Cruisers Forum
 


Join CruisersForum Today

Reply
 
Thread Tools Rate Thread Display Modes
Old 11-05-2015, 13:43   #1
Registered User

Join Date: May 2013
Location: Mangareva, French Polynesia
Boat: Heritage West Indies 36
Posts: 513
Best Semi-Flexible Panels

Hey guys and girls. Semi-flexible panels seem to have gotten better in recent years so i'm thinking of giving them a go and saving some space. The question is, which ones?

There are so many out there and they range in price from about $200 per 100W panel up to $1200 per 100W panel. I'm looking for about 250W total and i want to buy something that is really decent quality but not extortionately priced. Looking at the 145W Apolloflex panels for $700 each (after a 10% discount) from budget marine but i can't find any reviews for them. Which brands would people recommend, or stay away from? Which, in your opinions, are the best value for money? They're going to get heavy use in the South Pacific. I don't want them failing on me.

Cheers!
__________________

__________________
DefinitelyMe is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-05-2015, 18:45   #2
Registered User
 
Capt Gill's Avatar

Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Horseshoe Cove Sausalito/Currently in La Paz,BCS,Mex.
Boat: Ron Holland 43 Semi-custom Sloop
Posts: 117
Re: Best Semi-Flexible Panels

Quote:
Originally Posted by DefinitelyMe View Post
Hey guys and girls. Semi-flexible panels seem to have gotten better in recent years so i'm thinking of giving them a go and saving some space. The question is, which ones?

There are so many out there and they range in price from about $200 per 100W panel up to $1200 per 100W panel. I'm looking for about 250W total and i want to buy something that is really decent quality but not extortionately priced. Looking at the 145W Apolloflex panels for $700 each (after a 10% discount) from budget marine but i can't find any reviews for them. Which brands would people recommend, or stay away from? Which, in your opinions, are the best value for money? They're going to get heavy use in the South Pacific. I don't want them failing on me.

Cheers!
It's difficult to get the spec's and info re. the mfg., but when quality is concerned take the time to research the retailer.
I've checked out many companies selling solar panels, virtually all give a power rating (watts) based on open voltage rating, around 18v, which one cannot charge any 12 v batt. that I know of, it's more in the range of 14.4 v, if one uses that figure (v x amp = watts) the useable power is about 80% of the advertised rating. OceanPlanet is the standout exception, Bruce actually under rates the power ! This sort of truth in advertising alone is reason to vote your dollars to OceanPlanet.
Disclaimer: many years ago Bruce and I crewed together in a C of C race on San Fran. Bay - he was modest then too.
Jack
__________________

__________________
Capt Gill is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-05-2015, 19:13   #3
Marine Service Provider

Join Date: Aug 2014
Location: Maine
Posts: 12
Re: Best Semi-Flexible Panels

I agree, Bruce will get you pointed in the right direction. Your probably going to be looking at the Solbian Flex line. He'll recommend a separate charge controller for each panel(Genasun). This will maximize the panels energy potential. Shoot him an email, he is very responsive.
__________________
BassMonkey is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-05-2015, 20:10   #4
Senior Cruiser
 
Kenomac's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: Somewhere in the Adriatic Sea
Boat: Oyster 53 Cutter
Posts: 8,515
Re: Best Semi-Flexible Panels

I'm also considering the Solbian Flex line out of Maine. Going to measure everything when I get to Italy on Thursday and get a quote. They seem a little more expensive than some, but I want the system to be designed properly for 24v, to take up a small amount of space on the bimini and come with all the attachments. I don't want to have to fool around hunting down parts from an online supplier and end up with a mess. Plus the Solbains are made in Italy.
__________________
Kenomac is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-05-2015, 20:18   #5
Registered User

Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Caribbean
Boat: Beneteau Oceanis 351
Posts: 39
Re: Best Semi-Flexible Panels

We have 6 (yes, six) Renogy 100w panels on our bimini and are continually happy with them and their output.

At 4lbs, $200, 100w, and a topped up 450ah battery bank at 11am on a cloudy day, I couldn't be happier.

I run them in parallel into a 50amp MPPT charge controller. Pushing the limits on the MPPT, but as stated above, charging is at 14.4 and we usually, in full Caribbean sun, see 35-40amps, unless we have a higher load on.

In time I will be separating the 6 panels into 2 arrays of 300w with a 30amp MPPT for each side.

I diverted a bit...

I have yet to hear a complaint about the Renogy panels from any one that has them.

Sent from my LG-E980 using Cruisers Sailing Forum mobile app
__________________
SVArgo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-05-2015, 20:32   #6
Registered User

Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 1,970
Re: Best Semi-Flexible Panels

SVargo,

I'm thinking of exactly the same plan - six 100w Renogy panels on the bimini split port and starboard into two 30 amp MPPT controllers (what brand controller are you considering?). I bought one Renogy panel to test and am happy with the output and construction quality.

How do you secure your panels to the bimini? Any problem with them flapping in higher winds? Any stretching of the fabric? Chafe where the panels touch the fabric? Do they cross any tubes?

I'm thinking of connecting each side in series and delivering 36V to the controller (12v battery) - primarily to keep the wire size gauge smaller as the run to the batteries is longer than I'd like. Thoughts?

Any advice would be much appreciated.

Carl
__________________
CarlF is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-05-2015, 20:47   #7
Senior Cruiser

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Aug 2014
Location: Astoria, NY
Boat: Sabre 38
Posts: 496
Re: Best Semi-Flexible Panels

I just installed a 120 watt panel from the eBay seller Discount Solar out of California. It is a inexpensive Chinese knockoff of the US one mentioned above. It is hooked up to Morningstar MTTP.

So far it is performing to spec at 26 volts and 5.8-ish amps, even early on in the morning or later in the evening.

Again, it has only been a few weeks, but things are fine. Don't have any experience, other than price, with other panels, so I can't compare. On price, mine were $244 each with free shipping. Beats the pants off of $700 even if they last only half as long (ie 10 years rather than 20).

I hope to give a better review when it has more time under the sun and/or I figure out how to properly assess a solar panel.


Sent from my iPhone using Cruisers Sailing Forum
__________________
Stephen

s/v Carpe Ventum
1983 Sabre 38
My Intro
fallingeggs is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-05-2015, 21:05   #8
Senior Cruiser
 
newhaul's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: puget sound washington
Boat: 1968 Islander bahama 24 hull 182, 1963 columbia 29 defender. hull # 60
Posts: 4,000
Re: Best Semi-Flexible Panels

Here is a lot of good info in another thread here on flexible panels
RENOGY Flexible Solar Panels
__________________
newhaul is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 13-05-2015, 06:23   #9
Registered User

Join Date: May 2013
Location: Mangareva, French Polynesia
Boat: Heritage West Indies 36
Posts: 513
Re: Best Semi-Flexible Panels

Thanks very much. I had looked at the Solbian ones and couldn't see much difference in the specs between them and the Apolloflex panels, but they're $150 more expensive. Is it worth it?

I already have a charge controller that i really love, a Rogue MPT-3048. Input voltage is not really important since the regulator can accept up to 100V (my current solar array has an output voltage of about 48V) and will spit out whatever it needs to for whatever state of charge and whatever temperature the batteries are at. In fact, whatever panels i get will be run in series to the charge controller in order to maximise voltage and therefore minimise resistance and voltage drop.

I had discounted the renogy ones, perhaps somewhat foolishly, simply because they are made with a plastic backing rather than a metal one and the price would tend to suggest that they are a budget purchase rather than a quality one. However, based on your testimonies they might be worth another look. At less than half the price of the Apolloflex or Solbian panels it might make sense. Solar technology is moving so quickly now that if they last me 5 years something far better and cheaper will be around by then as a replacement. As i said though, i don't want them dying on me half way across the Pacific........ and they will be my primary source of power.
__________________
DefinitelyMe is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 13-05-2015, 09:24   #10
Registered User

Join Date: Nov 2014
Location: Calgary, canada
Boat: Still Shopping
Posts: 5
Re: Best Semi-Flexible Panels

My advice would be to avoid any of the cheaper Chinese imports, when you look closely they're not truly flexible. Bend a bit too far and you easily shear the contacts off the cells.

We went with the Gioco Solutions panels and very satisfied, no delamination issues that we heard other cruisers had faced on other high end panels. We did a ton of research as its was a big investment for 6 panels. The Gioco panels also have a unique attachment process where they've managed to achieve 16x more attachment points per cell to prevent hot spots from ever occurring. Our research also turned up the importer Gioco Solutions Price List - United States - Hybrid Power Supply so we bought direct. Service was fantastic also picked up some Genasun controllers, couldn't be happier with our solar equipment.
__________________
I knew I was drunk. I felt sophisticated and couldn't pronounce it.~ Anonymous
Muzungu is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 13-05-2015, 11:23   #11
Registered User

Join Date: Jul 2013
Location: San Diego, CA
Posts: 3,157
Re: Best Semi-Flexible Panels

Quote:
Originally Posted by CarlF View Post
SVargo,

I'm thinking of exactly the same plan - six 100w Renogy panels on the bimini split port and starboard into two 30 amp MPPT controllers (what brand controller are you considering?). I bought one Renogy panel to test and am happy with the output and construction quality.

How do you secure your panels to the bimini? Any problem with them flapping in higher winds? Any stretching of the fabric? Chafe where the panels touch the fabric? Do they cross any tubes?

I'm thinking of connecting each side in series and delivering 36V to the controller (12v battery) - primarily to keep the wire size gauge smaller as the run to the batteries is longer than I'd like. Thoughts?

Any advice would be much appreciated.

Carl
Carl, 12v solar panels don't put out 12v, they put out somewhat higher than 12v. In the case of the Renogy flexible panels, Vmp = 17.7v, Voc = 21.7v. Voc is the voltage that you must not exceed on your solar controller. In this case, your solar controller must be able to take at least 65.1v in order to connect 3 in series. If you've selected a controller that can't go that high, you can still connect them in parallel and the controller will see between 17.7V normally and up to 21.7V on a very cold morning.

Your idea of keeping voltage high for minimal voltage drop is a good one, just be careful to select a controller that can accept higher voltages. They're typically more expensive. However, comparing the price difference between thicker cable and the more expensive controllers, I'd probably spring for the thicker cable, since the price jump between cheaper controllers and the top of the line controllers could be as much as $300-400 ea.

I always try to encourage people to mount their solar panels as far away from shade as possible - the power loss from partial shading is a lot higher than people think. This usually means an arch over the stern, but you do the best you can with what you've got. Partial power is better than no power.
__________________
socaldmax is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 13-05-2015, 11:26   #12
Registered User

Join Date: Jul 2013
Location: San Diego, CA
Posts: 3,157
Re: Best Semi-Flexible Panels

Quote:
Originally Posted by DefinitelyMe View Post
Thanks very much. I had looked at the Solbian ones and couldn't see much difference in the specs between them and the Apolloflex panels, but they're $150 more expensive. Is it worth it?

I already have a charge controller that i really love, a Rogue MPT-3048. Input voltage is not really important since the regulator can accept up to 100V (my current solar array has an output voltage of about 48V) and will spit out whatever it needs to for whatever state of charge and whatever temperature the batteries are at. In fact, whatever panels i get will be run in series to the charge controller in order to maximise voltage and therefore minimise resistance and voltage drop.

I had discounted the renogy ones, perhaps somewhat foolishly, simply because they are made with a plastic backing rather than a metal one and the price would tend to suggest that they are a budget purchase rather than a quality one. However, based on your testimonies they might be worth another look. At less than half the price of the Apolloflex or Solbian panels it might make sense. Solar technology is moving so quickly now that if they last me 5 years something far better and cheaper will be around by then as a replacement. As i said though, i don't want them dying on me half way across the Pacific........ and they will be my primary source of power.
The Renogy panels appear to be a real bargain, because thy're made with Sunpower cells, the most efficient cells on the market (aside from what NASA gets.) They're rated at 20% efficiency, so you're getting more power per square ft than any other brand. I'm surprised that they're that inexpensive.
__________________
socaldmax is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 14-05-2015, 01:51   #13
Sponsoring Vendor
 
OceanPlanet's Avatar

Community Sponsor

Join Date: May 2009
Location: Woolwich, Maine
Boat: Sold it!
Posts: 401
Send a message via Skype™ to OceanPlanet
Re: Best Semi-Flexible Panels

Note that there are many different grades of SunPower cells, with the pricing going up in a steepening curve from the 20.1% low power bin, to the 20.8, 22.4, 22.6, 22.8, and at the top 23.7%. So the pricing of the panels generally reflects what cells you are getting.
__________________
Twice around was enough for me...
Now I just help others prep for ocean trips...
www.bruceschwab.com
OceanPlanet is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 14-05-2015, 13:49   #14
Registered User

Join Date: May 2013
Location: Mangareva, French Polynesia
Boat: Heritage West Indies 36
Posts: 513
Re: Best Semi-Flexible Panels

Quote:
Originally Posted by OceanPlanet View Post
Note that there are many different grades of SunPower cells, with the pricing going up in a steepening curve from the 20.1% low power bin, to the 20.8, 22.4, 22.6, 22.8, and at the top 23.7%. So the pricing of the panels generally reflects what cells you are getting.
OK, noted. But does the efficiency of the cells necessarily correspond to their quality as well, or just the W per unit area? I've decided to mount them on the lifelines, so space isn't such as issue, but construction quality definitely is!
__________________
DefinitelyMe is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 14-05-2015, 14:32   #15
Registered User
 
SeaKing's Avatar

Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Shady Side, MD
Boat: Voyage 470 "SeaPaws II"
Posts: 509
Re: Best Semi-Flexible Panels

I used 600 watts of 50 watt panels on our boat from Aurinco. I have them on three different MPPT controllers. One for the panels across the back and one for each side of the sail. They were installed 3.5 years ago with no issues with them yet.
Aurinco solar start page


That is our boat shown and you can see 1/3 of the panels are shaded but the other two thirds are not affected because of being on their own controllers. That is an idea I came up with. I was able to get three Morningstar controllers for less than one large enough for all the panels. Also if one controller dies I still have 2/3 of my system up.
__________________

__________________
SeaKing is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Tags
panels

Thread Tools
Display Modes Rate This Thread
Rate This Thread:

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Solara semi flexible, how to test? Williamp Electrical: Batteries, Generators & Solar 3 07-04-2014 15:56
Semi flexible Solar Panels for Hard top bimini ATLAS Electrical: Batteries, Generators & Solar 5 07-02-2014 07:15
Solbian Flexible Solar Panels Nasa Electrical: Batteries, Generators & Solar 8 02-10-2012 07:09
Mounting Panels on Flexible Hard Top thinwater Electrical: Batteries, Generators & Solar 6 12-04-2011 06:44
Flexible / Low-Profile Solar Panels? Paul Elliott Electrical: Batteries, Generators & Solar 13 13-01-2010 10:48



Copyright 2002- Social Knowledge, LLC All Rights Reserved.

All times are GMT -7. The time now is 08:17.


Google+
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Social Knowledge Networks
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

ShowCase vBulletin Plugins by Drive Thru Online, Inc.