Recommendation for Solar Panels - SailNet Community

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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance > Electrical Systems
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  #1  
Old 03-13-2010
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Recommendation for Solar Panels

We have an Island Packet 40 and are finally going to do some long distance cruising (Chesapeake to Maine for the summer, then to the Bahamas for the winter). We want to install solar panels and are looking for some current reccomendations on dealers etc. E-marine seems to have several good packages that we could install ourselves (above the bimini or above the davits). Any first-hand experience or advice would be appreciated. Currently, the boat is in Rock HAll, MD.

Thanks!
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Old 03-13-2010
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solar supplier

I've had good info and pricing from Bramley at AltEStore Solar Panels, Photovoltaic Systems, Solar Panels for Your Home - DIY Solar Panels & Renewable Energy @ AltE Store

(not affiliated with them in any way other than being a customer, they had what I wanted at a good price and shipped quickly).

I put a pair of Kyocera KC130TM panels with Blue Sky 3042iL MPPT controller with Remote on our Sun Odyssey 45.2 last summer and recently bought a third panel to add this spring. Solar made a huge difference even up on Lake Champlain. Two panels were great, the third is in anticipation of additional equipment for an eventual trip south.

Norman
"Redline"
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Old 03-13-2010
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Hamilton Ferris does a good job, as well...I have one of their 110 watt panels, controller and rail mount...easily installed and works very well...
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Old 03-13-2010
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I'd recommend you read the primer on solar power on boats I wrote.

I would recommend you get Kyocera solar panels. The 130 watt panels are on sale for a very good price.

The Blue Sea SB2000E controller will handle two of them easily and is a good choice unless you're looking to add wind or additional solar.
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Old 03-13-2010
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Or get this one instead, even cheaper:

Kyocera KD135GX-LPU 135 Watt 12 Volt Solar Electric Panel

Only difference between the two is you'll need to get their special MC4 cable. The one SD linked to has a junction box, not a plug.
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Old 03-13-2010
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I didn't realize solar was so affordable!
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Old 03-14-2010
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There are three main things that you should look for with solar panels.

First, are the cells made from mono-crystaline or poly-crystaline wafers? You can tell by looking at them. If you do not see any grains on the cell, then it is mono. If you see multiple cyrstals then it is multi. Mono's are more efficient and produce more power from the same area. They are also more expensive.

Second, how rigid are the panels? With thin, brittle solar cells you do not want the panel to flex too much. An average size person can stand on a well built residential panel causing no damage.

Third, the achilles heel of PV solar panels... the electrical connection. If there are connectors see if they are water proof. If there is a junction box see if it is sealed. All the same problems you have with your other electrical connections on your boat will be the same with the solar panel. If the connection corrodes you may not be able to fix the panel without destroying it.

One bit of interesting information about solar panels. The different brands all use the same wafers and cells. There is quite a bit of "horse trading" in the industry. The major differences between panel manufacturers is the panel construction as mentioned above. Many of the different brands of panels are made in the same factory at contract manufacturers. So, don't get hung up on brand names. Look at the warrenties and prices.
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Last edited by nickmerc; 08-18-2011 at 06:12 AM.
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Old 03-14-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nickmerc View Post
There are three main things that you should look for with solar panels.

First, are the cells made from mono-crystaline or poly-crystaline wafers? You can tell by looking at them. If you do not see any grains on the cell, then it is mono. If you see multiple cyrstals then it is multi. Mono's are more efficient and produce more power from the same area. They are also more expensive.

Second, how rigid are the panels? With thin, brittle solar cells you do not want the panel to flex too much. An average size person can stand on a well built residential panel causing no damage.

Third, the achilles heel of PV solar panels... the electrical connection. If there are connectors see if they are water proof. If there is a junction box see if it is sealed. All the same problems you have with your other electrical connections on your boat will be the same with the solar panel. If the connection corrodes you may not be able to fix the panel without destroying it.

One bit of interesting information about solar panels. The different brands all use the same wafers and cells. There is quite a bit of "horse trading" in the industry. The major differences between panel manufacturers is the panel construction as mentioned above. Many of the different brands of panels are made in the same factory at contract manufacturers. So, don't get hung up on brand names. Look at the warrenties and prices.
Mono cells are more efficent, but cannot be stacked as densly as poly cells. The overall effecency of a pannel is much the same for both technologies and prices these days are much the same as well.
The overall effency of the pannel is important and worth calculating, given the limited space on a boat, but there are likely to be greater differences between manufacturers than between mono or poly cells.
I agree fully on the other points and these should be your deciding factors.
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Great Information-Thanks!

Thanks for the great replies and the links. We'll be on the boat for the next couple days (if it every stops raining) to get her hauled for an insurance survey so we'll re-read and absorb all the details of the primer and other offerings. Really appreciate the support.

Ann Morton
Shortwalk
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I'd point out that if you're going to be fishing the wiring for the panel through a dinghy davits or other stainless steel tubing, the MC4 cable ends are going to be a BITCH. This is why I recommend the panel with the junction box. Also, the MC4 cables are untinned, non-marine grade wire IIRC.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LookingForCruiser View Post
Or get this one instead, even cheaper:

Kyocera KD135GX-LPU 135 Watt 12 Volt Solar Electric Panel

Only difference between the two is you'll need to get their special MC4 cable. The one SD linked to has a junction box, not a plug.
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a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
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—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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