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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    Home East Lancashire boat Spain
    Posts
    4,631

    Default Extra 'moveable' solar panel capability.

    I read with interest a recent thread concerning mounting extra panels on guard rails.
    We really need some extra power generating capacity for longer range cruising having just 2x60 watt panels ( mounted on the pushpit)
    and not having any extra space/positions for any more fixed panels.
    We have 2x 80 amp hour domestic batteries. When sailing we use our autopilot and have a small Waco fridge and small chart plotter running plus of course the, (not inconsiderable )
    demands of smart phones and personal devices !
    We make constant use of our Nasa monitor and turn stuff off when not required , we ensure the autopilot is on the lowest manageable setting. At night there is extra load from cabin and navigation lights ( all LED now).
    To date we have never been lucky enough to cruise for days without using the engine though occasionally we have considered the need to hand steer to preserve battery.

    It would be nice to feel more independent and we are considering the following.
    Obtaining one or more semiflexible solar panels which we can move around ( guard rails, unshaded deck etc). Fitting one or more connectors on deck or cabin roofs with suitable connection to the batteries via a controller. The panels could probably be stored under a mattress when not in use.

    We would consider having a light ply back when mounting on the guard rails so the panel could be angled to suit the sun. Some otherwise good mounting positions may only be useable in benign conditions.

    Any advice please!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Carribbean currently Grenada
    Posts
    6,818

    Default Re: Extra 'moveable' solar panel capability.

    The record on flexible panels that get regularly flexed is pretty bad. Expect them to fail in one to three years.

    I live on my boat year round in the Caribbean. Lots of people with lots of solar. Most have some kind of rear arch. Ideally the mounting should allow the panels to be angled.

    To get the most amps on passage an arch is the way to go. Although I suspect that a guard rail mount might work too.
    Monkey patching programmer [retired ]

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    Gosport
    Posts
    3,039

    Default Re: Extra 'moveable' solar panel capability.

    For several years we had a suitcase 60w solar panel. Actually 2 x 30w that folded in half. Superb in that moving it around the boat 3 times a day really made a difference in keeping the amps flowing. All was well until the wind shifted the boat, the panel slipped and one side of glass smashed. With the risk of the smashed glass falling out all over the deck it went to the marina skip and had disappeared an hour later.

    This has been replaced with a flexible 110w folding solar panel off e bay. Too soon to report on how well it works at present. Its much lighter and the canvas material much less likely to scratch the deck or saloon when moving it in and out, unlike the metal framed suitcase panel.

    So the plan is to use this 110w panel to supplement our frame mounted 150w panel and then we will be "cooking on gas", well electric actually.

    TQA makes a good point. we also have a Lensun 30w panel that is about to fail at the 30 month point from water penetrating the layers. The growing white patches show visible expansion each month. This was an expensive EFTE multi layer panel that was supposed to be higher quality. So suggest that semi flexible panels are treated like batteries and expendable after a few years.

    Pete
    Last edited by Pete7; 19-07-19 at 14:04.
    Moody 31

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2017
    Location
    Norn Iron
    Posts
    104

    Default Re: Extra 'moveable' solar panel capability.

    I'm just looking at how best to implement the same thing. I've got two long, thin semi-flexible 50W panels, and I want to hang them from the lifelines, or to be able to move them elsewhere if needed. In another thread a while back I saw a recommendation for road sign blanks as a backing material, so this very afternoon I'm off to try to find some online!
    There's an Italian company that makes nifty mounting systems for lifelines, but I can't find their name at the moment :-( They were simple and very much what I'd like to build, but expensive.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    Home East Lancashire boat Spain
    Posts
    4,631

    Default Re: Extra 'moveable' solar panel capability.

    Thanks guys.
    So Pete how did you and Red Panda how will you handle the connection to the batteries? I want to avoid cable across decks as far as possible though as I say we may confine useage to benign sailing or when at anchor.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2017
    Location
    Norn Iron
    Posts
    104

    Default Re: Extra 'moveable' solar panel capability.

    I'm planning to hang mine on the lifelines by the cockpit, like solar spray-dodgers.
    My panels already have short cables with MC4 connectors on them.
    I'll run an extension cable, again with MC4 connectors, either from somewhere on the coaming or through the pushpit tubing - probably the latter, as that way I can coil the cable and hang it from the pushpit when not in use. Internally, I've fitted my solar controller in the quarterberth, so either of my proposed options will allow for easy cable routing to there.
    If I decide I need the option of having the panels elsewhere, this will only be when anchored/moored, and I'll just make up a pair of extension cables that'll allow me to reach anywhere I'm likely to need.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Suffolk, UK
    Posts
    52

    Default Re: Extra 'moveable' solar panel capability.

    I too have two 80w framed panels (mounted on NOA tiltable fixtures on the pushpin in my case. I couldn't afford an arch!)
    I also have a 50W semiflexible panel on a wander lead that usually lives on the sprayhood, where it adds very little charge. I but when I move it to the guardrail facing the sun or up on the side of the sailbag the charging current goes up by 10 to 20%. And when the charge from the bigger panels goes down because the sun is at an acute angle e.g. setting over the transom, I can extend the charging day by a couple of hours by moving the flexible panel to face the sun.
    To be honest, I rarely make that much effort as leaving my two panels horizontal and the flexipanel on the sprayhood generally gives 3 to 5 days before I need to charge using the engine. And by then I'll want to move on anyway. But now that it's seriously hot in the Med, the extra consumption from the fridge and fans is starting to make me more active in harvesting ampere-hours. I'd better pop out now and swap the flexipanel over so it starts charging before I get up tomorrow morning!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Me Glasgow, boat Kip in winter, Craobh in summer
    Posts
    270

    Default Re: Extra 'moveable' solar panel capability.

    I have 2 80 watt Photonic Universe semi-flexible on wandering leads, so I can position them in appropriate positions and angles on the deck to gain as much sun as possible. I was concerned about them flexing when I heard that this could be a failure mode. So, they are now attached to 4mm plywood, hopefully this will be stiff enough. I would hope for a good few years of usage. I may add extra stiffening to the plywood. Perhaps I should have bought rigid panels, but I thought that would be awkward to move around the deck.
    Angus

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Shropshire
    Posts
    8,870

    Default Re: Extra 'moveable' solar panel capability.

    I've had several small semi flex panels over the years which have supplied useful amounts of power but not 'liveaboard' levels. I've fixed them to a suitable horizontal surface which although not optimal, gives good output during the middle of the day whether sailing or moored. If you mount them on the rails you need to prop them up somehow as vertical will give very little output. (Propped up makes them vulnerable to other boats or harbour walls). I watch a few live aboard videos and the tendancy on them is to have as many fixed panels as possible on stern gantry, coach roof or Bimini.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Yorkshire England
    Posts
    857

    Default Re: Extra 'moveable' solar panel capability.

    Remember that a solar panel works best when cool. They're rated at 25 degrees celsius and will lose efficiency as they get hot.
    Without air flowing on the underside you may loose 25% efficiency.

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