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Old 20-02-2009, 22:31   #1
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Best system to do most of wind/solar/alternator/shore to house/starting/dump + more

I've been looking here, elsewhere, and searching the web, and could use some input from the experts/experienced people here.

I'm setting up my fourwinds wind generator and plan to add solar eventually. The boat will be unattended for days at a time, so the wind gen will need a dump load. (No one there to tie the tail off the wind or throw a stop switch.)

Ideally, the system would have these features:

Accept power from
1) wind generator (fourwinds II)
2) Solar panels (maybe 500 watts eventually)
3) 2 x engine alternators (currently a separate one for starting, why not somehow put it to use when running the engine for charging?) I think means something that boosts to overcome internal resistanc eof the batteries.
4) Ideally shore power, although I have a 3-stage shore power charger in place already.

Battery Charging
1) House bank of 2x4D (eventually 4x4D) -- gel batteries
2) Engine starting battery -- wet cell
3) Temperature sensor to keep batteries happy

Inverter for 110v
1) 2500 or 3000 watts
2) remote on/off
3) Automatic switching from battery to shore power.
4) Ideally a way to separate off non-essential 110v things if the shore cable comes unplugged. For instance, so the A/C doesn't drain the house batteries to zero when I'm away. (Not that I have A/C. It's an example.)

More
1) Handle dump load to water heater (2 cascading dump loads if possible)
2) Eventually measure and display amphours in/out/remaining in house bank

Anyone have any ideas if there is a single device that does most of this, or maybe a collection of devices that would do most of this?

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Old 21-02-2009, 05:54   #2
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There is no single gadget which accomplishes all you need, so you are going to have to go for a collection, with you as the computer which controls the system.

A wind generator is not the best thing to leave unattended--strong winds can damage it, a dump circuit is complicated, and overcharging will quickly wreck your gel batteries.

For unattended operation solar cells are much preferred--you can use a simple regulator which opens the circuit.

The main engine alternator should have an external smart regulator with adjustable voltages or a gel program. If you want to add the starter bank alternator output, you you should have a switch which allows you to cross-connect the starter and house batteries (you should have this anyway in case your starter battery fails). You should monitor the battery voltage and break the connection when the battery voltage gets to about 14.1 volts for gels, and don't forget to break the connection when you turn the motor off.

Combining various voltage regulated power sources (wind, solar, alternators, shore) to charge batteries is not perfect, but it usually will work pretty well and will not damage your batteries as long as the voltage setpoints are not too high for gels. If the voltage starts fluctuating, shut off each source until you find the culprit.

You will want a Link monitor or equivalent to see the current and voltage going in and out of your main bank at a minimum.

Wire your AC panel so that the inverter just drives the AC outlets, and the loads like water heater and battery charger are driven directly from the shorepower. Even then, appliances like computers and TV's can use a lot of power on standby ( big inverters are very inefficent at low power), so you may want to plug them in only when you are using them.
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Old 21-02-2009, 08:08   #3
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I dont know if this is going to help you, but this is the system I have;
gel cell haouse and starting batteries. Charging comes from an alternator through a smart three stage regulator ( picked up used for USD 19).
2X solar panels that are direct wired to the house battery via a smart charge controller. Currently these are providing enough power that I never have to run the engine to charge, but I have a light power usage boat.
Hose and starting batteries are linked via a yandina 150 battery combiner.
Link 2000 monitor and volt and ampmeters for AC power.
Inverters are not wired direct, but plugged as needed. I would stay away from anything that is hooked into your AC system AND automatically switched. IT will fail.
I do have a smart shorepower charger, but outside of yard work I am very rarely at a dock.
Rather than using a battery switch, each bank is on a fused breaker.
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Old 21-02-2009, 09:01   #4
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We had a Four Winds generator on the last boat. I just pulled the halyard to engage the brakes unless it was going to make some serious power. Leaving it operational all the time is not a good idea. The auto brakes will stop the blades I think at 40 knots so they don't self destruct. You just can't need that much power when you are not aboard. If you have solar panels then use them instead. If no one is aboard then you won't be needing much power other than topping off the bank. The bearings will last longer if you don't run it when you don't need it. Dump loads are a waste of power and ultimately energy that is working to wear down your gear. I found the wind gen was good under sail since the wind is blowing but poor at anchorages since I don't like anchoring in the windy places. At the dock I would consider it worthless.

With a 3000 watt inverter load you could drain 4 - 4D batteries to 50% in about an hour if 100% charged. You next spend 3 hours charging them on a large alternator maybe back to 90%. If the above system has been designed against a prepared energy budget you so need a genset. To eliminate the need for a genset you need a far lower energy budget.

The AC power component is the real deal breaker here. Reduction of that to a bare minimum leaves just your fridge as the major consumer. I always turn it off when not aboard. It means you don't need the shore charger that much. For weekend use you could never be plugged in unless you wanted air conditioning.

Currently we use an Ample Power external regulator that can take both the solar and the alternator input to provide one regulated power source. Add a combiner for the starting bank and it works quite well.
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Old 21-02-2009, 09:03   #5
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I don't know a single device, but I can help you with a system and can suggest a terrific traveling marine mechanic genius who can do this for you.
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Old 21-02-2009, 12:25   #6
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I don't know a single device, but I can help you with a system and can suggest a terrific traveling marine mechanic genius who can do this for you.

Thanks DefJef. That's good to know if I reach an impasse. (I should be able to figure this out after all the EE courses I took. And I think this aspect is really interesting, optimizing everything for our use and for future capacity.)
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Old 21-02-2009, 19:26   #7
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OK, so after an afternoon with PowerPoint, dinner and then more PowerPoint, here's the design I'm thinking about. Green is for things I have already. Blue is for what I have to buy. Dotted lines are choices to make. Not sure where to route the House Bank alternator.


Any thoughts from those who have done something similar?
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Old 22-02-2009, 11:05   #8
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I'm off to the boat shorty. I'm looking to measure the current solar panel between the davits to see what maximum size I could easily put there.
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Old 22-02-2009, 12:59   #9
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Maybe consider one of the smaller wind gens that are less likely to have vane breakage as the big units?, also with the fridge running you probably wouldnt need a dump with a smaller unit. Nigel Calder speaks very highly of a new smaller unit he is trying on his new "test boat", dont remember the name of it though.
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Old 22-02-2009, 16:46   #10
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Cheechako, the fourwinds has the speedbreak that ought to help prevent overspeed. After cruising around a ton of anchored boats, and after hearing smaller ones in a good breeze "taking off", the fourwinds was the one I liked best. Of course, I'm sure I haven't seen or heard all of them, and would love to hear about any news ones coming out.

I've been thinking about that dump (diversion) load. I'm thinking about simply shorting the wind generator (like a stop switch does) when the batteries are charged and the hot water gets hot. I'm htinking that will save the bearings.

Anyone else have any experience with an off-switch type of dump load? I'm thinking about using a hefty relay, set up so it only take power while dumping.
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Old 22-02-2009, 18:28   #11
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Maybe I missed the answer to this, but what is the thinking behind the two alternators?
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Old 22-02-2009, 19:45   #12
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Our boat already has the 2 alternators. 1 is for the house bank and 1 is for the starter battery. I suppose it's for redundency.

Typically when motoring, the amps going to the starter battery drop pretty quickly. The house battery keep getting amps for quite awhile. It would be good to connect them some way to use both alternators when motoring.

I'll probably keep the 60 amp alternators for now (and not replace them with higher output ones), since I'm looking at getting 100% of our electricity needs from solar and wind. No running the engine needed for charging, typically. (Of couse, I haven't put the electric compressor in yet.)

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Old 23-02-2009, 06:48   #13
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After measuring the dinghy davits, I have 7'5" between the bars. There are antennas on the cross-davit bar already (cockpit VHF, autopilot GPS) that I'd like to leave in place. That leaves me with 69 inches. The current solar panel is 51x13, a 40 watt Siemens. I'm thinking about replacing it with a 130 watt Kyocera. (It will fit, although it will stick out aft a bit more.) "Thinking" only, because there are other money priorities that come first, like getting the wind genny up.

Can't wait for the Xantrex C60 to get here. I see it as the cornerstone of the energy-in side of the equation.
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Old 23-02-2009, 08:29   #14
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It would be good to connect them some way to use both alternators when motoring.
Balmar has a device called the Centerfielder - Balmar's Centerfielder Dual Alternator/Regulator Controller , though designed for two engine setups, I don't see why it wouldn't work for your setup. Note that it will balance both alternators. You'll have to add an isolator or combiner so the 2nd alternator can charge both house and starting batts.
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Old 23-02-2009, 09:20   #15
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Balmar has a device called the Centerfielder - Balmar's Centerfielder Dual Alternator/Regulator Controller , though designed for two engine setups, I don't see why it wouldn't work for your setup. Note that it will balance both alternators. You'll have to add an isolator or combiner so the 2nd alternator can charge both house and starting batts.
Scotte, I need more power! (Couldn't resist, given the topic)

Thanks Scotte, I'll look into it. From a quick read of their home page it has potential.
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