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Renewable Energy: Solar vs. Wind vs. Hydro

The Biggest Differences Among Natural Energy Sources

renewable energies

As we advance technologically, we hear more and more about the power of renewable energies. Three of the most common are solar power, wind power, and hydro power. While solar power comes from the sun, wind power comes from the wind and hydro power comes from water. All three are great sources of energy, but they have their differences:

Availability

Because two of these energy sources occur naturally, they’re not always 100% available. On cloudy days, solar power isn’t as strong, and the same goes for wind power on days without wind. That’s why a lot of companies combine wind power and solar power, because they can often balance each other out. Moving water, on the other hand, can move in any weather, so it’s often more reliable than other sources.

Cost

Hydro power: ~0.85 cents/kWh
Wind power: ~1.84 cents/kWh
Solar power: ~11.01 cents/kWh

Right now, hydro power is the most affordable of the renewable energies. However, solar and wind power are both dropping in price. In fact, the cost of solar power has decreased by over 70% since 2008 and the cost of wind power has decreased by more than 50% in recent years. When compared with other sources of energy, both hydro power and wind power cost less than natural gas (~6 cents/kWh), coal (~8 cents/kWh) and nuclear (~10 cents/kWh) while solar power is predicted to drop to around 4 cents/kWh in the coming decades.

Homeowner Options

If you’re a homeowner who is thinking about making more green choices, you may be considering an alternative source of power. Between solar, wind, and hydro power, solar power is your best bet. Because it’s low-maintenance and doesn’t require you to build any structures, it makes for an easy option. In addition, the cost of incorporating solar into your home is constantly dropping and many areas offer tax incentives for solar power use.

Environmental Impact

When it comes to environmental impact, each source of renewable energy has its pros and cons. Hydro power requires the damming of rivers and streams, which can disrupt the habitats of animals, fish, and plants. However, the reservoirs that these dams create can provide areas of fishing, swimming, and boating for residents in the area.

Wind power requires land to build turbines and some studies have found that wind turbines have a negative effect on bird and bat life. As far as solar power goes, commercial and industrial solar power fields also require land to build panels, and as with any thermal electric plant, solar plants require a source of water. Both wind power and solar power, however, produce zero carbon emissions.

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