Even though solar power is the go-to solution to most people cutting the grid, wind power could also be a good solution especially if you live in a very windy area. A good wind turbine could top up your batteries on those gloomy overcast days or keep you powered up in windy winter days.
Many people avoid combining wind and solar power because they find the hybrid system more complex or expensive. In truth, harvesting some power from the wind is better than using a generator more often.
Even though I believe that wind power is a bit more involving than solar power, there are times when the gains from a wind turbine outweigh what you could get from extra solar panels
Wind Turbines Also Need Charge Controllers
Just like the case with solar panels, you will need a charge controller to get the best output from your wind turbine. An MPPT charge controller is often the best choice since most wind turbines work at voltages above the maximum 48V a typical off grid battery bank will have.
Theoretically, any MPPT charge controller that can handle the peak current from the turbine at your battery voltage could work. However, specialized wind power charge controllers with a dump load output are a better option as they can protect your turbine from damage when your battery bank is full and the wind is still howling.
What is a Hybrid Wind and Solar Charge Controller?
A hybrid wind and solar charge controller combines power from both a solar array and a wind turbine before sending it to one battery bank.
They could be the perfect solution if you want to set up the two systems at a go and don’t want to spend money on an independent charge controller for each platform.
The most reliable designs are actually two MPPT charge controllers bundled into a single box. Each circuitry handles power from its source before feeding it to a single output bus.
Are Hybrid Charge Controllers a Good Idea?
The fact that these hybrid wind and solar charge controllers exist doesn’t necessarily mean that they are a good idea. Bundling all your power through a single unit while you could easily split the two is never a good idea in an off-grid setting.
Since you can hook up more than one MPPT charge controllers to a single battery bank, the most reasonable way to handle solar and wind power is by buying high quality dedicated charge controllers for each power source.
A Failure Could Mean You Lose Everything
While bundling your wind and solar controls into one unit might be neat, compact and simple, it could prove a problem when the unit fails. A failure on the wind part of the controller’s circuitry could affect your solar array meaning that you can’t get any power into your batteries.
This won’t be a problem if you have independent charge controllers for solar and wind.
Most are Not from Renown Manufacturers
When I was looking around for some hybrid charge controllers, I realized that most of them are not from renown manufacturers. I couldn’t find one from Victron, Renogy, MidNite Solar, Epever or Outback. This is not to say that the existing brands are bad (I haven’t tested them yet,) but my gut feeling tells me the best in the industry keep off the combination for a reason.
A Hybrid Controller Will Limit You in Future
The biggest issue with hybrid charge controllers would be what you would expect when you buy a solar generator or an all-in-one charge controller and inverter – no room for modular upgrades.
If you buy a hybrid controller limited to 800W Turbine and a 600W turbine, you can’t slap in more panels in case the wind turbine’s bearings fail on you. You must buy another MPPT controller for the extra panels or repair the controller.
Independent units means that you can upgrade each controller as you please or even wire the wind charge controller to run on solar panels. Remember there could be extra modifications needed for compatibility while in other controllers it’s all about changing something in the settings menu.
Check this too: Backup Generator 101: Safe Set Up, How to & Troubleshooting
Having a solar array and a wind turbine is a good way to go for longer without running your generator. The wind turbine will give you the extra power you need to keep power-hungry basics like water pumps and heaters running especially if you are in a windy place regardless of whether it’s at night or in winter.
Solar panels, on the other hand, should keep you topped up as long as the sun shines. Having the two in your off the grid power setup is great. Combining them through a single charge controller could rob you of the backup capability in case the controller fails. It introduces extra complexity and uncertainty that you could easily avoid by going with independent charge controllers from reputable manufacturers.