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Old 24-07-2017, 18:01   #1
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Anyone tried? Floating panels?

I wonder if anyone tried to float solar panels next to his boat?

I think, it would not be difficult to construct some easy to store floating device like air bags or foam and quick out cables, bumpers and lines.

Might be a problem to store four or five large panels under deck on small crafts. But it would be a lot of energy and thus comfort when at anchor.
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Old 24-07-2017, 18:44   #2
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Re: Anyone tried? Floating panels?

Seems like theft would be a big concern, and also shadowing from your boat. The process of setting it up and taking it down would be a major detractor too.

It's fairly easy these days to get 1000w of solar mounted on your boat. How much power are you looking for?
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Old 24-07-2017, 18:57   #3
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Re: Anyone tried? Floating panels?

yeah this is going to be part of my set up. the first concern would be theft so id only deploy for "quick-charge" (relatively speaking) and only when the boat is attended or in a very lonely anchorage. ive got the storage for a fairly large array, and would float on some sort of inflatable supports, maybe just innertubes. doesnt have to be complicated, and anything to avoid the genset...
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Old 24-07-2017, 19:03   #4
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Re: Anyone tried? Floating panels?

Yes, theft may be a problem.

I have got ten 180 watt panels installed on my garden house roof. Got them cheaply used. Some of them could be used on my next boat.

I have no boat currently... So I am just contemplating the possible...
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Old 25-07-2017, 03:23   #5
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Re: Anyone tried? Floating panels?

Leaving aside all the logistics of storage and deployment, one benefit of this would be increased efficiency of your panels, as they generally decrease in efficiency as temperature increases. If you could use sea water for cooling you might get 10-20% more juice out of them.
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Old 25-07-2017, 05:24   #6
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Re: Anyone tried? Floating panels?

Not just theft but poor seamanship. Assuming you put them on a 20' lead to keep them out of the shade of the boat, I could see someone running them over because they don't see them.

From a practical point of view, a few issues:
- Will corrosion be an issue since they will be at water level and likely splashed frequently when in use (far more than when on the davits or overhead).
- What about when there are waves? will they flip?
- How do you hold them away from the boat or will they constantly bump against the boat?

In most anchorages, I see this is way more hassle than it's worth. To carry enough panels and enough floating structure to support them will be a huge issue on a small boat.
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Old 25-07-2017, 09:13   #7
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Re: Anyone tried? Floating panels?

Let's think about this and add to what others have said about the impracticability of such a charging system:
1. You haven't got a boat, so you have no idea of your electrical loads, battery capacity nor how much charging power you'll need to maintain your batteries
2. You have some cheap house solar panels - is everything marine grade? I.e. Aluminium frame? tinned copper wiring? waterproof junction boxes?
3. Even if your panels were completely salt water proof, your question about floating panels suggests you have little sailing experience, let alone any cruising experience ...
I don't mean to offend but your ideas of floating solar panels are, IMHO, dumb, dumber, dumbest....
S
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Old 25-07-2017, 09:27   #8
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Re: Anyone tried? Floating panels?

1) Electrical cables with current in seawater are known to cause issues with galvanic corrosion. It is why you should be trying to keep your shorepower cords out of the saltwater in a marina.

2) What in the world will you do if either you, or another boat around you starts dragging?

3) I get sick of setting a up portable honda 2K generator and deploying the dinghy. I can't imagine setting up and breaking down a floating solar array.

4) If you can't reasonably mount them on your boat, storing them will be equally difficult.

5) Enough flotation to keep the panel above water will make each panel very bulky.

This has bad idea written all over it.
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Old 25-07-2017, 09:29   #9
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Re: Anyone tried? Floating panels?

I like this idea and think the issues of theft, visibility, shading, launching and retrieving are all easily resolved with good design. How's this for a suggestion. Bolt the solar array to the transom on a hinge and each panel bolts to the next via a hinge. To stow, the array of panels is folded accordion style against the transom and secured. Airbags permanently attached under the panels are inflated to deploy, and deflated to retrieve. With a good design, this could be accomplished practically hands off with a pump that can also suck and a supply tube fed to the air bags. The airbags can be large enough to keep the panels a foot or more above the water, so visibility should be fine and off the transom, there is little shade from a sailboat. Stealing them would require un-bolting and if you tack weld the nuts, it would be quite a job to get them off. I drew a little diagram...
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Old 25-07-2017, 09:56   #10
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Re: Anyone tried? Floating panels?

I got prompted to reply by the last post I read on this idea by zstine. Whenever a new or interesting idea is suggested or discussed it behooves us imho to first of all be positive about it. And zstine did just that! Kudos to you. Later, after discussing the pros one might turn to suggestions for overcoming the obvious objections. Doing so immediately is just throwing cold water on someone's open mind.

The first rule of brainstorming: be positive before criticizing in a negative way!

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Old 25-07-2017, 10:02   #11
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Re: Anyone tried? Floating panels?

+1 gaia, i was trying to formulate a similar reply...
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Old 25-07-2017, 10:08   #12
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Re: Anyone tried? Floating panels?

Quote:
Originally Posted by blueazimuth View Post
I don't mean to offend but your ideas of floating solar panels are, IMHO, dumb, dumber, dumbest....
S
I wellcome new ideas, even if they may not work out. And if a am thinking about a problem, I may ask others, what they think about it.

It is usually the smart people and not the dumb that come out with new ideas. Some work, others do not. That is life.

Do you know more about the specific differences of marine grade solar to common one's? I have never seen solar panels rusting.

I just did a search and obviously there are quite a few people who use normal panels on their boats. But maybe they will rust if they float. Might be interesting to test.
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Old 25-07-2017, 11:16   #13
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Re: Anyone tried? Floating panels?

Quote:
Originally Posted by zstine View Post
I like this idea and think the issues of theft, visibility, shading, launching and retrieving are all easily resolved with good design. How's this for a suggestion. Bolt the solar array to the transom on a hinge and each panel bolts to the next via a hinge. To stow, the array of panels is folded accordion style against the transom and secured. Airbags permanently attached under the panels are inflated to deploy, and deflated to retrieve. With a good design, this could be accomplished practically hands off with a pump that can also suck and a supply tube fed to the air bags. The airbags can be large enough to keep the panels a foot or more above the water, so visibility should be fine and off the transom, there is little shade from a sailboat. Stealing them would require un-bolting and if you tack weld the nuts, it would be quite a job to get them off. I drew a little diagram...
So what happens when a large following wave hits the transom?

Also how much power do you think it will generate when the sun is dead ahead?
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Old 25-07-2017, 11:26   #14
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Re: Anyone tried? Floating panels?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gaia View Post
I got prompted to reply by the last post I read on this idea by zstine. Whenever a new or interesting idea is suggested or discussed it behooves us imho to first of all be positive about it. And zstine did just that! Kudos to you. Later, after discussing the pros one might turn to suggestions for overcoming the obvious objections. Doing so immediately is just throwing cold water on someone's open mind.

The first rule of brainstorming: be positive before criticizing in a negative way!

Jim
While there is no problem with spit-balling ideas, better to have a little cold water thrown on them than let them pursue something that will cost them a lot of money or in some cases even be dangerous. If it's a good idea, they will figure out solutions.

This isn't the first time someone has suggested some sort of expandable solar array for boats, so it's easy for those familiar to see the host of issues that make it impractical.

(and before someone throws out the inevitable but if inventor X hadn't we wouldn't have Y. Well those inventors typically were told the problems with their ideas then they stood up and faced the issues. They weren't sheltered from the issues.)
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Old 25-07-2017, 11:33   #15
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Re: Anyone tried? Floating panels?

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Originally Posted by valhalla360 View Post
So what happens when a large following wave hits the transom?

Also how much power do you think it will generate when the sun is dead ahead?
I'm assuming the large following wave question is when under way when the system is stowed. Easy.. use a hinged gate to secure and protect the panels. Think amusement ride harness that drops down over the riders. Add a piece of sheet metal to absorb the impact of the wave and the stowed system could take quite a hit...

sun dead ahead... Um, no panel makes any power with the sun on the horizon. Certainly a floating array aft of the boat will get as much sun as a typical bimini mounted system.
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