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Old 11-11-2015, 15:13   #1
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Help on New Solar Install!

I want to put solar on my Lagoon 380. I have 420AH of house and 2 start batteries. I will put the panels over my davits. I have read lots of posts on separate solar parts, and many of them are old, also many break down into arguments of arcane subjects, so considering how fast the industry is moving, I wanted to put a new post with consolidated questions...

My electronics has the batteries going into T handle switches (if you have seen a beneteau/juneau it is the same ) , one for each battery plus a ground handle. From the switches there is a fuse (well they are actually resettable fuses) bar, then lead to the electrical panel with switches to turn on electronics, lights, refrig, etc. AC comes into the boat, goes into a battery charger, charger goes to the electrical panel to turn it on/off, then I think back to the battery (not thru the switches I think). The electrical panel can readout battery voltage, but not the state, so you don't know if it's in float etc, but rather at 13.6V.

So I need some help in choosing ALL the parts for a system. (I am not concerned with saving 10% at the expense of getting something that won't work well, I want to get proven reliable products.) I think I need about 400w of panels, not sure if this is 2 200s or 3 130s or what. Boat has all LED lighting, but a refrig, so I wanted to try to get about 100ah a day, I think this can be done from 400w.

-Whose panels to get?
-Which controller to get? MPPT for sure, but what brand.
-Who makes something I can attach them to the boat with? (mounting options)
-What other accessory parts do I need (fuses, diodes, battery monitors, wire, gaskets to go thru the hull or anything i haven't thought of ).
-Parallel or Series (there are several pages on this on another thread)

I am an electrical engineer by training (actually more electronics as I worked with solid state), so I kind of know what I am doing, but I am certainly not an electrician, and not a marine electrician. So I don't have the practical knowledge.

Does the solar go directly into the battery, does it go into a switch first so i can be turned on or off, do i need to rewire battery charger and alternator into controller, etc. Things like this. I know the fuse protects the wire, etc.

What I need is an equipment list to start with. Then I will probably hire a marine electrician or find someone who has done this before. Thanks.
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Old 11-11-2015, 16:51   #2
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Re: Help on New Solar Install!

Quote:
Originally Posted by jbinbi View Post
I want to put solar on my Lagoon 380. I have 420AH of house and 2 start batteries. I will put the panels over my davits. I have read lots of posts on separate solar parts, and many of them are old, also many break down into arguments of arcane subjects, so considering how fast the industry is moving, I wanted to put a new post with consolidated questions...

My electronics has the batteries going into T handle switches (if you have seen a beneteau/juneau it is the same ) , one for each battery plus a ground handle. From the switches there is a fuse (well they are actually resettable fuses) bar, then lead to the electrical panel with switches to turn on electronics, lights, refrig, etc. AC comes into the boat, goes into a battery charger, charger goes to the electrical panel to turn it on/off, then I think back to the battery (not thru the switches I think). The electrical panel can readout battery voltage, but not the state, so you don't know if it's in float etc, but rather at 13.6V.

So I need some help in choosing ALL the parts for a system. (I am not concerned with saving 10% at the expense of getting something that won't work well, I want to get proven reliable products.) I think I need about 400w of panels, not sure if this is 2 200s or 3 130s or what. Boat has all LED lighting, but a refrig, so I wanted to try to get about 100ah a day, I think this can be done from 400w.

-Whose panels to get?
-Which controller to get? MPPT for sure, but what brand.
-Who makes something I can attach them to the boat with? (mounting options)
-What other accessory parts do I need (fuses, diodes, battery monitors, wire, gaskets to go thru the hull or anything i haven't thought of ).
-Parallel or Series (there are several pages on this on another thread)

I am an electrical engineer by training (actually more electronics as I worked with solid state), so I kind of know what I am doing, but I am certainly not an electrician, and not a marine electrician. So I don't have the practical knowledge.

Does the solar go directly into the battery, does it go into a switch first so i can be turned on or off, do i need to rewire battery charger and alternator into controller, etc. Things like this. I know the fuse protects the wire, etc.

What I need is an equipment list to start with. Then I will probably hire a marine electrician or find someone who has done this before. Thanks.
I am a lowly civil engineer but trained as marine electrician. Between the two of us we make a good one!


In order to get best answers for you we need some more data. Here you have some thoughts to get you going.

I would start with selecting type of panel. If you have a hardtop bimini then you want to use rigid panels (cheaper per W and last longer). Do you have a hardtop bimini?

If you will go with rigid then you can choose between monocrystalline, polycrystalline and amorphous. My starting point with be Kyocera poly as in here: https://www.emarineinc.com/kyocera-1...el-fixed-frame

If you will go with flexible then you can choose between expensive Solbians or cheap lookalikes from discountpv.com (worked well for me).

Early on you have to determine if you are maxes out in available area to install panels, which is what justifies panels with higher efficiency (W/m2) that cost more $/m2, and MPPT vs PWM. I say this because in many cases the extra cost of MPPT does not give you as many amps as just spending that money in more panels.

The decision of how many panels and where cannot be reversed later, hence you have to make the right decision when you start.

Based on the prices of the controllers right now, I prefer not to connect panels in parallel and just use several controllers (I like the Victron MPPT for 15A at just over US$100.).

If you use this controller you can consider connecting pairs of panels in series because this controller´s input voltage spec will let you connect two panels in series. You save a controller and also some copper (because you reduce overall current by increasing voltage). The con is that if one panel is shaded the other one will suffer too. Do not sweat too much about this because you can change the controller setup later.

Keep in mind that in many contexts it is important to make sure that the controller has the right info as to battery voltage. This means having a dedicated voltage sense wire (many controllers do not have it), or a very short and fat cable between controller and battery. It always makes sense to install the controller very close to the battery. If you cant to save in copper do that between panel and controller, not between controller and battery. If you think it is likely that you will upgrade to lithium later then read this paragraph three times!

You will need a good battery monitor. Maine Sail recommends the Victron BMV-whatever for good reasons.

If you really get into solar you will want to go to 1000W and run watermaker, washing machine, etc without a genset...... Therefore you should make sure you do not waste any space when you start small.

DO not forget that in order to let your lead-acid batteries live long you need to have excess charging capacity to make sure they reach 100% every week at least.

Bottom line, I would suggest consider:

- Planning for a total future install of up to 6 or or more 140W Kyoceras on the hard bimini. If you do not have a hard bimini or the US$5k to install one then let´s revisit that.

- Start with just two of them with option to grow later as you see how things work for you. This should give you about 120Ah per day in the Caribbean without shading by the sails.

- For the initial two panels you can use one Victron 75/15 controller as this one: Victron Energy MPPT 75/15 Solar Charge Controller . Note that by this will cap your output at noon at 14.xV times 15A = about 215 watts (instead of 2x140=280W) for the two panels.. Once you are maxed out in surface area then it may pay to go to one controller per panel.

- Install a Victron BMV battery manager such as this: http://www.amazon.com/Victron-BMV-70.../dp/B00MJ85E2U If this is good for Maine Sail it is god for you.

- Install the controller close to the battery and connect it to the battery side of the switch (or a charging bus in between switch and battery). Size the wire between controller and panel for 3% drop max. Size the wire between controller and battery to 1% drop max.

- Later on worry about understanding how the controller decides when is the time to switch from absorption voltage to float voltage and whether that happens when the battery is actually full or before then. The Victron controllers let you program (with optional cable) all the parameters so that you can improve the system as you improve your understanding of how it works. Other controllers are not as good.

- Consider installing one of the A and Ah meters between the controller and the battery, to know what is the contribution from the panels: http://www.amazon.com/Watts-Meter-An.../dp/B001B6N2WK
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Old 11-11-2015, 16:56   #3
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Re: Help on New Solar Install!

I don't know a lot about the technical aspects but after installing my setup I suggest you install as many watts of solar as you can fit, you want to get peak power for a short time of the day.
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Old 11-11-2015, 17:17   #4
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Re: Help on New Solar Install!

You can never have to much solar, it's not just about how much output you get at 1 pm on a sunny day, 8 am on a an overcast day is also of much importance. The max I have seen coming from my controllers is around 125 amps at 12 volts DC. The figures I really like are 30 - 40 amps at 8 am on a an overcast day.

My advice is go as big as you can afford and can fit. Like fresh water and wine you can never have to much on board.

Attached sketch of my system at present.
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Old 11-11-2015, 18:46   #5
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Re: Help on New Solar Install!

thanks for the quick replies.

mounting above davits, so will be rigid. Should be able to get 2 and maybe 3 panels across that. maybe i can get 3 of those 300 watt that paulinoz has. so then that feeds into the charge controller. why the 10a breakers between the panel and the controller? Is that required, or just an extra layer of safety. Then does this go directly into the battery, and where do the 80a breakers go between?
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Old 11-11-2015, 19:55   #6
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Re: Help on New Solar Install!

Look at aurinco panels as well. Patrik has been great to work with and really helped me along in the process.

If budget it not the #1 issue, getting lighter highly efficient semi-flexible panels and backing them with a thin layer of G10 (as aurinco does) is a nice elegant way to maximize wattage while keeping a relatively small footprint and minimizing weight.
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Old 11-11-2015, 20:05   #7
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Re: Help on New Solar Install!

Quote:
Originally Posted by jbinbi View Post
thanks for the quick replies.

mounting above davits, so will be rigid. Should be able to get 2 and maybe 3 panels across that. maybe i can get 3 of those 300 watt that paulinoz has. so then that feeds into the charge controller. why the 10a breakers between the panel and the controller? Is that required, or just an extra layer of safety. Then does this go directly into the battery, and where do the 80a breakers go between?
You need fuses or breakers to protect the wire that connects the controller to the battery from a short. The source of current to worry about for this is the battery. For a given bit of wire there has to be a fuse/breaker between that bit and the battery, with fuse rating not greater than the ampacity of that bit of wire. This means starting with a fuse very close to the battery!

The panels are self-limiting, hence in normal circumstances you do not need to fuse the wire between controller and panel for the purlose of protecting the wire. It is nice to have a switch to disconnect the panels and work safely on the controller, but that is another story. The controller manufacturer may also want a fuse to protect the controller from overload.


Sent from my GT-I9192 using Cruisers Sailing Forum mobile app
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Old 11-11-2015, 20:15   #8
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Re: Help on New Solar Install!

"why the 10a breakers between the panel and the controller? Is that required, or just an extra layer of safety. Then does this go directly into the battery, and where do the 80a breakers go between?"

80 amp breakers are between each charge controller and the battery. They supply 12 volts DC to a max of 80 amps each.

The 10 amp circuit breakers in line with each panel are a level of safety and provide for a useful isolation point if working or fault finding on system.
Each Panel nominal supplies 65 volts DC to a max of 6 amps under normal conditions.
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Old 11-11-2015, 20:34   #9
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Re: Help on New Solar Install!

Yikes wouldn't want to be where you are at with contemplation right now. Certainly lots to consider that will only be specific to you, your boat, needs - wants and suppliers.

You take all the ideas that seems good to you and work it into your own solution day by day month by month and year by year until one two three years later cool solar boat.

All kinds of great ideas at Discussion Forum - Electric Seas for your consideration and also the antiquated but astoundingly well maintained archive at the Electric Boat Yahoo Group. The pictures never end.

Enjoy my rough component sketch! Getting to that point was the hardest. Everything and then some is ready for the boat soon. That's 2160w solar at 34.88 amps. I hope to actively solar sail it with ropes to adjust the inclination underway to realize anywhere over 25amps. Six +/- series pairs and then paralleled into two leads right to the charge controller. 79.80volts 34.88 amps.
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Old 12-11-2015, 08:37   #10
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Re: Help on New Solar Install!

I would suggest checking the Windy Nation web site. They have completer systems, or you can buy the parts separately and they will help you get what you need. I bought 4 of my solar panels from them as kits.
As well as having wind generators
Jim
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Old 12-11-2015, 08:51   #11
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Re: Help on New Solar Install!

"Based on the prices of the controllers right now, I prefer not to connect panels in parallel and just use several controllers (I like the Victron MPPT for 15A at just over US$100.)."

I agree that controllers are disproportionately expensive but you do not need to run in series. You can still run in parellel and bring several panels to a single controller. A lot is dependent upon the controller's capacity. Possible getting mixed up with series & parellel? Or did you mean a controller per panel?
It is better for efficiency to run in parellel; you dont want to pull down output where part of the array is shaded.
Best regards.



Quote:
Originally Posted by svlamorocha View Post
I am a lowly civil engineer but trained as marine electrician. Between the two of us we make a good one!


In order to get best answers for you we need some more data. Here you have some thoughts to get you going.

I would start with selecting type of panel. If you have a hardtop bimini then you want to use rigid panels (cheaper per W and last longer). Do you have a hardtop bimini?

If you will go with rigid then you can choose between monocrystalline, polycrystalline and amorphous. My starting point with be Kyocera poly as in here: https://www.emarineinc.com/kyocera-1...el-fixed-frame

If you will go with flexible then you can choose between expensive Solbians or cheap lookalikes from discountpv.com (worked well for me).

Early on you have to determine if you are maxes out in available area to install panels, which is what justifies panels with higher efficiency (W/m2) that cost more $/m2, and MPPT vs PWM. I say this because in many cases the extra cost of MPPT does not give you as many amps as just spending that money in more panels.

The decision of how many panels and where cannot be reversed later, hence you have to make the right decision when you start.

Based on the prices of the controllers right now, I prefer not to connect panels in parallel and just use several controllers (I like the Victron MPPT for 15A at just over US$100.).

If you use this controller you can consider connecting pairs of panels in series because this controller´s input voltage spec will let you connect two panels in series. You save a controller and also some copper (because you reduce overall current by increasing voltage). The con is that if one panel is shaded the other one will suffer too. Do not sweat too much about this because you can change the controller setup later.

Keep in mind that in many contexts it is important to make sure that the controller has the right info as to battery voltage. This means having a dedicated voltage sense wire (many controllers do not have it), or a very short and fat cable between controller and battery. It always makes sense to install the controller very close to the battery. If you cant to save in copper do that between panel and controller, not between controller and battery. If you think it is likely that you will upgrade to lithium later then read this paragraph three times!

You will need a good battery monitor. Maine Sail recommends the Victron BMV-whatever for good reasons.

If you really get into solar you will want to go to 1000W and run watermaker, washing machine, etc without a genset...... Therefore you should make sure you do not waste any space when you start small.

DO not forget that in order to let your lead-acid batteries live long you need to have excess charging capacity to make sure they reach 100% every week at least.

Bottom line, I would suggest consider:

- Planning for a total future install of up to 6 or or more 140W Kyoceras on the hard bimini. If you do not have a hard bimini or the US$5k to install one then let´s revisit that.

- Start with just two of them with option to grow later as you see how things work for you. This should give you about 120Ah per day in the Caribbean without shading by the sails.

- For the initial two panels you can use one Victron 75/15 controller as this one: Victron Energy MPPT 75/15 Solar Charge Controller . Note that by this will cap your output at noon at 14.xV times 15A = about 215 watts (instead of 2x140=280W) for the two panels.. Once you are maxed out in surface area then it may pay to go to one controller per panel.

- Install a Victron BMV battery manager such as this: http://www.amazon.com/Victron-BMV-70.../dp/B00MJ85E2U If this is good for Maine Sail it is god for you.

- Install the controller close to the battery and connect it to the battery side of the switch (or a charging bus in between switch and battery). Size the wire between controller and panel for 3% drop max. Size the wire between controller and battery to 1% drop max.

- Later on worry about understanding how the controller decides when is the time to switch from absorption voltage to float voltage and whether that happens when the battery is actually full or before then. The Victron controllers let you program (with optional cable) all the parameters so that you can improve the system as you improve your understanding of how it works. Other controllers are not as good.

- Consider installing one of the A and Ah meters between the controller and the battery, to know what is the contribution from the panels: http://www.amazon.com/Watts-Meter-An.../dp/B001B6N2WK
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Old 12-11-2015, 08:58   #12
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Re: Help on New Solar Install!

Paulin,

I noticed also the shunt controller you have. Does the battery charger and alternator go thru this as well. I am assuming that you put all charging as inputs, then this outputs to the battery?

I currently have a battery charger that I need to turn on at the electrical panel , only works of course if I have AC in, so wondering where the intelligence is in the system to regulate the output of the solar and charger and alternator assuming all 3 are running?

Is the shunt a required item?
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Old 12-11-2015, 09:11   #13
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Re: Help on New Solar Install!

Quote:
Originally Posted by PacificGreen View Post
Yikes wouldn't want to be where you are at with contemplation right now. Certainly lots to consider that will only be specific to you, your boat, needs - wants and suppliers.

You take all the ideas that seems good to you and work it into your own solution day by day month by month and year by year until one two three years later cool solar boat.

All kinds of great ideas at Discussion Forum - Electric Seas for your consideration and also the antiquated but astoundingly well maintained archive at the Electric Boat Yahoo Group. The pictures never end.

Enjoy my rough component sketch! Getting to that point was the hardest. Everything and then some is ready for the boat soon. That's 2160w solar at 34.88 amps. I hope to actively solar sail it with ropes to adjust the inclination underway to realize anywhere over 25amps. Six +/- series pairs and then paralleled into two leads right to the charge controller. 79.80volts 34.88 amps.
That's a lot of power! Any chance you could post a bigger version of that sketch where you have the position of the panels marked? I'm curious how you will fit it all on!
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Old 12-11-2015, 09:17   #14
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Re: Help on New Solar Install!

Give Garhauer Marine a call for hardware to mount your panels to the davits. I'm doing the same type of install right now. Mark Felgenhauer is the person to talk to 909-985-7513.
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Old 12-11-2015, 09:42   #15
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Re: Help on New Solar Install!

Quote:
Originally Posted by jtallen2489 View Post
I would suggest checking the Windy Nation web site. They have completer systems, or you can buy the parts separately and they will help you get what you need. I bought 4 of my solar panels from them as kits.
As well as having wind generators
Jim
Thanks, but they only have 100 watt panels as far as i can tell. not nearly enough for what i need per panel.

Also, I noticed quite a few different brands of controllers. I am not sure about 1 brand vs. another. Have not yet searched on other threads, I am sure there is more info, but Bluesky, Magnum, Victrum, Outback, and morningstar are all brands I have heard people talk about, but not quite sure which has been holding up well.
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