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Old 21-07-2016, 12:09   #1
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Flexible Solar Panels on Dodger and Bimini

Trying to decide if I want to go with Flexible panels on the top of the Dodger and Bimini or go with rigid panels on each side of the stern rails.
Would the Flex panels wear through the canvas and also be blocked somewhat from the boom shadow.
What works best for you guys?
Many thanks.
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Old 21-07-2016, 12:45   #2
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Re: Flexible Solar Panels on Dodger and Bimini

We originally installed 2 140W rigid panels outside the lifelines (replaced with stainless tubing) on each stern quarter. They flip up and are held in place with a telescoping pole, then clamp down to the lower lifeline (also tubing) when lowered. They work fantastic and have been no trouble for 2 years of Chesapeake to Bahamas cruising. Yes I have to raise them when we anchor and lower them before getting underway, but there are no shadow issues, waves haven't been an issue (prob because of the tubing top and bottom), and I highly recommend that configuration. However during the fall when the sun is lower in the sky and days are shorter, 280W is just not quite enough to keep up with our load (about 120-150AH/day).

So we are just about finished installing 6 50W semi-flexible panels on the canvas. I mounted the panels today after having the canvas modified. Our canvas vendor said he has done tons of installs like ours. Essentially, they sewed 1/2 of a zipper onto each side of the panel, the other half of the zipper onto the canvas and then a velcro flap to cover and protect the zipper. I still have to run the wires through the canvas tubes they made and then connect them to a second mppt controller and the power buses.

Since the install is new, I can't really speak to it yet. But I'm hopeful that the additional power will help both in the fall and when offshore for a multi-day passage and the autopilot is added to the amp-hour budget.
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Old 21-07-2016, 20:15   #3
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Re: Flexible Solar Panels on Dodger and Bimini

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wainui View Post
Trying to decide if I want to go with Flexible panels on the top of the Dodger and Bimini or go with rigid panels on each side of the stern rails.
Would the Flex panels wear through the canvas and also be blocked somewhat from the boom shadow.
What works best for you guys?
Many thanks.

I have 2 120 watt flexible panels on my bimini. Boom isn't long enough to cover, so not issue normally. I reenforced the canvas with some strong vinyl patches around attachment points, so no chafe. You can't solve your boom, but the wear you can.


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Old 21-07-2016, 21:15   #4
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Re: Flexible Solar Panels on Dodger and Bimini

Dodger mounted = More shadows on the panels, even if you pull the boom over near your shrouds (which still helps).
Rail mounted = More vulnerability to; damage from waves, when rafted up, or tied alongside quay walls & pilings. But much less Sun shadow.
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Old 21-07-2016, 23:26   #5
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Re: Flexible Solar Panels on Dodger and Bimini

I like the view with the Bimini down when weather permits.

If giving that up for solar, I think I would go hard top and dodger.
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Old 22-07-2016, 08:34   #6
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Re: Flexible Solar Panels on Dodger and Bimini

We have 2 flexible 35W panels currently sat on top of our bimini here in Croatia and they are chugging out a healthy 2.8amps. They are tied on to various parts of the structure including the back stays, bimini frame and webbing. This has been tried and tested in winds of up to 45kts with no damage to either panels or bimini.

One of the panels is left on the coachroof, in front of the sprayhood, when we are away to keep the house battery topped up. Again tied to the grab rails and mainsheet mounting points with no problems in the worst the Bura can throw at us over winter.

There can be a little drop in amperage as the shadow from the boom passes over but that is only to be expected and would happen with flexibles, semi-flex and rigid panels.

There is a company that makes solar film that can be incorporated into the actual fabric of the bimini which would be an excellent way to go.

My 2p worth

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Old 22-07-2016, 08:35   #7
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Re: Flexible Solar Panels on Dodger and Bimini

I just did 2 x 100 watt semi-flex panels (Amazon $188 each) on a bimini as described above.... Works great so far. 10 amps plus in full sun.

-John
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Old 22-07-2016, 08:36   #8
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Re: Flexible Solar Panels on Dodger and Bimini

I have 2 x 240W solar panels in a frame above my Bimini. Great for power. I am looking to replace panels with flexible for lightness I would gain. What I have sways in heavy seas. I have not really found suitable flexibles' to replace what I have currently. I am sure it is a matter of time.
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Old 22-07-2016, 09:07   #9
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Re: Flexible Solar Panels on Dodger and Bimini

We went with ridged on the bimini. Two separate systems for redundancy. Each system has two panels, its own controller, and is connected to separate battery banks.

We were told that it's important to have airflow under the panels in hot weather to prevent the panels from overheating and failing.

We also reinforced the bimini structure to make sure the panels were supported properly and could withstand the wind.

Now, if we ever find ourselves in the path of hurricane, our plan is to remove the panels and the bimini (and everything else on deck, for that matter) and store them inside the cabin.

While crossing the Sea of Cortez this past month, we literally had waves breaking on the main, on top of the dodger and washing onto the solar panels. Other than covered with salt crystals upon our arrival in San Carlos, they didn't suffer any damage.
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Old 22-07-2016, 10:33   #10
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Re: Flexible Solar Panels on Dodger and Bimini

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wainui View Post
Trying to decide if I want to go with Flexible panels on the top of the Dodger and Bimini or go with rigid panels on each side of the stern rails.
Would the Flex panels wear through the canvas and also be blocked somewhat from the boom shadow.
What works best for you guys?
Many thanks.
I doubt flexible panels mean constant flexing? I will bet it means flexing to install on a contoured surface.
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Old 22-07-2016, 10:49   #11
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Re: Flexible Solar Panels on Dodger and Bimini

To install flexible solar panels on your Bimini you must have a backer board behind them to prevent them from constant flexing. Bimini's are great place for solar panels because they are out of the way but as you commented, the boom shadowing is a problem and will reduce energy production. The extra weight of the solar panel combined with the wiring and backer board will cause wear and tear on the Bimini but if installed properly should not shorten the Bimini life span. Installing fixed frame panels on the stanchions will be the lower cost solution but will be in the way. Which is the most energy-production solution really depends on the size of the panels and your budget. Good luck with the project.
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Old 22-07-2016, 13:35   #12
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Re: Flexible Solar Panels on Dodger and Bimini

We have two Solbien CP125 panels on the Bimini, and on our boat the boom doesn't shade them. These were very expensive panels and the worst investment I've ever made on a boat - perhaps other panels are better, but these are crap. I have each one connected to its own genasun gv10 mpg controller and we are very lucky to get two amps out of them at high noon. In less than six months the panels got a little milky/cloudy and that could be part of the problem, but I can tell you that our 245W Kyocera hard panel never gets milky and it always kicks out tons of amps. If i did it over again, I'd have spent the money for sale steel tubing, made a mount, and put two more big hard panels up there ... Maybe even four. The solbiens have been such a disappointment - I'm getting upset even writing this ... Arghh!

Cheers,
Mike
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Old 22-07-2016, 14:09   #13
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Re: Flexible Solar Panels on Dodger and Bimini

Our 3 120 watt flexible panels failed after 14 months of use with hotspots on the panels and dis colored surface .Replaced with 2 sun power glass 345 watt panels in April and making 2kw on a good day.
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Old 22-07-2016, 14:56   #14
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Re: Flexible Solar Panels on Dodger and Bimini

I installed 3x 280W 24 volt Winaico stiff panels on top of our bimini using aluminium c section for a frame. It works great, with the Morningstar MPPT controller stepping down to 12v we get 30 Amps plus nett when the sun is out. We rarely need to run the generator.

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We use the boom brake to keep the boom to the side and minimise shading. Like Sailor647 I would definitely dismantle them and the Bimini if we were expecting a bad storm, but they are pretty strong and have survived a few gales unscathed.

I like the concept of the soft panels but my feeling is that they are less reliable and long lasting compared with the hard panels. I also don't like the idea of having to be raising and lowering the pushpit panels, worrying about damage etc.
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Old 23-07-2016, 06:29   #15
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Re: Flexible Solar Panels on Dodger and Bimini

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Originally Posted by PolarisOne View Post
I just did 2 x 100 watt semi-flex panels (Amazon $188 each) on a bimini as described above.... Works great so far. 10 amps plus in full sun.

-John
I have the same panels and mounted them using zip ties on one side and used an aluminum batten on the underside to drill through and fasten with nuts and bolts. I have a very old bimini that needs replacement so no harm done if it tears. I get about 8 - 10 amps in the Florida sun.
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