|Our new panels are just itching to ditch the bubble wrap and lay out in the sun!|
Most cruising boats you will see haves some form of renewable energy on board. It might be wind or solar or both, and the power they draw from those methods can either completely cover their energy demands (not common) or supplement them (more common). We considered both wind and solar for our new boat but ultimately decided to start only with solar power and add wind later if/when we thought it necessary.
On Rasmus, we had one 65 watt rigid solar panel that was mounted to our radar arch. This little panel kept our batteries topped off at anchor (unless it was cloudy/rainy) but did not, however, keep up with our energy demands under sail when we'd run our chartplotter, radar and running lights, etc. This time around, we're doing things a little differently. Actually, we're doing things a LOT differently. For our new boat, Asante, we bought two 125 Watt Solbianflex panels. Keyword being "flex". Because we opted to skip the instrument arch this time around, we're planning on zipping these pretty babies directly into our bimini top. Boo-yah!
Flexible panels are slightly less efficient, don't last as long and are significantly more expensive than their rigid counterparts. So why the heck did we go this way? A couple of reasons:
- We have a semi-rigid bimini that we plan on keeping up all the time (shade is a necessity in the tropics!)
- We want to mount our solar panels on the bimini but don't want to add a bunch of additional, bulky and costly superstructure for those panels (which would offset the savings of rigid panels )
Not gonna lie, these panels are pretty sweet. They can be picked up with two fingers, are no thicker than a triscuit, and measure about 4 1/2 by 2 1/2 feet. We plan on modifying our bimini top so that we can zip both of these panels into it lengthwise, with one panel on either side of the boom. This will mean that no matter what tack we are sailing on, there will be at least one panel that is fully exposed to the sun and free from any boom or sail shadow*. This is the idea anyway. Everything works swimmingly in theory, right?
We hope to have these up and running in the next few weeks. Though I know there are people out there who have gone this route, it is definitely not the "norm" (we've actually never seen it) which leads me to believe we are either innovative or stupid. This remains to be seen. We'll keep you posted on the progress and output of these slick solar suckers once we know it.
Though we don't have enough experience/information to advise anyone on our new solar set-up, if you are curious/interested in a flexible solar panel array, feel free to contact Walt Genske of C&E Marine and he can set you up.
*Efficiency of a solar panel goes down tremendously if there is any portion of the panel in the shade.