Roll-up solar panels
I am going to cruise more time and I want to stay away from marinas so I need some renewable energy source and I want to have solar panels.
Solar panels in what a boat concerns are not very efficient unless you have ugly, expensive and heavy metal structures to orient them. I don’t want that.
There is another way that the technology made available and that are not yet being purposely used on sail boats, I mean roll-up panels. They are sturdy (you can walk over), flexible and can be fixed anywhere and easily re-fixed in another position and when the weather is not fine you can just roll them up and store them in minutes.
I never saw them advertised for specific boat use and the ones I find are smaller and less powerful than what I want. The most approximated one is this one from solar sphere: that produce 18w and have 30,5 cmx185,8 cm.
POWERFILM R15-1200 18W ROLLUP SOLAR PANEL
A similar one with 50cmx 250cm would produce about 40w. If we use two they would produce about 80w and that starts to be very interesting.
They can be mounted on the life lines, to get the sun on the side and it seems to be easy to found a way of adjusting the angle there or over the side walk when the sun is more vertical. While on anchor they can be mounted on both sides of the boom and in many other places.
I would like to hear if someone has been experiencing with it, I mean roll up solar panels and how the electrical connections deal with salt water. That seems to be a major problem to me.
Of course I could dream higher and imagine a genoa that include that kind of stuff ( some films are really very thin and flexible). That would make for a huge saving in power and a very expensive genoa, but in the meantime I think that the other more useful way to get solar energy is on the boat shades.
I would also be interested to know if someone is using foldable panels, the ones that are normally know as military type sun shades, or any kind of foldable panel over and existing sun shade.
Tactical Solar Tents - 750 Watt ETI Part# ETI0021-0053
These type of panels can give you a lot more power. I guess that over a normal sized shade on a 40ft boat they can give you over 100w.
Any thoughts about this would be appreciated and any personal experienced more than welcomed.
Great post, Paulo.. we are at a similar juncture with considering solar, and don't want the ungainly structure of rigid panels either.
However at the last boat show we attended we saw some thinner, semi flexible aluminum panels (from Ganz www.cbcamerica.com/ecoenergy ) that could be attached to the deck somewhere convenient (spray hood, perhaps) and they, too, can be walked on. The issue though would be more risk of shading from the boom etc and reduced output. They range from 6W to 55W, the largest being 878x520mm. They looked very robust. The 55W was around $900 CDN, as I recall.
Something like that might also easily be incorporated into a dodger hardtop, but again some shading is going to occur.
Another booth had a relatively flexible panel shown sewn into the dodger canvas top.. rather small but very light and flexible. The canvas maker did not have the brochures of the panel.
We have friends cruising the Caribbean, and this year they took down a panel made by their electronics engineer son-in-law and they put it up on the boom when anchored.. I don't have details but have heard they are very pleased with it.
I think this technology is becoming more affordable all the time.. I'm waiting for the solar/nonskid deck paint!;)
Here's what I got
I came to a similar conclusion but instead of a marine/RV panel, I decided to get a rooftop 68W flexible panel from Amazon for $230. Here's the link: Amazon.com: Uni-Solar PVL-68 PowerBond PVL 68 Watt 12 Volt 112-Inch x 15.5-Inch Flexible Solar Panel: Patio, Lawn & Garden.
It performs as advertised, but because it's 10 feet long the mounting does produce new challenges. Originally I imagined I'd stretch it along the lifelines amidships, posting the bottom of the panel out at an angle like wings. However, the panel is relatively heavy/ungainly and doesn't conform well to the curve of my lifelines, so I gave up on that idea during the mounting mock-up phase.
Instead I have it stretched along the top of my boom and tied at the mast and boom end (perfect fit). I had to put a canvas backing on the panel with sleeves for the ropes because this panel comes with a sticky tar back from the manufacturer. I spliced on a 6' electrical cable with waterproof connectors, which when deployed connects to a length of electrical wire (also waterproofed) that I semi-permanently installed along the toe rail and into the charge controller in the lazarette.
This means that the panel is predominantly for use while at anchor, but I can lay it out on the deck if I need the juice while under sail. Of course, with 10 feet of panel you have a much higher instance of shading sections of it with a shroud or other somesuch, and slipperiness could become an issue too if you're clambering around on deck. When not in use, I roll the panel up and toss it in the quarterberth.
I haven't seen anybody else go this route, so I'm somewhat relieved that there are other folks considering it. I'd be interested to know what mounting ideas you have for a flexible solution.
Edit: Here's a link to the type of connectors that are recommended for these panels. They clip together and keep water out when linked. When not linked, you can just make some kind of waterproof sleeve for any exposed wires. Hope this helps! http://www.solar-electric.com/incaforsoelp.html
Nice;). when you have photos of the installation please post them.
Yes, that is basically the idea but as you say that panel while flexible is not really studied to be used that way : it has tar on the back for fixing and no other fixation points, I mean no lateral rings, like the ones I have posted on the first post. But the it has a lot of power for a nice price.
I hope the producers with time will notice this segment of market and produce something similar to the one you have without tar (lighter and more flexible) and with lateral rings.
That way the flexibility will be much bigger. You can tie two or three or even four together and make a shade while on anchor, or you can use two on the lifelines while sailing.
We have been installing solar panels on our Harbor 20s for a number of years. The best panels we have found are not the roll up kind, but the ones of slightly heavier construction.
There are a couple of brands and usually advertised as 'solar panels you can walk on'
Also note, the key word in trickle as in trickle charge
What you need is here:Uni-Solar
I bought one of their 1.6amp panels over 10 years ago (it was about 1/2 of a sq/meter) Very tough stuff. Though I must admit, last time I pulled it out and "tested" it it didn't seem to be making any current. Haven't troubleshooted it any further.
They are the only maker of decent sized flexible panels that I know of. Here is a 136W 24V panel for example.
Uni-Solar PVL-136 PowerBond PVL 136 Watt 24 Volt 216-Inch x 15.5-Inch Flexible Solar Panel: Amazon.com: Patio, Lawn & Garden
For my controller, like with most other things, I went as cheap as I could. I bought a Coleman Air charge controller kit (Coleman Air 40A Amp Wind/Solar Diversion-Charge Load Controller No Enclosure DLC_CKIT) and put it inside a hobby electronics box from Radio Shack. For the dump load I just wired 2 50W lightbulbs onto the top of the box and have them set to trip off when the battery reaches a certain voltage. This is instead of having the dump load tied directly to the solar panel because I also have a DIY wind generator tied into the same setup.
Here's a picture of the charge controller setup from back before I also had the solar panel wired in. The difference now is that the wiring is a little different and I have the light bulb posts attached to wire crimp sleeves instead of the kludgy putty solution.
Next time I have the panel out I'll take some photos of the overall setup if you're interested.
To your other point, PCP, here's a link to a company that did what you talked about, taking the UniSolar panel and adding a more boat-friendly backing: Energy Del Sol Flexible Solar RV Mat Kit - Solar Panels - Electrical. As you can see, there's a lot of "value added" price tacked on. I far preferred to convert the tar-back.
Re: Roll-up solar panels
an interesting thread, have you managed to replace the need for shore/generator power completely then, with your use of solar panels?
I have just started noseying around the internet for solar tech and wondering where they can be mounted etc.
For my own boat (full time liveaboard) I would rather have a permanent solution, that provided enough power to keep the batteries topped up and powered all of my liveaboard needs.
I am just starting to put together the calculations to try to ascertain my power needs (year-round) and would love to hear from anybody who has already done this? Particularly if you have found a way to generate enough solar juice to power everything?
I am thinking that the use of the flexible panels, could be applied right the way along both sides of the top of the hull, has anybody done this? The thinking being that although not angled directly at the sun, they would pick up reflections from the water.
Also to find rigid panels of the correct size and shape that could live on top of the roof, and also places like transom could house a panel too
I have seen a few examples of big solar panels being used on top of davits, but I can't help thinking they look rather ugly and would be a little vulnerable in heavy conditions.
If one had the money however I think that most every surface (except the decks) could be covered in photocells (not stuck on, but actually manufactured that way); all of the hull (above the waterline), all of the roof etc much like the solar cars you see in those races. if done properly this would simply look like your boat had a dark blue hull.
Re: Roll-up solar panels
BTW, the solar panels linked to previously are now on special offer! HURRAY!
Amazon.com: Uni-Solar PVL-68 PowerBond PVL 68 Watt 12 Volt 112-Inch x 15.5-Inch Flexible Solar Panel: Patio, Lawn & Garden
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