How Do Hybrid Wind and Solar Power Systems Work?|

What Is Hybrid Wind and Solar Power Generation and How Do They Work Together?

home with solar panels on the roof

P. Steeger/The Image Bank/ Getty images

Key Points

  • A combined solar and wind power system can generate more hours of electricity than separate solar and wind power structures.
  • Such hybrid systems work best in areas with consistent wind and sun exposure.
  • More costly than a separate solar or wind system.
  • Rural or remote off-grid areas with no transmission lines are the best locations for a hybrid energy system.
  • Regulatory restrictions can complicate the installation of residential wind turbines.

What is a hybrid solar and wind electric system?

Combining two or more energy sources is called a hybrid energy system. Different types of energy sources can be combined into one system: for example, hydropower and solar, wind and hydrogen, and wind and diesel. The most popular hybrid renewable energy system is a blend of rooftop solar panels and a small residential wind turbine. A hybrid solar and wind system can provide more hours of clean electricity generation than a standalone solar and wind system.

Solar and wind naturally complement each other: solar panels produce electricity during the day, while wind turbines typically generate the most power at night. Used together, they can balance each other during different seasons. For example, wind turbines generate more energy during the winter, while solar panels reach peak production during the summer.

Why do we use solar and wind together and how much does it cost?

Solar and wind are combined into one system to generate more energy than separate solar and wind power systems can supply. A hybrid system can ensure more reliability and supply security for its owner, particularly if it is the only power source in an off-grid setting. According to market research and consulting firm Global Market Insights, hybrid solar and wind power generation projects are expected to increase by 4% in the U.S. over the next five years. But they remain expensive for most private users because of the combined systems’ costs. Here is a rough estimate of combining 5 kW solar and 5 kW wind structures.

Sources: Renewable Energy Hub and Understand Solar

While the cost also depends on the size of a hybrid system, there are additional costs, including labor, permits, wiring, fees, inverters, batteries, and other components. Solar panels typically do not require much upkeep other than cleaning, while wind turbines need a regular inspection of blades. It can also be challenging to find many areas with enough wind and sun to justify the costs of building a hybrid system. Examine the feasibility of such a project in your location before investing in it.

Where is the best place for a solar and wind system?

Mary O’Donnell, CEO of No Fossil Fuel, LLC. and owner of solar and wind power generation, told SaveOnEnergy that hybrid solar and wind systems might make the most sense in remote places and islands with no transmission lines. They are particularly suitable for rural or off-grid remote areas where connecting to a central power grid is costly. Therefore, power generation in such places tends to be more expensive compared to cities connected to the grid.

According to Mike Voll, principal and sector lead for Smart Technologies at Stantec, “rural communities and remote locations, where energy prices often reach $0.40 to $0.45 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), actually see a return on investment from these projects. In a perfect world, we’d have a place that has excellent radiance with enough wind and low cloud cover, but the reality is there are very few locations that meet the geographic requirements.” So, siting a location for maximum output from solar and wind generation and a yearlong availability of both is essential for justifying an installation of a hybrid system.

How does a hybrid solar and wind power system work?

A hybrid solar and wind power system would require the following equipment:

  • Solar panels
  • Wind turbine
  • Generator
  • Battery
  • Diversion charge controller

As part of a hybrid system, wind and solar work the same way they typically operate when installed independently. You install solar panels on your home’s roof and the wind turbine on nearby land (some smaller wind turbines can be placed on roofs). The number of solar panels needed for your home would depend on the size of your roof and how much energy your household consumes monthly. A 5-kW solar system is typical for U.S. homeowners, with around 20 panels to fully cover a home’s electricity consumption.

A large commercial wind turbine would not suit a residential power system. So, you may need a smaller turbine for private use, which can vary in size and capacity. A turbine’s suitability for your home will depend on the amount of power it can generate to meet your needs. A wind turbine with a 5-kW capacity could generate about 8,000 kWh of power per year, which equates to 667 kWh per month. Combining solar and wind power capacity can provide a consistent power supply to your home.

Once solar panels and a wind turbine are installed, they are wired directly to a battery pack, which stores energy from both and supplies it to a home. A battery pack can be customized to a home’s size to ensure its energy supply lasts for at least one or two days. It is important not to overcharge a battery because doing so can damage it. A diversion charge controller can help channel excess energy from a battery to home appliances, such as a water heater.

Pros and cons of the hybrid solar and wind system

A combination of wind and solar provides several distinct benefits:

  • It is the most efficient way of using renewables and ensuring a constant power supply since two sources provide more hours of generation than a standalone solar and wind system.
  • Environmentally friendly because both wind and solar systems are clean sources of energy.
  • Low upkeep costs with little maintenance after the upfront work and investment.

But hybrid renewable energy systems are still in the early stages of development. They face high costs, uncertain return on investment, and ambiguity surrounding ease of implementation. Here are some disadvantages of the hybrid solar and wind power systems:

  • Installation and equipment costs are more expensive than a standalone solar and wind power system. Mary O’Donnell of No Fossil Fuel, Ltd. told SaveOnEnergy that a hybrid solar and wind system may require too much overhead for too little return. As the owner of both non-hybrid solar and wind generation on her property, she believes it is more profitable to have solar and wind as separate systems.
  • Not all homes are suitable for a hybrid energy system. You may live in an area with heavy shading or insufficient wind.
  • It is harder to find suitable locations for residential wind systems compared to solar. The wind flow may not be strong and consistent for a small turbine in a residential home or an urban landscape to generate enough energy. On the other hand, solar panels can generate power during the winter and in cloudy conditions as long as they get sunlight.
  • Getting a permit for a wind turbine can be difficult. O’Donnell stresses that most municipalities would not issue permits for wind turbines due to zoning restrictions. Checking local ordinances on wind turbine regulations is important before starting a wind power project.
  • The system control process can be too complex for a layperson. Knowledge of solar and wind and how they interact is crucial to ensure a system’s safe operation and simple troubleshooting. Hiring professional wind and solar experts to address any issues with the system can be costlier than hiring a professional to deal with a separate solar or wind structure.

Start your research into a hybrid solar and wind power system for residential use by speaking to licensed installers in your area. They can help you understand the feasibility, costs, regulatory restrictions, risks, and benefits.

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