Lots of good information and feedback on Helia solar systems in this thread. All useful and worthwhile.
Below is our approach.....probably not a solution for all, but accomplishes our goals of minimal impact on the aesthetics and lines of the Helia, adds no further windage, minimal additional weight, no generator
and provides all the power we have so far required cruising from La Rochelle, France
to Hammamet, Tunisia
where we are wintering our Helia "Bisou". Downside is that it is harder to install than something hanging off the bimini
, but in my view worth it!
: I installed (10) Soliban flexible SP panels equalling 1235 watts total: (4) direct stick 137w, (1) zippered 137w on soft Helm
Bimini, (3) direct stick 100w, (2) fabric
backed 125w over a moulded gutter forward. Each panel is controller by it's own Genasun GV-10 controller.
As the photos below will show you, the principle idea behind the spread array in contrast to the standard FP array located in one main position (generally aft of the traveller), I elected to strategically spread the array to maximise the opportunity for more of the separated panels to be unshaded at any given point in time, whether at anchor
or underway. What I generally found that I usually had at least 5-6 panels in full un-shaded sun at max output. This seemed to work very well.
Controllers: To control the panels, I laid up a fibreglass moulded controller housing at home in Australia
scaled to take the 10 Genasun GV-10 smart controllers. Each of the 10 panel circuits is individually fused into a Blue Sea fused terminal block rated for 100 amps. This controller box has a standard plastic hatch
over it to protect the wiring
and controllers from the elements. This box is mounted underneath the solid Bimini in the cockpit
area in a location selected to minimise wire lengths from the panels the control box
and to the house batteries.
Monitoring: I also installed a Philippi PSM monitor
w/ temperature monitoring along with two shunts (1) SHC 300 amp for the house battery bank of (5) Varta 150ah AGM
batteries, and (1) SHL 300amp shunt to monitor
the solar panel output. The PSM monitor also monitors the dedicated engine
I am happy to say that the system works very well and we are very pleased that we did it.
Now that we have some practical experience using the panels, controllers and monitor, I am pleased to say it works very well and it still working today on one panel only topping up the batteries while in storage
We do not cruise
from marina to marina and therefore are reliant on our solar system to provide our power for extended periods of time at anchor
. We found that even when we did go into a marina in Gibraltar
, one night in Majorca and then our two weeks in Hammamet before we left the boat, there was no need to connect to shore power
. The rest of the summer and fall season in the Med were spent travelling or at anchor. This solar system was generally able to top up our batteries by about 2.00pm and was just idling watching the demand and the tapering charge the remainder of the afternoon, so by nightfall we were generally at 98% - 100% of our battery capacity.
Loads: We have installed on our Helia, (2) refrigerators, (1) freezer
, (1) Aquabase 65L water maker and (1) Bosch washing
machine and a 2000w Victron inverter charger
. These are our largest loads. Plus the usual nav equipment
, lights, computers
etc that are typically on while at anchor.
What we have found is that when at anchor for more than a week at a time we do not have to run the engines to charge the batteries. We operate the (3) refrigeration
units continuously day and night. We typically run a load or two of wash every few days and run the water maker. It is no problem as long as there is some sun. The controllers quickly adjust the output coming from the panels to suit the load and it seems there is sufficient capacity to take a larger load on the battery bank. I never saw any reading lower than 77% on our house battery monitor overnight.
When using a solar system like this it is smart not to be silly with your power use choices. For instance, simple things like making choices about washing
clothes or making water.....if the sun is not shining we generally wait a day until it is...simple! We have the capacity to wait and use what is available rather than be forced to generate power that we don't have or want to make.
We find with the refrig units running and either the washing machine on or the water maker or picking up the charge from the last night, typically solar panel output ranges from about 22ah to just under 40ah, that seems to be the normal range against the discharge status of the house batteries after a typical night, and then a typical tapering charge after the bulk charge is finished.
The solar array and controllers do not seem to have a problem with keeping up with whatever loads is applied to the battery bank.....granted we do not run water makers or washing machines overnight, but the 3 refrigeration
units never stop.
In summary: For us this system was the best solution given our reluctance to suffer the weight and noise
from a generator
, desire to not effect the Helia's lines with more structure and to give ourselves as much independence from shore facilities as possible. This was our solution.