a video on Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors if you haven't already. I'd want to see how you think that stacks up against the other energy possibilities, including solar and wind.

  19. modolief says:

    3:40 — "But it's intermittent more like tidal energy than like wind energy, because the sun is gonna come up every day. If it doesn't, we've got bigger problems." Kind of like "Hey, it's great that I have electricity so I can cook dinner and play Nintendo afterwards. Oh wait, the nuclear power plant three miles from my house just had a meltdown? I guess I've got bigger problems now."

  20. join the conversation says:

    "YOU CAN PUT SOLAR PANELS ON YOUR ROOF"???? Only if You are ALLOWED! Some places require that You use OTHER PROFESSIONALS no matter that You might know perfectly well how to do the install. Other places DEMAND that You be part of the local grid. WHETHER YOU NEED IT OR NOT. And last of all? What will You do at night? Better find an alternate.

  21. Mr.T says:

    very innovative.

  22. Marco Koller says:

    Circuit trap expert lootf away article guest TV cost

  23. Adam Makuka says:

    Great video as always. However, being from Australia I think you need to make a peace on Australia’s power situation and Musk’s disruption. I hope that video comes soon as now the biggest Lithium battery in the world is complete in Australia.

  24. peter four says:

    Hard to believe that batteries store only 10 times the amount off energie than what is needed to create them.

  25. Davide Ferruzza says:

    Hej Dagogo! Nice videos on renewables and storage techs!!! It could be cool if you were doing a video on CSP (concentrating solar power) to follow your series on solar!

  26. Lane Gaspar says:

    A few families consume electricity openly and end up getting a $200-$500 power bill. There are occasions when even a rich family can`t seem to afford amounts like this for the approaching months. This is a producing power method “boma fetching unique” (Google it) to cut your electric bill and generate your own power.

  27. Hiled Jenus says:

    [Awesome Plan Here >>> ] It has just right information regarding solar electricity- its fundamental and how to size and install a system. Anyone with a little technical background can understand and follow easily. It illustrates real world solar electric design.

  28. Michael Rochelle says:

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  29. Ron Wilkinson says:

    Irrelevant, since the advent of the Searle effect generator.

  30. Richard Kent says:

    I'm taking a training course in solar panel installation, repair and maintenance. My instructor recommended this book [link here >>> ] as an excellent resource along with the course. I'm finding it invaluable. By buying it through Amazon, I saved considerable money and received it very quickly.

  31. Orion Michael Guy says:

    Why not just massive weights on rails on the side of a mountain?

  32. S Owens says:

    Looks like a scam to me. They're talking about stuffing it inside a mountain, as if that matters. They're also talking about a lot of manipulation of the air, which is likely to cost more than the output of spinning a turbine.

  33. Shane Reinholdt says:

    find every news outlet takes these Chinese propaganda notations; as Cold Fusion has done with this phrase, “China has taken over as the leader of green technology leaders.” Which is a completely false statement but I guess it sound right?!?! And everyone is saying it… But the reality it’s the United States, but I guess Tesla and its Solar City subsidiary have become so entrenched the layperson can’t see the clouds through the fog!
    And second China is burning less coal… surprised? shouldn’t be … it was 15 yrs ago now and China Power Generation Coal resources where estimated only to be 40yrs remaining at those current rates when those stats had been public… simply meaning 25 yrs or more like 20yrs and china is having to importing massive amounts of foreign coal from all over the pacific rim and beyond…
    Get the facts straight china is leading the renewables of low, cheap cost alternatives but they are not the actual leaders!!!

  34. har4084 says:


  35. ahmed faisal faisal says:

    what do you think of oxygen power supply
    or carbon power supply

  36. Etheoma says:

    Well that was interesting, and it doesn't seem infeasible either apart from that heat storage part but it could be totally a thing, although I only partly see why you need to store the heat because you would think you could use the super cold air to cool the dynamo in the turbine to make it a super conductor increasing it's efficiency so you would pass the super chilled air while it expands though the dynamo then though the heat storage then into the turbine.

    That means you can decrease the efficiency of the heat storage which I would assume would be one of the most expensive parts because you would be getting some of your heat from the dynamo.

  37. Adrian Armirail says:

    hi Dagogo.. check out SilentPower AG and Economo AG in Switzerland. They are working on covering growing energy needs with synthetic Methanol. Might be interesting to you as well.. cheers

  38. Philip McMorrow says:

    Could you use Elon Musks boring company and machines to bring down the costs of building the facilities?

  39. Dookie Mane says:

    funnel half of the U.S. annual military budget into science & technological innovation!

  40. Desert Lizard says:

    cavity within a mountain?? what are you talking about? did you study some geology?

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