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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I decided to purchase a 100w flexible solar panel which I will no bolt down... or make a solar arch for. I will secure the panel with shock cord. I have 5 possible locations. Each with advantages and disadvantages. Being movable I suppose I will find out which is the optimal location. It will be trial and error... I can add additional panels... but not sure I need them

Any thoughts?

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Last year I experimented with a single panel, temporarily secured to my dodger and it worked pretty well but it required a lot of shade management to keep the shadow of the boom off the panel. It wasn't too bad at a dock or anchored with a stern tie as I simply had to secure the boom off to one side or the other. The problem was that when swinging on the hook the boat tends to kite around a bit so managing that shade would have been a full time job. This year I have bought a second panel and I will be mounting the. On the bimini, aft of the boom. I expect it will be much easier to maintain full sun exposure in that location.


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Is position #1 on the cockpit seat? If so, I don't think that's a good location due to traffic on the panel, and a potentially slippery step down for a person.

Position #3 will be difficult to keep the boom shade off. Even with the boom swung out to the side, this position will be shaded a lot.

Position #2 seems a likely place, but you should use more than shock cord or it will be lifting and flexing, and that kills flexible panels in a very short time.

Not sure I see much difference between #4 and #5. It would depend on how each allows the access to the deck you need.

Mark
 

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Definitely the foredeck area are going to give you the best exposure.

Are you considering these positions while under way, or are you planning on laying the panel out when you are at anchor?

Last year I was comparing notes with another club member who was placing his flexible panels on deck wherever the best sun exposure was. His panels were looking a bit rough from frequent flexing and being laid across uneven surfaces. He didn't seem to be getting very good output. At the time I recall I was getting around 8amps out of my 160w panel and he was getting 5 amps out of his 2x100w panels. I have a feeling his panels were damaged from too much handling and flexing.

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I was planning to set them up depending on the situation.

Behind the helm would be when the boat is left on the mooring
Fore deck locations also at mooring or maybe anchored
on top of dodger or forward of dodger while underway sailing

I was thinking of keeping the panel stored below and setting it up when needed/per circumstances. Boat moves so shading under boom is transient.
 

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Moving them frequently is going to shorten the life. You get zero watts when it's not in place. You will be happier, and get more power, if you just pick a spot and mount it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Moving them frequently is going to shorten the life. You get zero watts when it's not in place. You will be happier, and get more power, if you just pick a spot and mount it.
I am be in a slip for the foreseeable future and in that sense there is no need for solar as I have a shore power connection. Why leave them on deck if they are not needed? Maybe unless I am out and about with the boat and anchoring for more than a day it makes sense...to add some amps from solar. I don't need solar to support 12v refrigeration.
 

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Why not a fold down mount on the pushpit somewhere? With an adjustable leg, they can be positioned to face the sun optimally too, or just laid down vertically to get out of the way.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
Why not a fold down mount on the pushpit somewhere? With an adjustable leg, they can be positioned to face the sun optimally too, or just laid down vertically to get out of the way.
Windage... something mechanical to break... having to run a "permanent" wire are reasons to do this as a "portable as needed solar installation.". Someone from the Contest Yacht Owners Club does the same thing and it works for him,

I had my former panels on the coach roof over the lines going aft since the late 80s. I was used to not stepping on them when messing with the mainsail. The wiring entered through the sides of the cockpit dash. But I was on a mooring and never at a dock...except in winter when I removed them and was on shore power in a slip. That worked fine. They got fatally damaged this past fall in a freak wind event before I could remove them.

So I thought about new, better and flexible ones.

Then I decided to stay in a slip year round and the need for them was no longer there.

Then things changed... the slip was sold and I was planning to again moor for the summer.

Then I decided that the were downsides to the NPT mooring.... more driving... wasted time... more gas, tolls, parking hassles and traffic. And the dinghy store problem. In the water the bottom fouls terribly and I don't have the real estate on the foredeck,,, don't want davits.... thought about hoisting and suspending dink out of the water tied to the stanchions... And then I thought this was getting crazy... find a slip at Schooner Cove. And lo and behold I got a fabulous slip. So I don't need solar and the dock where the slop is has real estate to store the dink out of the water. If I go for a cruise... just push it in the water... tie to the boat and tow it.

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But I had already purchased a panel, controller, cables.... and so I can use it IF and WHEN I need to.... and that will be hardly ever. So why do a "permanent" install.... qaste of time and money when I can take the panel out from below... and place it and plug it in. I think this is the best solution for me... I don't think I can return it.... but maybe I can sell the panel. But it was less than $200 so I will keep it.

I will give it a try and see what sort of output I get... and I could also unplug the shore power and leave the panel on deck topping up the batts. The slip orientation works for solar too.

As a general comment... I don't care for the look of boats with tons of things added on... like radar arches, solar arrays, wind gens, BBQs and so on. I know live aboard cruisers do this... and it is needed... but I am not in that situation either.

We'll see.

edit... I use the stern boarding ladder to board from the slip... with my bad knees this is very easy and I have lots of handholds there as well.
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For on deck locations, I prefer the semi-flexible panels that have a stiff fiberglass backing and a textured surface. You can walk on them and they are less slippery than the plastic flexible panels. They are sold under the Lensun and Nature Power ($$$$) brands. Mine is lashed on the fore deck (position 4) and I leave it there nearly almost all the time. It has been fine even in 30 knot winds and 40 knot gusts.
 

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Another option for a temporary location is the lifelines, lash one side to the lifelines and prop it out flat. They are not in the way at dock or anchor, but of course would be a problem while sailing.
 

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Shade is a killer. All it takes is a shaded corner of a panel to kill its output. It's not like it just doesn't put out quite as much, it kills almost all of its output. If it's a larger panel with bypass diodes in it, maybe it would deal with shade better depending on where the shade is. I never really appreciated the effect of shading until I looked at the panels on our smaller boat in real time with the app for the controller. I have one 100 watt panel mounted under the boom and another 60 watt panel mounted off the stern rail. Even with the boom tied as far as I can out of the way, it's hard to get the panel in complete sun a lot of the time. Depending on the angle, the bimini can partially shade the other panel. We make it work between the 2 but it's far from ideal. I may end up switching to a panel on the bimini.

Our other boat has all 3 panels on the bimini. Never a problem. So location is everything.

Concerning permanent mounting or not, all it takes is one slip with a flexible panel to crack it. Since the cells are in series, one cracked cell will kill the output of the panel. For this reason, I use rigid panels on our trailerable boat as they get mounted and dismounted every trip. Flexibles on our other boat as they're permanently mounted for the season and you don't even notice them up on the bimini.

While your boat is in the slip, it would be a good time to experiment with best location and how much solar you need for when it's on a mooring. My vote is position 1, 4 or 5 depending on shading from the headsail furler.
 

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Just a thought, based on your intended usage: sell the flexible one and buy a fold up suitcase style panel. That way you can store it safely in a smaller package, and when needed it becomes easy to just set up and lash to the foredeck. Much more robust for moving about, easier to stow, and adjustable to maximize output. Plus, if you have a need for one somewhere other than on the boat you just grab it and go.


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Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
While this sketch is not accurate... it does show the angle of the sun in the summer in NE... with the boat point SW which it does typically with the prevailing SW breeze. The sun is shown motion/position is above positions #1, #3 and #5

#2 and #3 while out of the way do get shading when the sun is highest (not good)

#4 and $5 get shading from the furled head sail

#1 looks to have the least shading (back stay)

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I am mounting my panels to a piece of sunbrella with zippers to attach it to the bimini. That way I can remove them when they are not needed. I plan to put them away when the boat is at the dock because we have shore power there. Many of our weekend getaways also have shore power. We only need the panels when we are on longer trips, so why expose the panels to the weather unnecessarily?

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I am mounting my panels to a piece of sunbrella with zippers to attach it to the bimini. That way I can remove them when they are not needed. I plan to put them away when the boat is at the dock because we have shore power there. Many of our weekend getaways also have shore power. We only need the panels when we are on longer trips, so why expose the panels to the weather unnecessarily?

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Agree and I would put the panel in the V berth which is rarely used by people... guests are rare and when they come the panels can be stored in the aft cabin. I presume they are reasonably rugged and would be "happy" under a berth cushion and completely out of the way.

Make flexible solar panels flexible!
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
What about flexible solar panels from this review Finding The Best Flexible Solar Panels In 2021 Specifically, I am not an expert on the selection of solar panels, I just found an article on the blog.
I bought the panel... so now it is a matter of when to use it, where and how to mount it.
I think if I want no shadows...or the leat time with shadowing... cockpit or fore deck would be the location.
If I want to mount and forget and accept shading... on the dodger or in front of it would be the most out of the way locations....
Most likely I will only plug it in when I am cruising... since I am on shore power in a slip this season and there is no need in a slip. I bought the panel because I thought I would be on a mooring this summer.... But decided to keep it...
 

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I think you can install the panel in any convenient place, the main thing. so that you do not get in the way and enough sunlight falls on the panel, otherwise there will be no sense from the solar panel.
 

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Anybody have any recommendations of solar panel manufacturers? Will some make a physical size I specify? I'll be wanting a flat 16x16" ok to step on, and a second panel flexible about 24x30" ok to step on semi-permanent mount, and ruggedness. Somebody here mentioned a panel wirh nonskid surface - that would be great.
I'm not expecting 100% output because neither panel will ever have ideal exposure due to curves & shading - it's a boat. Two different capacity panels, sending all their power thru a controller to the battery.
Installing a second battery, but wiring and controlling that is a separate issue. C'est la vie.
So, anybody have recommendations for quality manufacturers?
 
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