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Thread: Solar Array Ideas?

  1. #1
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    Default Solar Array Ideas?

    I want to create a solar array ontop of my hatch cover.
    I can't think of a discrete place to place it that doesn't make life awkward or mess irrevokably with the looks of the boat.

    1962 Tasman Seabird.
    IMG_5405.jpg

    Just forward of the companion way you can see a wooden frame. That is for a life raft.
    I want to take that off and place a curved structure there and fix solar panels to it.
    (The life raft will be secured elsewhere when i use it).

    I removed the wind instruments form the companion way - they never worked properly. As you can see in this pic below we are motoring at nearly 11 knots!
    They looked a bit yachty but just told lies. i'll replace them as i go with instruments that give me useful information.

    IMG_3696.jpg

    Using the instrument mounting board as the template i cut out forms onto which i will strip build or otherwise construct a cover.

    IMG_5432.jpg

    And its at this point that i stop.......

    There is a cable feed for the displays through to that spot which i can use to bring charge from the solar panels.
    The 'cover' will be 950mm x 950mm. I'd like to fit 6 or 9 panels on that to conform to the curve across the surface. No panel i can find fits beautufully.

    I did have this distressingly unattractive panel support on the back for a while. It had a 200w panel on it and worked beautifully - but ugly.
    I don't want to put it back.

    IMG_3621.jpg

    So - i have the form, I have the dimensions, now to populate that with a solution.
    Philip K. Dick 'Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away'.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Solar Array Ideas?

    You might get two 100ish watt "flexible" panels stuck down there, with that much area to work with. Only a few mm thick, no metal frame , no glass. They could probably be stuck down directly on the cabin roof, where the liferaft frame is now, unless you want the system removable.

    Pete
    Don't underestimate the power of stupid people in large numbers!

  3. #3
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    JB has flexible panels on Riada. Seems happy.

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  4. #4
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    Default Re: Solar Array Ideas?

    Ideas? Yes.

    Practical solution for the idea? Well, that's where it goes runny.

    You can walk on some solar cells. That is to say, they can be walked on when they are dead flat and dry, otherwise you can slip and fall on them. The idea is transparent non-skid. The solution is going to be something like polycarbonate granules set in a non-yellowing PU. Spirit line PU for SOF will work, but it turns yellow, and I suspect that the yellowing is going to absorb the blue light which (without checking to see if I am right) is bad for efficiency. UV is a difficult thing. Maybe the 303 protectant (not the fabric protectant)? https://www.seattlefabrics.com/303re...ade_p_590.html Maybe 3M clear non-skid tape?


    link to '[10 Myth Busters - Solar Panels on Boats'
    Last edited by MN Dave; 01-07-2019 at 11:48 AM.
    Management is the art of counting beans. Leadership is the art of making every being count. --Joe Finch

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Solar Array Ideas?

    I've been looking at flexible ones and wondering about how efficient they are.
    I don't intend to walk on the panels, but a stepping on is inevitable considering where they are; reefing or stowing the main.

    It's not recommended to glue down flexi ones. I think fasteners at the corners and then velcro - or some such. Which would lend itself nicely to a removable system as required.

    hmmmmm.....
    Philip K. Dick 'Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away'.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Solar Array Ideas?

    Quote Originally Posted by MN Dave View Post
    good link - thanks
    Philip K. Dick 'Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away'.

  7. #7
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    I have two flexible panels each 560 x 540 @ 70w nominal. For Romana one sits snug on the tiny foredeck. On Arawana one sits nicely on the sliding companionway hatch with a second to go on the fore hatch when cruising.

    Each cost around $110 including delivery. So far they all work.


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  8. #8
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    One on the sliding hatch too.
    That's a cool idea. How do you manage the cable going in and out?


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    Last edited by gypsie; 01-08-2019 at 05:25 PM.
    Philip K. Dick 'Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away'.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by gypsie View Post
    One on the sliding hatch too.
    That’s a cool idea. How do you manage the cable going in and out?


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk


    Poorly. It's jury rigged. I had a grand plan and squibbed it. I'm hoping that divine inspiration will descend like shimmering silver snowflakes while it's in use. For now a single panel is being tied off on the sunny side of the boat with a long cable attached. I haven't lived aboard for a long while so a single panel is ample to keep the batteries healthy.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    When I first joined WBF they made me write a book to prove I was a real yachty. I was so gullible.
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  10. #10
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    Default Re: Solar Array Ideas?

    I do hope JB chimes in, he has several bendy panels on Riada.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Solar Array Ideas?

    I'm keen to learn all about solar options too. I'm told that flexible panels are not as efficient as the hard ones but, probably more critically (?), any shade across a part of a panel reduces the efficiency very significantly. I'm told this is the case even with modern panels that aren't as susceptible to efficiency reduction from shading as the older ones were. But, if that's right, is the companionway, under the boom, really the best place?

    At this stage, I intend to mount a panel on each side of the lazarette, winged out on the safety rails when in use. In theory, these could be winged outboard or inboard but I'm pretty sure I'll mount them so that they'll only go outboard.

    But I'm very keen to learn a lot more about this stuff!!

    Rick

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Solar Array Ideas?

    The flex panels are ok but mine are beginning to degrade now. What's the option , some great ali framed glass clunkers? They all claim how well the flexi panels are built but more often than not they come from only a couple of makers... 3 years down the track and its oh we have better ones now, we had trouble with those xyz ones. Example: absolutely latest and greatest black carbon looking things gone onto 2 of my friends boats at eye watering expense from one of the high profile local companies...,neither boats have solar for their Christmas cruise because they don't work. Lemons.... and to think I had high hopes.
    If you can live with the look then the lifeline way is a good option, I might add some there. cheapest ones I can find because high cost is evidently not the determiner of longevity.
    2 of mine are taped down, two are taped onto boards so I can push them around or angle them. One lay under the boom and would get shifted side to side over the day.
    I was going to add a newer generation panel to the existing...ooooh nooooo, you can't do that on the same controller because they all have to have matched voltage amperage same amount of time in the cauldron with the frogs legs and eye of newt.
    But one panel isn't really an array is it, my take is put it on some flexible board and tie it or clip it down, move it if the boat is hanging the wrong way for the sun.
    Unsolicited extra comment, in the tropics you hang to the SE trades more often than not, sun coming up over the stern a lot I noticed.
    Also and completely counterintuitive, the sun has much less generating power in low latitudes. It's winter when yer there, the angles are lower, eye of newt factor comes to play in electro babble speak.
    Last edited by John B; 01-08-2019 at 03:16 PM.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Solar Array Ideas?

    Marine thin panels:
    https://www.emarineinc.com/SOLARA-Power-M-Series

    The data sheet says that these can be walked on, but falls short of recommending it. It would be interesting to see how much the transparent non-skid tape shades the cells.
    Management is the art of counting beans. Leadership is the art of making every being count. --Joe Finch

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Solar Array Ideas?

    How about towing one behind on top of an inner tube ?

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Solar Array Ideas?

    Unfortunately your dimensions are just shy of fitting two 100W panels, so you must get creative with the available panel shapes. As for the panels the semi-flexible ones come in all flavours, with plastic or aluminium backing, different plastics for the face, and from chinese cheap to european expensive. If you want to walk on them they must be glued down to a solid substrate that can take a persons weight without flexing.

    Looking at your boat pictures, I would try to fit small panels between the portlights on both sides and on the front face of the cabin. There are also two glass panelled hatches I can see that could be converted but that would mean building custom panels.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Solar Array Ideas?

    I removed a panel from one of the glass hatches and the additional light below is very welcome. I don't think i'll cover them again.
    The dims of the location are not completely fixed in stone, I could overhand the companion way a few centimeters and push out forward a little too.
    I prefer the option of either 3 panels to follow the curve more closely or a flexi.

    Is there an advantage of multiple panels over a single one?
    If the big single one is partly shaded does that affect the output more than if one of six panels is shaded?

    Cheapest panels - in this situation i do think of the panels somewhat as consumables. I'd expect 3 years use, on average, before things drop on and otherwise begin to damage. So again maybe 6 small units that are easy to swap out would be best....?
    Does that make me a bad person?
    Philip K. Dick 'Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away'.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Solar Array Ideas?

    I think glued down panels will always be less efficient as solar cells need to be kept relatively cool to work well. Glued down panels don't allow air to circulate so they get hot.

    Rick

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Solar Array Ideas?

    Several small panels over one large one makes sense to me.

    Rick

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Solar Array Ideas?

    How shades affect a panel has to do with how they are wired series/parallel. High voltage series wiring is affected less. That means residential panels are better then 12V panels, but most semi-flexible are 12V panels (well actually 18V). If you have multiple panels the best way is a controller for each panel. Most 100W panels are 10XY mm x 50X mm but there are odd sizes also, you must check with each manufacturer. Altough Rick is right, glueing them down will affect performance, it's the only way to go if you want to be able to walk on them. If you have velcro under them or only screws in the corners the panel will flex and crack the cells, they can only take gentle bends. The alternative are walkable glass panels with metal frames but those are heavy.
    For the hatches there are two types of "transparent" solar cells. One uses thin film deposition and looks like you put strips of shading film on the glass. You can actually look trough them and are low efficiency (2-9%). Can be an option for someone that uses tinted hatches anyway. Can be had as self adhering film or as a one piece tinted glass.
    Second option are normal opaque cells nicely spaced out on a transparent substrate. Looks like someone glued little black squares on a window. This can be had on glass and as semi-flexible panels on plastic. They are used on glass walls and roofs. True "invisible" panels exist but as far as I know are not yet on the market.

    If you expect only 3 years out of one then chinese semi-flexible are the choice. Glue them down everywhere you find space.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Solar Array Ideas?

    I have mounted solar panels on my boats.

    On Andrea Lynn: . These panels lasted about 6 years. I have since replaced them with a pair of 30 watt tempered glass and aluminum framed panels. So far these have not been stepped on. And they were fairly inexpensive.

    On No Strings Attached:

    How I built the panel: http://www.willmarsh3.net/el/aps/elver_aps3.htm

    I'm liking the small 2.5 watt modules that I can wire together in series to make a suitable voltage. I then wire the strings in parallel to increase the current. A shadow on one string will largely shut it down without affecting the other strings.

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    I have some flexible panels but I am not happy with their reliability or performance. I hope to test some and supply quantitative numbers about these soon.

    Edit: I tested the flexible panels today. They seem to be generating close to their rated power. But this is a short test where the panel was exposed to the sun for about 5 minutes. I'll do a long duration test soon.
    Last edited by willmarsh3; 01-09-2019 at 01:49 PM.
    Will

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Solar Array Ideas?

    Looks great! But really, what about this issue of shading? The boom with flaked sail and cover over it is a pretty substantial thing to have shading a cabin top panel. And most of the time I want the panels to be working, I'd have the sail flaked. On the Seabird, wouldn't that be similar? I don't want to be negative - I'm very keen to see it work, but I can't really see how fairly limited panels under quite substantial shade will provide enough power to run much.

    Rick

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Solar Array Ideas?

    Each situation obviously has different requirements.

    For Andrea Lynn the panels are adequate because they are unshaded for about 2 hours a day. I sail the boat on the weekends only so it has all week to recover the charge. It serves to keep the batteries topped off and run a fan to circulate air through the boat.

    On the Elver the panels are mostly unshaded but there will be moments when the sails or masts shade them. But so far they have proven adequate for charging the trolling motor battery bank.

    I watch Sailing Uma Youtube channel. They have a 500 watt bimini top array that is mostly unshaded. It has served them well over the past year or two of sailing.
    Will

  23. #23
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    Requirements for full time liveaboard cruising are probably quite different from weekend sailing. Calculate your consumption and storage requirements and work from there I guess. Or just fit the biggest batteries and panels you can based on space and fiscal resources. And remember the sun is rarely directly overhead, and if you feel like it you can always swing your boom to one side.

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