Going Solar

We wanted to be able to increase the time between charging the house bank while away from the dock.

After some research, we decided to add a solar charging system for the boat.

A bit of background.
We do not have an “on-board” generator. We use a small 2000W portable when needed. It works but we hate the noise and in quiet anchorages we feel guilty that we have to run it. So in most cases we don’t.

We have 8  6-Volt Golf Cart Batteries in the house bank. They are US Battery 2200’s

Here is the link to the electrical upgrade we did a few years ago.

After some research and discussion with a few friends that added solar we set out to design and install a system.
We do not have a place on the boat to permanently mount the panels so we decided to look at panels that we could temporarily place up on the Bimini when we need solar charging.

After some price and brand shopping, we purchased 4 -100 Watt Flexible panels from  Amray Solar
These are Sunpower panels and flexible but not “roll up flexible”

Testing Solar Panels

Here are the panels being tested outside before taking them to the boat.

They have grommets built in. I tied them  with zap straps and they hinge together into a bundle.
Peggy made a “Tote” bag for them that keeps them neatly protected and fits under the upper helm in the brow.
They are flexible but do not roll up. They weigh less than 2 lbs each.

We “deploy” them (for lack of a better word) and slide them up on the Bimini, then tie them down with bungee cords. It takes about 5 minutes to get them in place and connect the wiring.
They are quite secure up there. We did experience some gusty winds one afternoon but the panels stayed in place quite well.

We don’t travel with the panels up there unless we are just going a short distance at slow speed with no wind.

Solar panels deployed on bimini

 

I am working on tightening the Bimini so the panels sit totally flat.

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Back to the design and install.

We ran a 10G duplex marine wire from the upper bridge console, down the back side panels and directly to the charge controller then to the House Battery Bank. The wiring is concealed inside the boat.

I know it’s common to “backfeed” through a fuse bank or other existing wires but I wanted to:
1. Dedicate a fused circuit or wire run JUST for the solar direct to the house bank buss.
This would allow the solar charge to show up on the LinkPro SOC meter as well.
and
2. Maximize the wire size to cut down on any power loss .

For a charge controller we went with a Victron MPPT 100/30
It got great reviews in the solar world and has a cool feature of Bluetooth so you can monitor the performance of the entire system on your phone or ipad. The app shows you in real time what the panels produce and what amperage is going into the battery bank. You can also see the past 10 day performance.

The charge controller is mounted in a side cabinet in the cockpit just above the battery bank.
I added 2 circuit breakers at the charge controller and a 30 amp fuse at the connection to the battery bank.

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Here is a screen shot of the Victron app showing a 25.0 AMP charge going into the battery bank! This was the maximum that I saw but I am very pleased with that amount of charge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And here is the LinkPro showing fully charged. I was surprised to see this as I did not expect to be able to reach a full charge while being “on the hook”

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a better picture of how the panels look on top of the Bimini.
(I am going to tighten it up and get them to lay flat.)

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On our recent 17 day trip to Desolation Sound we had GREAT weather with lots of sunny days. The system performed beyond  expectations and we never plugged in or used the generator once!
Very pleased with that result!

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2 Responses to Going Solar

  1. Richard says:

    Hey You two this solar power addition is awesome.
    Especially when you consider you did not run your generator once while
    On your trip.
    I will definitely give this some thought to doing the same as I too agonized over when is the most appropriate time to run our generator.
    What a great idea
    Richard and Terri Barnes

  2. Patrick says:

    That’s really good output you’re getting from 400 watts of panels. I definitely think having enough solar to be self sustaining (no gas generator) is the goal to aim for. Just keep in mind if you cruise in August you may have to plan for 50% reduced output due to forest fire smoke. Our 200W of panels are only producing 86W peak due to heavy smoke blotting out the sun 😦

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