Wind Power vs Diesel Power vs Solar Power (Comparison)

When reviewing electrical power options for remote (often times off-grid) regions, there are three primary options one would likely consider: Solar Power, a Diesel Powered Generator or a Wind Turbine.

Comparing these three is interesting, but not always equivalent.

Uprise Energy Portable Power Center, a 50 kW mobile wind turbine that can produce off-grid power for as low as 3 cents per kilowatt hour and is likely to average 12 cents per kWhr

Uprise Energy Portable Power Center, a 50 kW mobile wind turbine that can produce off-grid power for as low as 3 cents per kilowatt hour and is likely to average 12 cents per kWhr

For this example, we’ll use a typical scenario for the Uprise Energy 50kW portable wind turbine as the basis for comparison. In an average wind speed of 12mph, the Uprise Energy Portable Power Center (PPC) will produce 12kW of electrical power. When factoring the cost of the machine, along with operation and maintenance expenses over a 20 year lifecycle, an average windspeed of 12mph will equate to an energy cost of 10 cents per kilowatt-hour. Stronger wind conditions will reduce energy costs, with potential to be as low as 3 cents per kWhr. Maximum power of the Uprise Energy portable wind generator is 50kW.

In contrast, if a 50kW diesel generator were used to produce 12kW, it would have very poor efficiency (BSFC), so a 15kW generator should be chosen. To produce 12kW/hr, the diesel generator will burn a minimum of 1 gallon of diesel fuel per hour, depending on efficiency or a minimum of 175,200 gallons over 20 years IF it is properly loaded.

Diesel powered generators are reliable and convenient to use. Depending on fuel prices and machine efficiency, power will range from $1-40 per kWhr.

Diesel powered generators are reliable and convenient to use. Depending on fuel prices and machine efficiency, power will range from $1-40 per kWhr.

Diesel fuel is the most power dense, relatively portable and reliable. Diesel fuel is also the most expensive, non-renewable and produces greenhouse gasses. A best-case diesel power scenario would be an initial generator cost of $20,000 plus $1,000,000 in fuel costs. Shipping, operation and maintenance expenses would also need to be added. Depending on load factor (BSFC) and cost of fuel, a diesel generator will make power in the range of $1 to $40 per kWhr.
Maximum power is limited to 15 kW.

A solar system's capacity factor is about 12%; therefore, a 100 kW system must be purchased to produce an average of 12 kW. The average panel size is 18 SF, costs $400 and produces 200 watts when new and then degrades from there. Additional losses occur from inverter and transformer heat, plus extra cost to service, maintain and replace panels as needed.

Solar panels only make power an average of 5hrs per day and are not portable. A contemporary solar system capable of producing an average of 12kW will produce power for approximately 19 cents per kWhr.

Solar panels only make power an average of 5hrs per day and are not portable. A contemporary solar system capable of producing an average of 12kW will produce power for approximately 19 cents per kWhr.

A 100 kW solar system would extend approximately 10,000 SF and requires a significant installation mounting system. Unlike the Uprise Energy Portable Power Center and diesel generator, a solar system is not portable and requires well over 10X the space. Lifecycle costs for the solar array is approximately $300,000 with a best-case average cost of 19 cents per kilowatt-hour. Maximum power is limited to 100 kW at peak sun angle, which is not realistically achievable. Due to the limited power production throughout the day with a solar system, the need to store power is elevated unless another form of power is available to the consumer.

In summary, when 12kWhr is the goal and a 20-year lifecycle is applied, these are the expected costs per kilowatt-hour:

  • Uprise Energy Portable Power Center $0.12/kWhr
  • Diesel Generator $1-40/kWhr
  • Solar Power $0.19/kWhr (inconsistent power, not portable, largest footprint)

If you have questions about the above or would like to continue the discussion, please use the comments section below. Thanks for reading!

Need For A Portable Wind Turbine

Electrical energy provides great benefits to those who are connected to a grid. For the billions who are not connected to a grid, the solution is local or portable power generators.

Virtually millions of small communities, remote and isolated, need small or medium generators.  

Fuel powered generators are high in cost per kWhr, fuel supply is risky and unreliable.

The solution is generating electricity renewably, where it is needed. 

The Uprise Energy Portable Wind Turbine serves a very important niche.

The Uprise Energy Portable Wind Turbine serves a very important niche.

While wind turbine technology is proven, small wind turbines are inefficient and unaffordable, and while utility scale wind turbines are affordable on a cost per kwhr, they require large capital commitments and are not suitable for mid-size communities.

The solution is an efficient and affordable mid-size wind turbine that is conveniently delivered, set-up, operated, and maintained.

Introducing the UPRISE Energy Portable Power Center (PPC), an innovative 50kW wind energy electrical generator that is:

  • Mid-size, makes meaningful power in light and medium wind speeds
  • Portable, ships in a standard container, travels on any road
  • Efficient throughout a broad wind speed range
  • Affordable, lower in cost per kWhr than utility, solar, diesel
  • Set-up by 1 technician in 1 day, no site improvements, no cranes required
  • Automatic / Autonomous operation with telemetry
  • Maintenance performed at ground level
  • Stand alone, connect to grid, operate in multiple units, net meter
  • Store energy
  • Infinite ratio fluid drive system
  • Sweep and twist blade technology

The Uprise Energy Portable Wind Turbine is truly like none other and stands to serve a very large and important niche.

Capacity Factor and Nameplate Rating Explained

Rated output, also known as Nameplate rating, is determined by the wind turbine manufacturer, based on their chosen wind speed.  The rated output can be a high number or a low number, depending on the wind regime chosen for performance calculations. In its current state, there is no unified approach to wind turbine ratings, making the process capricious.

Actual net output is not affected by output rating, but capacity factor is, since capacity factor is a percent of the output rating.

If we say that a machine is rated at 50kW and it delivers 20kW on average, its capacity factor will be 40%. If we rate that same machine at 60kW, the average output remains the same but the capacity factor changes to 33%. 

You can start to see how nameplate rating (output rating) and capacity factor are arbitrary.

Most good performing machines average 25% of rated output, a very good machine will deliver 35%, but again, these percentages are based on the wind turbine maker's chosen power rating.

Imagine the scenario where a manufacturer wants to give the illusion of a high output machine; they could use performance figures from unusually high wind speeds, utilize a generator big enough to support these unrealistic wind conditions and presto, they've got virtually whatever size machine they want. Not only is this deceiving to the consumer but utilizing a generator that's too big for the application drives the cost up and hurts efficiency. 

So, since there's no industry standard for wind turbine power ratings, what's the best way to compare machines?

Cost per kilowatt hour.

Output per square foot of footprint or swept area is another way to compare apples-to-apples but the one we use most frequently at Uprise Energy is $/kWhr.

If you have another metric that you use or would like to continue the discussion, please use the comments section below. Thanks for reading!