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Solar Power Onboard?

Looking forward to the next cruising season I am investigating whether we could add solar power to Distant Shores.

We had two 55-watt panels on Two-Step and it was excellent to see power coming in from the sun as we hung at anchor. The two panels were mounted on the spray dodger and in full sun could put out 6-7 amps. Of course I had to swing the boom out to one side since any shade cut out put dramatically. I think on a nice sunny day we might have got 30-35 amps total. This is much less than you might hope but we couldn’t aim the panels and shade did come on them often as the boat swung on the hook.

To obtain higher efficiency a number of boats have solar panels mounted on some construction at the stern such as our friends on Narena sailing here off the south coast of Turkey. I have started playing with some sketches to see if we could build some sort of stern arch for Distant Shores II but so far haven’t got anything to work yet.

Solar Power - How Much do you need?

The modern boat has got more electrical appliances on than the cruising sailboat of 20 years ago. We all have our i-devices, computers, watermaker, navigation system etc. Some have air-con, washer/dryer vacuum cleaner etc. So although we have big electrical savings in things like LED lighting, the boat overall uses much more than before. So how much can solar power do? Could you ever really run the whole boat from solar power?

With Two-Step’s 2 X 55 Watt panels we just extended the time between running the engine to charge up the battery. We would have needed perhaps 3 times as many panels to keep up with all demands - and that assumed a sunny tropical day.

So the first thing to do is re-examine that electrical budget and make sure it is accurate. Is there anything to be gained (such as changing over any lighting that isn’t LED or fluorescent)?

On Distant Shores our electrical consumption worked out at over 200 amp-hours per day. Distant Shores II is similar but with 2 main differences. We have the same fridge/freezer unit with keel-cooler but also have an additional freezer unit. We also have the excellent Imtra LED lighting throughout. So while we have saved quite a bit in power through the lighting, we have used a fair bit extra with the additional freezer. And our experience with DSII has been sailing in cool northern summers. So when we get to warm tropical waters the freezer will use more than it does now. Just how much we don’t know... but we might be looking at over 250 amp hours per day. That’s a lot to get from solar panels!

I will do more on this in the next little while and post more.

How about you? Are you looking at Solar power? Do you have a working solar installation that is providing what your boat needs? Please give me your comments either by email or over on our Facebook page.

Is Sheryl pondering a new solar panel arch?
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