U.S. Department of Energy Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

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August 27, 2012
Q.

With all of the surface area of wind turbines for the base, turbine, and blades, why is it not considered to cover them with PV installations? - Glen

A.

Thank you for contacting the SunShot Solar Outreach Partnership via the US Department of Energy's 'Ask an Expert' portal with your question regarding co-locating/integrating solar and wind projects to maximize use of space. 

Photovoltaics work by capturing sunlight and converting it to electricity.  In order for the panels to generate electricity efficiently, it is important for the panels’ exposure to direct sunlight to be optimized.  In the U.S., PV systems are typically placed on southern-facing  surfaces because here, the sun is always in the southern half of the sky.  However, eastern or western-facing surfaces may also be suitable.  In addition, PV systems should always be designed to minimize any sort of shading of the panels.

Integrating PV onto the surface of a wind turbine itself would likely cause severe obstructions in access to sunlight for the panels, thus causing them to operate inefficiently.  However, appropriate siting of PV on the grounds of and adjacent to larger-scale projects may offer developers the benefit  sharing the required electrical transmission infrastructure (which can be very costly to build).  There are cases where this strategy has been successful, such as in the case highlighted recently in this article.

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