Archive | Wind Power

Solar and Wind For Sailboats – What is Best?

What is the best way to approach making your own electricity when you are planning on living aboard a sailboat? This is the decision that my wife and I are getting ready to make in the very near future assuming a few things line up. But, one of the main questions we have is with regard to output and of course what types of things we can expect considering the places we plan to sail.

One of the used sailboats we are very highly considering to purchase, has both wind and solar.  There are a total of 3 solar panels on the boat, two smaller ones and one larger one which add up to a total of 250 watts.  AND, we have been told by some other sailors that this should be just about enough to allow us to run the small refrigerator and some night-time lights and a few other common things.

Charging the Engine Batteries with Solar

Believe it or now, I for sure overlooked one of the biggest objectives that I should have considered all along with my solar power interest….being able to charge the starter battery.  That’s right, the sailboat’s diesel engine is of absolutely no use if there isn’t any juice left in the batteries to get it started when its needed.  So, after talking with the current owners and consulting the manuals, it definitely appears that the current PV solar panels will supply more than enough electricity to make sure we have enough to crank over the inboard engine when the time calls.

Here is an article about figuring out what is best for your sailboat when considering solar and wind:

What about a Wind Generator on Sailboats?

This particular sailboat, and Island Packet, also has wind on its transom.  And, depending on the time of year, we have heard that the wind turbine will quite possibly supply more power than the solar panels.  This was actually some great news.  When it’s windy and we need electricity, we can turn the brake off the turbine and let it rip.  When we are topped off, we can simply turn the brake on and not have to listen to it whipping around all the time.

There are some concerns we have as potential sailors, and if we move forward with all this, we’ll have to see if what everyone is saying is true about the system’s capabilities.  But, with our fingers crossed, it looks like we might be getting in some off-the-grid living afterall, just not on land.

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Wind Power vs. Solar Power

wind power compared to solar panels

wind vs. solar

To compare the potential benefits of wind power vs. solar panels in terms of the capabilities to produce electricity, you first need to understand the requirements for both types of renewable energy systems.  They are very different, and both of them come with their own set rules for working properly.  Please note that although is focused and geared towards solar energy, this is an unbiased assessment of both of the two technologies.

Wind Power Requirements:30 ft. wind turbine

  1. Excellent long term wind studies documenting that a consistent heavy amount of wind is present all year round
  2. Ground clearance which will not create a safety problem for the propeller of the wind turbine hitting other objects and of course not hitting another person or animal
  3. Local noise restrictions must be investigated, local zoning laws may prohibit wind turbines in certain locations
  4. Wind turbine maintenance and the long term maintenance schedule should be investigated in great details
  5. Interconnection with the local utility grid to provide the opportunity to sell back unused kilo watt hours
  6. Proper home owners insurance for the wind turbine in case of a tornado or hurricane

Solar Power Requirements:

  1. Excellent sunlight hours
  2. Available roof space with a new roof that can last 25 years or more
  3. Proper angle of the solar panels towards the sun
  4. Professional solar panel installation and connection to the utility grid
  5. Alternate plan for maintenance with several different solar power companies in case one goes out of business
  6. Clearance with the local building inspector or permitting office

Electricity Production of Wind Powered Turbines:

Wind turbines have traditionally been able to produce much more electricity per dollar spent on materials to make the systems.  This has been the case for years, especially with larger scale utility grade wind turbines.  This is the reason why there are so many wind powered turbines in the hills of California and other parts of the United States and world where there is a known wind presence.  Even to this day, it is a very close race and there is still more electricity produced by Wind Turbines in the United States compared to from Solar panels, but this is going to change any day now.

Solar Panel Costs to Install Are Decreasing:

Over the past decade, the overall costs to install solar panels to produce electricity have decreased by over 50%.  This is very significant because it is now considered the most cost effective renewable energy source for producing electricity.  The government funding that has been available for several years makes this clean energy source even more attractive, even when compared to wind power.  The difference with solar and wind power is that many people, especially in urban and suburban areas do not want to listen to the noise that wind powered turbines emit all day and night.  In comparison, solar panels are virtually noise free, and the only thing they emit is some heat and clean electricity.

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Illinois State Wind And Solar Rebate Program Details

Eligible Renewable Projects for Illinois State Funds:

The state of Illinois developed a Renewable Energy Resource Program to help several different types of projects come to life:

  • Photovoltaic Solar Panel Systems
  • Solar Hot Water Systems
  • Solar Space Heating Systems
  • Wind Systems
  • Solar Pool Heating Systems

Illinois State Incentive Amounts (In Dollars and Percentages of Project Costs)

  • All residential and commercial projects were eligible for funding up to 30% of the project costs.
  • All non-profit and public projects were eligible at 50% of the total project costs.
  • The MAXIMUM solar rebate or wind power rebate for any of these projects has a maximum of $50,000
  • The minimum size of a solar panel system had to be at least 1KWH which is an incredibly small system

Major benefits of this Generous IL State Rebate for Solar:

The Illinois solar rebate program has allowed many homeowners who were interested in solar energy to actually make it a reality.  Although the funding has since dried up for this program, it helped to pay for a large part of many system owners up and running solar panels.  Another huge benefit with regards to this particular state level incentive program is that the Renewable Energy Credits(REC’s) are still owned by the energy producer which in many cases is the small business owner or homeowner.  This is considerable because the value of the REC’s will likely be increasing over time and further allow the owner of the system to help finance or pay for the up and running system.

Current Status of the Illinois Solar Rebate Program:

At the moment(December 2010), all of the funding for this incentive program has been used up or is already claimed.  Once the funding comes back for more systems, there should be an increase in the number of applications from solar system owners which can be accepted once again.

Posted in Illinois, Saving Money, Wind Power0 Comments