Solar and Wind: Why Choose One?

Why, some might ask, are we pursuing both solar and wind energy generation projects? Why not pick the one with the better payoff and stick with it?

Consider this: If you live in Northern Colorado you’ve probably been awakened at night by heavy winds. You may also have gotten an unexpected sunburn or two in the winter because, even in the coldest winter months, sunlight is an abundant resource in the Front Range. While we have plenty of both resources, the promises they hold are not without challenges.

Intermittency is one of the biggest technical challenges with wind and solar energy. This refers to the peaks and troughs in energy production that occur because the availability of sunlight and wind vary widely each day. Among other complications, intermittency requires engineers to frequently adjust energy production from other sources.

“As we get more and more renewables, I think we’ll see more complimentary wind and solar installations that create an overall system generation that better matches the demand,” notes Thomas Koch Blank, an engineer and principal at Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) based in Basalt, Colorado. RMI is a think tank that advocates for market-driven clean energy and one of the most reputable sources out there for anything related to clean energy.

Solar and wind have complementary generation curves, which means that wind tends to peak after the sun has punched out for the day. This helps mitigate the problem of intermittency.