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post #1 of 51 Old 01-04-2017 Thread Starter
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Solar power instead of shore power

For the past month I've had a 15w solar panel tending my batteries.
I've totally nerded out, watching the voltage climb each day until the batteries were full, all because I put a piece of silicon and glass on the deck.

A friend pointed me in the direction of a local dealer selling Solbian flexible panels on sale, so I bought a 125w flexible panel and a MPPT controller. My power budget is pretty light- 1 amp for my chart plotter and 4 amps for my Adler-Barbour cold machine. All the lights are LED and I don't have an autopilot right now.

I think I'll still need another panel to generate more than I use, but this will greatly extend my time away from the dock.
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post #2 of 51 Old 01-04-2017
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Re: Solar power instead of shore power

How do you have it mounted on your boat?

I've been looking at installing solar on my boat too. Possibly mounting between stanchions, maybe one on a stern pole (left over from old radar antenna). Would be nice to be as off-grid as possible. Like you, I just have a VHF, Cold Machine and LED lighting.

Any pictures of the setup?

Daniel
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post #3 of 51 Old 01-04-2017
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Re: Solar power instead of shore power

I bought a 50 watt panel and a Genasun controller last fall, but I haven't had a chance to install it yet.

I have two group 27 batteries, but a charge has to last me several months. I end up resenting the nav lights or the phone charger or any electrical usage. I'm hoping with the 50 watt I can be a lot more cavalier about my usage.

I should take the batteries off the boat and setup the solar panel so I can play with it over winter. I suppose I could run some wires out a window so the solar panel could sit in the sun. It's -4ºF today, so anything that makes me think about the sun is good...

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post #4 of 51 Old 01-04-2017
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Re: Solar power instead of shore power

If I were going to keep my boat, I was going to install a hardtop Bimini this winter and a pair of 200-watt solar panels in addition to the 100-watter that I already have. The 100-watt panel keeps my bank of 4 T-105s and a deep cycle group 27 marine battery fully charged at all times when there is sunlight. My draw is a bit heavier than most, though, with a flat screen TV, 750-watt microwave oven, refrigerator/freezer that draws 5 amps, and the GPS Plotter draws about an amp. The additional 400 watts would have put me well above the my consumption level, though. Oh well, that will soon be someone else's project.

Cheers,

Gary
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post #5 of 51 Old 01-04-2017
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Re: Solar power instead of shore power

Find if you have agms solar/wind is not sufficient. Most boats have some degree of parasitic loss. Switches, electronics in various things, and such. Over time given no sun at night, cloudy days, and days of high use without any engine hence alternator use things drift down. You spend most of your time between 80% and 60%. So you need to go into a slip, or keep the engine on traveling for a day or two in order to reallget back to 100%. Even running the genset for an hour a day will only get you to absorption and you need to be on float for awhile to be really charged to a true 13v.
In New England in the summer the solar beats the d400s by a huge margin. Down in the Caribbean the wind puts in more and the solar less. On passage both do the best. Surprisingly on passage even with the increased loads of radar and AP have less trouble keeping the batteries up. It's at anchor when living on the boat that things are hardest.
So for small boats and especially for non liveaboards wet cells maybe a better choice. For folks needing a a lot of juice over a long time agms come into their own as you get more total Ah in a smaller space. But you need to bring them up every few months. Turns out usually need some slip time to fix something or get visitors so to date hasn't been an issue. Been on boats subjected to knockdowns. That's why not a wet cell fan at present. May go Li when the Lifelines die if I have the bucks.

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post #6 of 51 Old 01-04-2017
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Re: Solar power instead of shore power

We've been using 250 watts of solar for the last 5 years and I've found a few very interesting things.
Normally, the solar array (around 20 amps in full sunlight) has charged the batteries to the point of trickle charging for the rest of the day, by 11AM. It doesn't seem to matter how much we consume for the rest of the day, I'll not see any more 'bulk' charging. By the way, I do not have 12 volt refrigeration. So, by dusk we've been trickle charging all afternoon but not getting that last bit to get them all the way up. Night comes, the time when we're watching movies on the computer et al, and the consumption drains the house bank back down to 12.4 by dawn, and it all begins again.
This is of course the best case scenario. 4 days w/o good sunshine and I'd be in real trouble w/o the generator, if I didn't curtail usage hugely.
Of course at night La Luna doesn't help, so enter the windgen. The idea was to lessen the overnight drain. Funny thing, a windgen needs wind, just as the solar panels need the sun. Well, quite often the wind dies at night, even here in the Caribbean. Actually, this year the Christmas Winds still haven't arrived. Summer time, don't count on wind too much. Today, a ten hour 70 mile voyage in around 20 knots of wind produced 35 amps from the windgen. That's less than 2 hours of solar input, so don't expect too much from a windgen.
Of course, we are full time liveaboards with a bit of a electrical addiction, but still, I don't see how adding a huge bank of solar panels would improve this scenario very much if the panels are cutting back to a trickle charge by mid morning. You'd just get to that point faster.
Please Mr. Neptune, can I win the lotto next week so we can have lithium ion batteries?
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post #7 of 51 Old 01-04-2017
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Re: Solar power instead of shore power

I just saw something on one of the nature TV channels, can't remember which one, though, where cities were using wave action to generate huge amounts of electricity, and the wave action was not all that high. I was amazed at how efficient these things were. And, they were not all that big.

One day we will see things like this for sailboats,

Gary
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Re: Solar power instead of shore power

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Originally Posted by travlin-easy View Post
If I were going to keep my boat, I was going to install a hardtop Bimini this winter and a pair of 200-watt solar panels in addition to the 100-watter that I already have. The 100-watt panel keeps my bank of 4 T-105s and a deep cycle group 27 marine battery fully charged at all times when there is sunlight. My draw is a bit heavier than most, though, with a flat screen TV, 750-watt microwave oven, refrigerator/freezer that draws 5 amps, and the GPS Plotter draws about an amp. The additional 400 watts would have put me well above the my consumption level, though. Oh well, that will soon be someone else's project.

Cheers,

Gary
I hope you are getting a bigger boat and not throwing in the towel
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post #9 of 51 Old 01-05-2017 Thread Starter
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Re: Solar power instead of shore power

Oops, sorry guys. I only purchased it yesterday and I'm picking it up today. I haven't mounted it yet.

This is a 1/16th inch thick, flexible panel. It can be sewn into a bimini or dodger, but I prefer not to do that. I don't have a bimini and I don't leave my dodger up all the time.
I plan to mount it on a piece of polycarbonate sheeting and a pair of supports from the rear pulpit, sort of like a spoiler on a Honda civic. It has electrical quick disconnects for easy removal and stowage. I want to be able to remove it when I race or if I'm in a sketchy marina to reduce the possibility of theft.

My batteries are ordinary 12 volt, wet cell lead-acid batteries. I have a deep cycle for the house battery and a "dual-purpose" battery for starting. I plan on adding one more battery for my dinghy propulsion.

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post #10 of 51 Old 01-05-2017
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Re: Solar power instead of shore power

I've seen other videos/pictures of people using the poly- sheeting. That will be a good help. I've been looking at Renogy 100W panels on Amazon. Looking at those flexible panels, they may cost a little more but they sure do save on weight and rated for more power.

Daniel
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