According to many renewable energy experts, a small "hybrid" electric system that combines home wind electric and home solar electric  (photovoltaic or PV) technologies offers several advantages over either single system.

In much of the United States, wind speeds are low in the summer when the sun shines brightest and longest. The wind is strong in the winter when less sunlight is available. Because the peak operating times for wind and solar systems occur at different times of the day and year, hybrid systems are more likely to produce power when you need it.

Many hybrid systems are stand-alone systems, which operate "off-grid" -- not connected to an electricity distribution system. For the times when neither the wind nor the solar system are producing, most hybrid systems provide power through batteries and/or an engine generator powered by conventional fuels, such as diesel. If the batteries run low, the engine generator can provide power and recharge the batteries.

Adding an engine generator makes the system more complex, but modern electronic controllers can operate these systems automatically. An engine generator can also reduce the size of the other components needed for the system. Keep in mind that the storage capacity must be large enough to supply electrical needs during non-charging periods. Battery banks are typically sized to supply the electric load for one to three days.

Hybrid systems have the following advantages:

  • The systems are complementary. During the summer months when there's not much wind there should be ample sunlight and during the dark winter months it is usually quite windy.

  • Two different energy sources provide a diversity of supply, reducing the risk of power outages.

  • High cost ancillary equipment such as the battery and the inverter required for a single system must be specified to carry the full system load. A second system can thus be added without increasing its capacity or adding cost for more of these components.

  • Because of the supply diversity, the capacity of the battery can most likely be reduced.

  • The required generating capacity of the basic solar and wind energy conversion units can be reduced since the total load is shared.

A stand alone system will often incorporate a small stand-by diesel generating set to supply critical loads in case of an emergency.

Coordination of the different energy sources is managed by a DC control unit which has the following functions

  • Accepts the DC power from the three generating units according to priority rules

  • Controls the power delivery to the load or loads

  • Monitors the battery voltage and charges the battery as required.

  • Cuts off the charger when the battery is fully charged and diverts the power to a suitable load

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