Where did you put solar panels? - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 28 Old 06-02-2010 Thread Starter
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Where did you put solar panels?

I have a 31 and we'd like to install a 135W solar panel somewhere. At this time I don't want davits or an arch so those options are eliminated. I'm going to the collective for ideas.

Top of a bimini seems the most logical but I expect a much stronger frame would be required. Please suggest a fabricator or show any images.

Another option is over the dodger but I'm concerned about the boom and mast shadow. I could use the boom brake to hold the boom off to the side at anchor which would help. Here's a picture of a 31 (Kansei). Does the owner read this list? Anyone else have experience with this setup?


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post #2 of 28 Old 06-02-2010
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You could shore up the bimini frame with some stainless tubing and fittings from Sailrite or another source. We actuall built our own custom bimini frame from one of their kits, cutting the tube to fit with a tubbing cutter and a special wheel for stainless. That allowed us to make a rigid frame with no tiedown straps, and avoided any new deck fittings as the frame attaches to the pushpit. We don't have a solar panel, but the frame is more than rigid enough to support one.
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post #3 of 28 Old 06-02-2010
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You can mount it on the rear stanchion, but it would block the swim ladder.
I've got 2 50W mounted on my 31, almost no shadows and they don't get in the way.
Tom

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post #4 of 28 Old 06-02-2010
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[QUOTE=stevemac00;609159]I have a 31 and we'd like to install a 135W solar panel somewhere. At this time I don't want davits or an arch so those options are eliminated. I'm going to the collective for ideas.

Top of a bimini seems the most logical but I expect a much stronger frame would be required. Please suggest a fabricator or show any images.

Another option is over the dodger but I'm concerned about the boom and mast shadow. I could use the boom brake to hold the boom off to the side at anchor which would help. Here's a picture of a 31 (Kansei). Does the owner read this list? Anyone else have experience with this setup?
QUOTE]

PSC is in the finishing stages of installing my new dodger. I specifically requested a dodger that had a hard surface and was sturdy enough to hold solar panels. This is what they came up with. I'm very happy with it so far. It seems to me that there's plenty of light. Photos are from this past weekend near Bath, NC on Kon Jeni Al (37)
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post #5 of 28 Old 06-02-2010 Thread Starter
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Nice. It'd be easy for you to add a panel to the dodger top as well but I'm trying to wrap my head around how well it would work. As you can see in your pictures (which looked like a perfect day) there are shadows on the dodger top so it may not work very well. As I understand it, a shadow on a single cell drops the output dramatically.

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post #6 of 28 Old 06-02-2010
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I have an older 31 on which the PO installed a solar panel on the cabin top right in front of the dodger. Obviously it gets frequent shadows. I have been busy with other things and haven't actually paid it much attention so I can't really comment on its performance, but for a trickle charger it's certainly fine.

What I am thinking of doing in the future, though, is mounting a pair of solar panels on the stanchions on either side of the cockpit which hinge and can be deployed and lowered and also angled for optimum performance. At least one panel would always be completely unshaded. I have even heard of some cruisers who put photovoltaics on both surfaces of these overhanging panels so they can collect reflected sun off the water as well as direct sun (I guess those people have pretty deep pockets).

Paul

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post #7 of 28 Old 06-02-2010
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We went through this drill last summer. Too cheap to build or buy an arch over the bimini and I didn't really want the extra weight up there either. I put them on stainless tubes between two stantion posts. Good sun at noon, but we often have one panel shaded in the mornings and afternoons. We can adjust their attitude and then stow them down low as seen in the picture. Compromises, compromises.


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post #8 of 28 Old 06-03-2010
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Steve, a panel with a shadow on it is simply crippled. You're better off doing an installation that won't have shadow problems. Effectively...if you lose 50% output you're going to pay double for your panel, and they aren't cheap to start with, right?

You'll also lose about 10% of power for every 15 degrees that the panel is not angled at the sun. i.e., if the panle is hanging flat on the stanchions and the sun is overhead, it is off by 90 degrees...and water reflections or not, that means you are about 60% down from full power.

So you are right to be planning ahead for the best possible mounting, it is time and money well spent. You might want to take a look at solarstik.com not that I would recommend it for a 31' boat, but to look at the concept. Mounting the panel(s) on a pole that gets them outboard of a stern quarter could be a good solution. They're out of the way, and the primary drawbacks are making sure you don't lose anything overboard, and of course, robust installation. A "radar pole" and a way to mount the panel could be a reasonable compromise though.
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post #9 of 28 Old 06-03-2010
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I second what HelloSailor said. Even small shadows can really damage output. A friend and I were discussing this one evening on my boat and he did not fully understand. My 85W panel was angled at the setting sun and putting out a steady 4.1 amps. I simply laid a sail tie across a corner of it and watched the output drop to about 1.2 amps. We removed the sail tie and right back up to 4.1..

If you want all the performance you paid for it should be as unshaded as possible..

Ours is as far out the dinghy davits as we can get and still occasionally gets shaded by the radar pole..


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post #10 of 28 Old 06-10-2010
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We mounted two 85W panels above the bimini alongside a Aero6Gen wind gen and have been pleased with the results. We aren't interested in moving panels for sun angles - we just jack the boom out with a preventer line to avoid the shadow and forget about it.
You might consider converting to LED lighting, inside and out, to conserve power.
We've spent considerable time on the hook or on moorings in the last couple of years and have yet to run the engine for battery charging.
Good luck with your projects,
Sam
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