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  #1  
Old 06-18-2012
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Solar power ~ no more running the engine

I know there are lots of threads on solar power but some are quite old and of all of the threads I have read I am still yet to find an answer to the following question...

Has anybody (full-time) liveaboard managed to use solar power for ALL of their live-aboard power needs.

Computer+lighting+ refrigeration+Nav lights+water pumps+radio+etc

Basically, can it be done?
Has it been done?
How was it achieved?
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Old 06-18-2012
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Re: Solar power ~ no more running the engine

Quote:
Originally Posted by DavidB.UK View Post
I know there are lots of threads on solar power but some are quite old and of all of the threads I have read I am still yet to find an answer to the following question...

Has anybody (full-time) liveaboard managed to use solar power for ALL of their live-aboard power needs.

Computer+lighting+ refrigeration+Nav lights+water pumps+radio+etc

Basically, can it be done?
Has it been done?
How was it achieved?
I am yet to be a live aboard with solar but I do know about amps and that is basically what your going to be breaking everything down to. Also it will depend on specific equipment as well, an old fridge box will run 80-120ah a day. A newer fridge box will run 30-60ah a day and that is if you actually run it all day. most people I know run them only part of the day to maintain the temp. Same thing for the computer. does it require a 1-4amp charger or a 8 amp. with careful planning and a good controller and battery bank there should be no reason you couldn't run it all on solar except for the lack of good sun.
But with that said there is some very awesome progress being made with hydro or tow alternators using some of the same advancements from wind alternators. So even without good sun you could have a way to charge a battery bank. In the event you have no sun or wind you can always follow the old latin rule "Destitutus ventis, remos adhibere"

Last edited by AncientTech; 06-18-2012 at 12:46 PM.
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Old 06-18-2012
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Re: Solar power ~ no more running the engine

Theory says it is possible.

reality says not.
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Old 06-18-2012
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Re: Solar power ~ no more running the engine

The wife and I did for a couple years living on the hook in the caribbean (the Virgins / Puerto Rico area).

We had IIRC 320 watts in two panels with the appropriate smart charger/controller feeding a bank of 8 T105 batteries. I did have to use the engine to bring the batteries back up once during hurricane season but it was after 5-6 continuous days of heavy rain and no sun. Other than that one time we were fully solar powered.

The saving grace with us was our lack of refrigeration so didn't have to budget that into our needs power wise. We powered a laptop or two, halogen cabin lights 2-3 at a time (at night), deck lights, stereo, GPS/Radio/Chartplotter, water pump, bilge pump(s), occasional windless use, occasional SSB use, about 1 hour a day watermaker use. This was on a Ohlson 38 FWIW.
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Re: Solar power ~ no more running the engine

I suppose the other addition would be a pedal powered generator rigged up to 1/2 an exercise bike would be another solution for top up.

I am a regular runner so if on the hook, 30-40 minutes on a bike would be a better (more useful) workout! especially on the grey days!
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Re: Solar power ~ no more running the engine

David,

I know a lot of people who have tried, but none that have done it successfully. The problem is the number of batteries you need plus the sq footage of solar panels you need to be truly independent is costly, and weighs a lot.

If you can get your requirements down as low as possible, have oversized panels, and a huge battery bank then you can get close. The problem isn't the day after day of sunny skies, but 3-4 days in a row of clouds.

Alternative energy options like wind power, towed power, and bikes can help. But they come with their own set of problems. Typically is is just cheaper and easier to accept a small amount of engine operation to recharge low batteries than it is to deal with the alternatives.
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Last edited by Stumble; 06-18-2012 at 01:09 PM.
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Re: Solar power ~ no more running the engine

Some good points indeed.

I suppose of you approach it from the other direction (looking for where power can be saved) as well as how to create it then a compromise could be found.

If for example I were to:
  • have a couple of extra batteries
  • Daily exercise on a pedal powered generator instead of my daily run
  • a couple of good solar panels
  • use iPad instead of 27inch iMac
  • led lighting
  • low power fridge
  • ...and finally accept the fact that I might occasionally need to use the engine!

Then that could be a happy compromise
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Last edited by DavidB.UK; 06-18-2012 at 01:21 PM.
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Old 06-18-2012
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Re: Solar power ~ no more running the engine

yikes, generator bikes and solar panels?

For a newbies prospective, I'm not sure I see return on purchasing things like that. If you had 3-4 marine batterys, and say a 20 hp yamar diesel, how long would it really take at idle to charge the batteries? And how much fuel would you really burn doing it?
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Re: Solar power ~ no more running the engine

Not sure?

Please chime in? How much diesel are we talking about using Paintpollz's example?

to qualify my own example a little further, I don't own a laptop I have an iMac which I love but it is quite thirst for power and is the only thing I own which would require an inverter (I have already starting preparing to liveaboard and sold virtually all my material possessions to go towards the boat kitty).

because my computer is not portable an iPad would be useful anyway, as the only alternative (for internet) is a USB dongle or connection through mobile (cell) phone.

I just did a quick search and found this too ($198):


Product Description
Pedal power generator ZSFD-1088 is a Brushless Alternator with Gearbox Which can give 50W output with 15-18rpm rotating speed. Because it can give powerful output with low speed, low torque and small size, it is widely used for Exercise Bike, Household Electric Appliance and other Portable charger etc.

The Specification of it is Below:

1. Electric Performance
(1)Rated Rotating Speed: 2000r/min (16RPM with Gearbox)
(2)Rated Current: ≥2500mA
(3)DC Voltage Output: 36-55V DC
(4)AC Voltage Output: 30-50V AC
(6)Line to Line Resistance: 5.8Ω±0.5Ω

2. Mechanical Behavior and Operating Characteristics

(1)Mechanical Noise: <60dB
(2)Output Characteristics: No-load output Voltage varies directly with the rotating speed
(3)Ratio of Speed: 1:125
(4)Weight (Approximate): 3.2kg

3. Dimension: 255mm(L)X120mm(W)X40mm(H)

4. Configuration is below:

Also this...

The multifunctional powerbank includes a 12V internal battery and through the integrated inverter you can also select an ouput of 3V, 4.5V, 6V, 9V and 12V so it can almost always match your mobile devices for charging them.

Even an AC inverter is integrated in the powerbank so you can enjoy 220V power at max.100W. To complete the powerbank is equiped with an integrated flashlight, storage space or adapters etc and an integrated handle for easy carrying and transportation.

The Powerplus Gazelle is a heavyweight addition to the PowerPlus range, offering a truly versatile portable Eco Power solution. The Gazelle is pedal powered, or can be charged by optional car adapter or the included mains adapter. It offers a range of DC outputs along with a USB output and an amazing 230 Volt AC output for running mains applications such as TV's, Laptop computers, mains lighting, refrigerators etc. The main power bank when charged can be slid off it's stand and used anywhere any time to power any appliance up to 100 Watts. The Gazelle also has an integrated bright LED search light with 2 light settings.

Fully charged the Gazelle will shine its integrated 9 LED light for up to 85 hours, a 7 Watt Energy saving light bulb for 10 hours, a 14 inch TV for 1.5 hours, or a Laptop computer for an hour.

Size: 337 x 355 x 267mm
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Old 06-18-2012
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Re: Solar power ~ no more running the engine

We do it throughout the summer, living without shorepower. I suppose it boils down to your definition of "liveaboard".
We do not have refrigeration, air conditioning, hot water, television 20" monitors, etc, so we have no big constant loads. Our lighting is all LED, and largely AA battery powered. The only significant electrical loads are the stereo, autopilot and 1000 watt inverter, all of which are used sparingly. We have a single battery starter bank and a single battery house bank. We sail every day, so the incidental generation from the engine running an hour or so a day as we tool out and about and cruise around in addition to the passive generation from our solar panel keeps us topped up. Some may find our lifestyle too primitive, too damn close to camping.
We manage our electrical loads- for example, charge the netbook and the phone and the handheld vhf while motoring out, always make sure the panel follows the sun as much as possible, and if you don't need it turn it off. We have had a very sunny season so far, which is a BIG variable in the "how big a solar panel do I need" equation. In the UK you are going to get less generation from the same size panel than someone crusing in the caribbean for example.
The more luxury you have, the more energy you waste, the more wattage you need to generate, until, as someone pointed out, it becomes unsustainable.
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