Wind Turbine & Solar Panel Combinations: A Guide to Hybrid Systems
May 18th 2022
It’s advice most of us have heard since we were children: don’t put all your eggs in one basket. That still holds true for renewable power systems. A wind turbine and solar panel combination helps you get the best performance from your setup.
Our hybrid systems are designed to avoid the common pitfalls that can cause wind- or solar-only systems to come up short. After all, the sun can’t always shine and the wind can’t always blow.
Out of all these, installing a wind-solar hybrid system is the most impactful thing you can do to increase the effectiveness of your renewable energy system.
There’s a reason we’re not called Missouri Wind or Solar. The combination of solar and wind technology helps you unlock the full potential of your turbines and panels. That improved experience helps turn renewable power doubters into believers.
Today, we want to outline the reasons why this combination is more effective than either system on its own, discuss some ways to set up your system, and some possible expansions and customizations of your wind and solar setup.
Benefits of a Wind Solar Hybrid System
There’s night even in the sunniest places and calm times on the windiest plains. But your power demands can’t always conform to the availability of wind and sun. Fortunately, installing a hybrid system goes a long way to alleviating this issue.
Low light or wind conditions doesn’t have to mean you are entirely without power. Installing a grid-tie system ensures that, when your renewable system’s output naturally dips, the existing grid picks up the slack.
Installing a feed inverter with your grid-tied system also allows many customers to effectively supply power back to the grid. This is called net metering, and it uses a bidirectional electrical meter to send excess power that your system generates back out. Depending on your specific utility, you may even be able to get money back on your bill (always check with your company or co-op first).
While having a grid-tied system with a battery backup–a requirement when incorporating a small wind turbine–does help protect you from losing power when the grid goes down, it’s not foolproof. You must be conscientious about your power consumption while running on batteries, otherwise you’ll use it up faster than it can charge.
One of the big advantages of a combination wind and solar power system is that often—not always, but often—when sunlight decreases, wind increases and vice-versa.
When there’s not enough wind to turn your turbines, your solar panels can make up the difference.
Whether you’re working to keep your battery bank charged or just to maximize your power production compared to your consumption on a grid-tied system, going with a wind turbine and solar panel combination goes a long way to helping you achieve energy independence.
It’s also important to understand the difference between weather and climate. While you may live in an area that favors solar over wind or vice-versa, these distinctions can help you make a more informed judgment when planning your system.
Weather refers to the conditions in a given area on a day-to-day basis, climate is the pattern of weather over the years and decades in that area.
You might experience even extended spells of windy or sunny weather, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wise to rely on either system on its own.
Even in an area with an especially solar- or wind-friendly climate, weather variations mean that a hybrid system may still be a smart investment.
Especially if you’re moving to a new region, make sure to do your homework to get a sense of the weather patterns you can expect over time.
This information really comes into play should you make the decision to expand your system (more on that below).
When you install a wind turbine and solar panel combination system, you effectively cover your bases and go a long way to making your system more productive.
How to Set Up a Wind Solar Hybrid System
Setting up a wind turbine and solar panel combination is very similar to setting up either system on its own, but with one major exception: your charge control board.
Unless you purchase a wind and solar hybrid kit, which already includes a compatible controller, you need to look carefully at the charge control unit to make sure it can be used with both wind turbines and solar panels.
This gets at one of the major differences between wind turbines and solar panels: wind turbines need an outlet through which they can safely discharge excess power, solar panels do not.
Whether you’re charging your batteries or powering your appliances, once the output of your solar panels meets your demands, the system achieves equilibrium and throws away incoming power that it doesn't need.
Unless you're connected to the grid, your solar panels will just rest until they’re needed again, when they’ll pick right back up where they left off, no worse for the delay.
This is not the case for your wind turbines.
A wind turbine’s generator turns kinetic energy into electricity, and it doesn’t respond to an equilibrium in the same way a solar panel does. As long as the wind blows and the turbine is engaged, it will continue to generate power.
Excess power generated by a wind turbine with no diversion load can literally boil your batteries. If the battery is full, the turbine needs another load such as a resistor or additional batteries to keep the turbine engaged and prevent it freely spinning out of control.
Many charge controllers are made specifically for wind turbines or solar panels and will not work when installed with the incorrect infrastructure. A hybrid charge controller will allow you to charge batteries from both your turbines and panels. You can also install separate controllers for turbines and panels, a hybrid controller just allows you to run both through the same charge controller.
Buying a turnkey hybrid kit makes this a non-issue, but make sure to pay extra attention if you are expanding an existing wind or solar system.
Otherwise, installation of a hybrid system is straightforward. Attention should be paid to the placement of solar panels and wind turbines to maximize output. Solar panels paired with a time tracker help maximize sun exposure throughout the day.
Wind turbines generally perform better the higher above the ground they are mounted. Make sure to check for any applicable zoning and permitting rules before setting up your turbine, as they may also set a maximum height for turbines.
Along with these general guidelines, remember that the specific geography and landscape features of your property may create areas of shade or unexpected windbreaks. Take the specifics of your property into account when setting up your system.
Expanding & Customizing Your Hybrid System
If your goal is to live entirely free of the power grid, you will have to balance your power demands with the output of your renewable power system. This means reducing unnecessary appliances, but also expanding your wind and solar hybrid setup.
Fortunately, going for a hybrid setup early on makes future expansion easier and more flexible. Not only do you have the hybrid charge controller already setup, you now have firsthand experience as to which system performs better for you.
Depending on where you live, it may make more sense to focus your expansion budget on additional wind turbines or solar panels. If you get more wind output than solar, three turbines and one solar panel may make more sense than two and two.
You can always change out your charge controller as well, if you find you’ve outgrown your old one.
Depending on your property and priorities, you can also add output components to your system to act as a power dump should you start producing much more excess power.
If you find yourself deicing a livestock tank, reducing the demand of your power-hungry water heater, or providing hot water to an RV, camper, or motor home, a DC Water Heating Element is a great addition.
We’re big fans of wind turbine and solar panel combination systems here. There’s no such thing as a “one size fits all” setup, but the vast majority of our customers benefit from a hybrid approach.
Our goals go beyond selling you the system that best fits your needs. We want to empower you to take charge of your renewable power needs. This guide is meant to do just that, giving you the wind and solar knowledge to make your system work for you.
Here are the major takeaways from this post to answer some of our most frequently asked questions:
Can you combine a wind turbine and solar panel?
Yes! Many homeowners prefer this model and it’s very easy to install and work with.
Can you connect a wind turbine and solar panel to the same charge controller?
There are a number of hybrid charge controllers on the market. Make sure you aren’t trying to connect a turbine to a controller made for solar, as it doesn’t have the dump divert load capability needed for turbines.
Can you charge with solar and wind at the same time?
Yes! Running through a hybrid charge controller allows you to use both solar panels and wind turbines to charge your battery bank, presuming both are receiving enough sun or wind to generate electricity.
Why is it good to have both solar panels and wind turbines?
Having a combination system of wind and solar allows you to reduce your downtime, since often when windspeed is lower, solar output is higher and vice-versa.