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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance
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  #1  
Old 10-23-2009
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solar panel

anybody use or have experience with those solar panels? I would have to rig the whole kit and kaboodle and wonder if its worth it... especially considering im looking at costal cruising....coprus/keys then eventually bahamas...

Last edited by QuickMick; 10-23-2009 at 01:14 PM. Reason: found a huge thread already out there-plz delete
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Old 10-23-2009
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yes I have two 11wt from uni flex solar panels and love them. The boat is in So. Cal. so we do get a good amount or sun shine, enough to keep the battery bank charged all year.
Brad
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Old 10-23-2009
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They can work really well in certain situations and not too well in others. You are going to be in an area where they should work reasonably well. The issues with solar panels are space to put them, cost, and corrosion(this is the same as any piece of marine electronics).

Before you look into panels, the first thing to do is minimize your loads. This could mean switching to LED lights or doing a better job of insulating your reefer or simply being more diligent about turning stuff off. If you have a Link 10 or other meter like that, it will really help with this. The other thing that you have to do is to figure out what your loads are.

Sizing the system depends on what your loads are and whether you want the system to be totally self sufficient or you don't mind running the engine when it has been cloudy for a while. If you don't mind running the engine from time to time, you want to size a little over 100% of your average house load based on the worst month of the year that you will use the system in. If you look online, you can find tables that will show your geographic region and the solar factor(this has a few different names). It essentially is a measure of how much of the panels rated output you will get based on the number of hours of sunlight, cloudiness, changing sun angle etc. Using this factor, you can figure out how many watts of panels you need and from that you can get an area. Take a look around your boat and see whether you have enough area that will have no shading(or at least rarely) and that won't be in your way/you won't step on. If you have enough space, then you can look at cost.

Cost is a function of system size which you determined above. Your major cost is the panels themselves but the wiring and charge controllers are expensive as well.

It is important to realize that the effectiveness of a solar installation is really up to the user. If you get lazy and start increasing your loads, it will not be able to keep up. Also, if you are diligent and keep the panels angled at the sun with no shading, your system efficiency will go up greatly. Angle is incredibly important which is why you see many cruisers with hinged systems. Solar panels work best in fixed applications like roofs because boats have a lot of variables, but they can be very nice if you don't like charging with your engine(who does?).
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Old 10-23-2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by klem View Post
They can work really well in certain situations and not too well in others. You are going to be in an area where they should work reasonably well. The issues with solar panels are space to put them, cost, and corrosion(this is the same as any piece of marine electronics).

Before you look into panels, the first thing to do is minimize your loads. This could mean switching to LED lights or doing a better job of insulating your reefer or simply being more diligent about turning stuff off. If you have a Link 10 or other meter like that, it will really help with this. The other thing that you have to do is to figure out what your loads are.

Sizing the system depends on what your loads are and whether you want the system to be totally self sufficient or you don't mind running the engine when it has been cloudy for a while. If you don't mind running the engine from time to time, you want to size a little over 100% of your average house load based on the worst month of the year that you will use the system in. If you look online, you can find tables that will show your geographic region and the solar factor(this has a few different names). It essentially is a measure of how much of the panels rated output you will get based on the number of hours of sunlight, cloudiness, changing sun angle etc. Using this factor, you can figure out how many watts of panels you need and from that you can get an area. Take a look around your boat and see whether you have enough area that will have no shading(or at least rarely) and that won't be in your way/you won't step on. If you have enough space, then you can look at cost.

Cost is a function of system size which you determined above. Your major cost is the panels themselves but the wiring and charge controllers are expensive as well.

It is important to realize that the effectiveness of a solar installation is really up to the user. If you get lazy and start increasing your loads, it will not be able to keep up. Also, if you are diligent and keep the panels angled at the sun with no shading, your system efficiency will go up greatly. Angle is incredibly important which is why you see many cruisers with hinged systems. Solar panels work best in fixed applications like roofs because boats have a lot of variables, but they can be very nice if you don't like charging with your engine(who does?).
Good post.

I will add that we have been off the grid on our boat for over two years. I have found the array one of the very best things I have ever put on any boat, and especially this one. They ar quiet and dependable.

The trick is a propoerly sized array. The thought of getting a little flexible panel or a little 50w panel and eliminating the need for any supplemental charging is a pipe dream. Solar arrays, in order to be sufficient, must be properly sized and must be large.



We found the largest cost was not the panels or charge controller, but the arch to mount it on. Our arch was aluminum. A stainless of comparable size would have been twice as much (and twice the weight). Consider aluminum for this purpose as it will allow you to use a larger diameter arch for wire runs, cost less, and weigh less. It must be a high grade aluminum and should be coated.





Our system consists of four Kyocera 130 Watt panels, wired in series, to an Outback MX-60 MPPT controller. In general, on a mostly sunny day, we can count on over 200ah from the panels. This exceeds our electrical budget. However, on cloudy days, we will not meet our budget or will cmoe close. That is the benefit of oversizing the array for your needs as it will give you more days in which supplemental charging is not needed or minimized.



Hope this helps. Solar is worth it and an awesome addition to the typical cruising boat... but must be designed and sized appropriately.

- CD
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Old 10-23-2009
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CD,
It looks like your panels are welded onto the arch. Am I mistaken? Will you leave the panels and the arch mounted during a storm, either in port or at sea?
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Our system is somewhat similar to Cruisingdad's. See 021005 Solar panels on arch 6 and 021005 Solar panels on dodger.

In addition to the other good observations, I would suggest putting a lot of work into eliminating shadows. There's a boat in the marina a couple of slips from ours in the Rio Dulce that has two panels on an arch, with stout poles rising port and starboard to support radar and wind gen. I'd wager that he seldom sees more than 50% of what his panels are capable of, because one of those poles is almost always going to be throwing a shadow across both panels.
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Old 10-23-2009
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I've been using solar panels, both to maintain the batteries over the winter and to power the refrigerator and recharge the batteries over the summer... If you size the system properly, it works quite well. I'd highly recommend you read the primer on Solar Power on Boats I wrote, which you can find here.
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Old 10-23-2009
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You will find the biggest bang for your buck using rigid panels instead of flexible. Especially when you look at the cost over the lifetime of the panels. You will also get more Ah from rigids vs flexible for the same area. I would also reccommend that you do not break the bank when purchasing the charge controller. The few extra percent you may get for the top of the line is not worth the money IMO. You will probably never be able to get the array positioned perfectly, so keep that in mind and oversize the array.

Major benefits of solar are 1) they are a passive and 2) no moving parts to worrry about. All you have to do is be very thorough when making electrical connections and keep the panels clean. Rigid panels should last you decades. The failure point will be the electrial connections.
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Old 10-26-2009
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Quote:
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CD,
It looks like your panels are welded onto the arch. Am I mistaken? Will you leave the panels and the arch mounted during a storm, either in port or at sea?
No, the panels are not welded on. There are custom built supports for the panel that are welded. THe panels are then T-bolted into those supports.

During a TS or Hurrican, I would remove them and pretty much everything. Short of that, they would be fine. The arch is VERY rigid. I stand on the side of it and could walk across even with the panels up (assuming I did not want to damage the panels).

- CD
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Old 12-11-2009
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Wink Solar Panel

Solar panels have become something of a catchphrase in the green movement this decade. They trumpet the recent advances, both scientific breakthroughs and manufacturing triumphs. Solar power is a form of renewable energy, and that itself is a big part of the green movementís agenda.
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