Thursday, 23 February 2012

Solar Power on a yacht

Mounting the solar panels is the next job on the list, I managed to get a very non marine quote for an arch from a local engineering company, the first guy i called quoted 2-3000 pounds, now for what amounts to a couple of hundred pounds of metal, and really a days work, I thought this a tad expensive. The local machine shop was 650 pounds including tax, same arch!

I'm not yet set on an arch, for several reasons,  a large piece on inertia hanging off the transom is not the best thing in the world to have on a boat, you also have to consider the possibly of breaking waves on the rear as well, more weight at either end increase pitching.

I priced up doing a bimini install, and it was almost as expensive as the arch, but at least that way I don't have a big ugly arch hanging off the stern and the weight is more central, the drawbacks are partial shading from the boom when underway and the boom itself. The boat does not have a rigid boom vang, so it is supported solely by the topping lift (ie a rope) and should it chafe the, boom will come crashing down on all those panels (granted they may be a life saver in such a situation, better them taking the brunt than someones head!

I have bought 400w of solar panels- 5x80w units from a company in germany, no doubt cheap chinese stuff but they have TUV approval and tempered glass. Watch out when looking at cheaper solar panels, some go bad after a few years due to the coatings they use misting up, or the cheaper glass going opaque and milky.

I got a TUV approved MPPT controller, it's actually quite a good piece of kit and the charger does equalisation of the batteries and a few other nifty features, it also has a remote display which has a data logger for the geeky ones among us, you can put in an sdcard then read it on a pc . This shows power and other data over the last month of use.

The MPPT controllers supposedly gain around 10% extra charging due to less power waste, combined with the new agm batteries (AGMS also waste less energy during charging than normal lead acid) I should gain a good 20% extra over lead acids and standard solar controller and not at much extra cost.

I need to toss the coin fairly soon over the mounting technique I am going to use as the departure date looms ever closer!


  1. Hi Nic and Steve

    Don't dismiss the arch out of hand. There is a reason they are so popular, Including hoisting a dinghy at night when at anchor, solar panels, wing gen, various antenna etc. Obviously on offshore trips you put the dinghy on deck. Many good designs but as you say, not cheap. Regards Gerry.

  2. Thanks, I know arches have many merits, but they are damn ugly things,My head goes with the arch, my heart with the bimini, lets see which one wins!


Thanks for your interest!

Nic n Steve.