Renewable energy sources are constantly being renewed or restored from natural sources such as sunlight, wind, and moving water. Photovoltaic (solar electric) systems are solar energy systems that produce electricity directly from sunlight. A wind turbine converts the kinetic energy from air current flowing across the earth’s surface into rotational energy which spins an electric generator that produces electricity. Similarly, a water turbine converts the movement of water into rotational motion which spins an electric generator producing electric energy.
Wind and water turbines require considerable engineering and cost to safely install. Wind turbines are placed on top of towers requiring guy wires to secure the tower against the forces of the wind interacting with the turbine. A water turbine is located on a river or stream to harvest the energy of moving or falling water. The water needs to be contained in a pipe before passing through the turbine. Directing the water to a pipe and securing the pipe mandates extensive engineering and construction. Photovoltaics are simpler to install as there are several manufacturers of the panels and mounting systems. Obviously, sunlight is much more readily available as compared to the proper site for a wind or water turbine.
Author: William D. Wright, PE
NABCEP - Certified PV Installer