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Old 16-12-2018, 18:37   #241
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Re: Illustrated Guide to Solar Installations on Boats

Makes sense. Our existing solar controller is hooped as its old. So have new panels and controller. Just want things to work right. We leave our boat sit at slip when we are away for sometimes 4-6 mths. We aren't plugged in so solar handles the sump. Just need that end to work all the time, not have to worry.

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Old 16-12-2018, 18:41   #242
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Re: Illustrated Guide to Solar Installations on Boats

another question is where is the best place to send all charge currents. House, both. If your familiar with the old 1/ 2 both switch. Been looking at some Bluesea stuff but again get lost in all the data. Just want a nice neat simple system. 2 batteries.

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Old 16-12-2018, 19:53   #243
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Re: Illustrated Guide to Solar Installations on Boats

1/2/B switches should be for choosing the source for loads, not directing charge current.

Or just eliminated. See

VSR / ACR will combine Start and House for charging, big ones can also handle self jumpstarting from House.

Best if all significant charge sources go direct to House, then a small VSR is enough to keep the dedicated Starter topped up, or an Echo Charger.
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Old 16-12-2018, 19:54   #244
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Re: Illustrated Guide to Solar Installations on Boats

Going off topic, maybe start your own thread to continue, can link back to here.
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Old 24-12-2018, 08:36   #245
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Re: Illustrated Guide to Solar Installations on Boats

to contribute to the library of the installations.

I sold the old "conventional" dodger and bimini frame and welded a custom "cage" to hold 2 solar panels 250W each which was enough to keep the fridge running 24/7 and all the modest electrical needs on 34' sailboat. All lights were replaced to LED and B&G solid-state radar used very little power.

Panels were the "ceiling" over the cockpit and companionway - they are huge for this little boat and i did not see any need to add canvas under them. Added 1/4" acrylic between the panels to keep everything watertight. This project was finished 4 or 5 years ago. We were getting close to 40A on a sunny day on Great Lakes. Never had to plug into the shorepower (which saved me ~$300/year on the marina fees and basically paid for the installation in 4 years).

- 2x 250W Panels (we've bought 10 of them with a couple of boating friends and got a good price): $100 x 2 = $200

- 316 SS tubing (I used lightweight 1.5" architectural tubes mostly from and fittings: around $500
it's amazing how the price drops on anything without "marine" in the product name and 316 stainless tubing is the same material in any industry

- Renogy Tracer 4210 40 Amp MPPT with remote monitor: $150

- Portable TIG welding machine purchased for this project: $350

- 10 hours of youtube self-education to learn how to weld stainless: priceless

If I remember correctly, the total was less than a couple of boat dollars but who is counting, right?

I hope this concept will give someone another option to the solar panel over the bimini installation approach.

the new frame with only one panel installed. looks massive here but was not that bad after finished

view to the front panel from the cockpit

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Old 16-02-2019, 14:13   #246
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Re: Illustrated Guide to Solar Installations on Boats

Thanks to Steady and the folks who contributed to this post. It was helpful to follow this while I worked my project.

Beneteau 423 42' sloop with two Panasonic 330 watt hard panels installed 2018 above the bimini. Panels do not add noticeable windage, and do not look unnatural. The solar portion of the system was under $2,000. There is a bit of shading from our radar emitter on the arch, but not enough to make use want to move the radome.

Here's the text from a blog post I wrote on the subject:

Since September 2018 we have been cruising and living on a mooring/anchor full time. The goal of the electrical upgrade project was to provide at least three days electrical power for our 150 amp-hour per day power budget.

Upgraded the battery system from four US Battery Golf Car batteries (440 amp-hour total / 220 amp-hour usable) to seven Firefly Oasis G31 batteries (812 amp-hour total / 650 amp-hour usable) that support partial state of charge usage. I removed the old start battery and replaced it with a separately switch Firefly battery that is combined with the house bank when we are at anchor; battery alarms are set at 12.3 volts and the batteries have never gotten that low.

Three batteries are in the engine compartment in the old battery box; the highest recorded temperature was 102-degrees after an overnight motor. Four additional batteries are under the aft bunk in a new battery box. There was not sufficient clearance under the bunk for the batteries, so the aft bunk was raised 1.75.

Solar is two Panasonic rigid 330 watt panels fed into two dedicated Victron Smartsolar 100/300 solar controllers. The panels are mounted above the bimini. On the forward end, the panels are secured to two frames built out of 1 stainless steel tube put together with Sea Dog stainless steel elbows and hinged rail tees, mounted on existing grab bars on the bimini frame; extra bracing from the bimini frame forward to stanchions using 1 stainless steel tube and rail fittings. On the end the panels are bolted to the existing arch using stainless steel u-bolts. The forward panel mounts are shimmed with nylon spacers to follow the arch curve and drain rain to the aft outboard corner; we will add water catchment.

The new inverter / charger is a Victron Multiplex 12|3000|120 12-volt, 3000-watt, 120-amp. The Victron components are on a shared Bluetooth network. The solar chargers and the inverter/charger are installed in a large cockpit locker due to size and space limitations; this is not ideal, but the voltage drops are acceptable and, when installed, the BMV 712 will provide voltage and temperature for the forward batteries over bluetooth to the chargers. The Victron VE.BUS Bluetooth Smart dongle will provide voltage and temperature for the aft batterie over bluetooth.

Work still to be done:
- Add a breaker to switch on/off the existing Sterling Pro 40-amp shore charger, to be kept as a spare
- Run shore power to Victron inverter charger
- Move the Victron VE.BUS Bluetooth Smart dongle to the aft battery compartment
- Install the Victron BMV 712 battery monitor and add to the Bluetooth network, to replace an old Xantrex BMV
- Align the solar panel shims for aesthetic symmetry
- Shorten battery cables to remove excess length to reduce voltage drop and for aesthetics

I need to pull together the full bill of materials for 30% solar tax credit deduction, but it will include:
- 7 Firefly G31 batteries - $486 each, $3,402 total - Coastal Climate Control
- 2 Panasonic solar panels - $330 each, $660 total - Coastal Climate Control
- 2 Victron 100/30 solar controllers - $226, $552 total - Amazon
- Victron Multiplex 12|3000|120 inverter/charger - $1,427 - PKYS
- Victron VE.BUS Bluetooth Smart dongle - $78 - PKYS
- Victron MK3-USB Interface - $69 - PKYS
- Victron BMV 712 - $206 - PKYS
- 1 Stainless Tubing - $381 - West Marine
- Sea-Dog frame hardware - $222 - Go2Marine
- 50 Pacer Group 6 awg triplex wire - $239 - Pacer Group
- 50 Pacer Group 10 awg triplex wire - $79 - Pacer group
- Battery cables - $858 - Tinned Marine Wire
- Various electrical components - $TBD - PKYS

Around $8,100 and still counting.


1. The hardest part of the entire project was running the 6-guage triplex wire from the aft cabin to the AC panel at the chart table. With battery assist, the inverter can push 75-amps. I ended up having to remove the aft holding tank and widen the cable races through two bulkheads.

2. The second hardest part of the project was raising the aft bunk up 1.75. It looks great and provides a stronger platform than before the changes. It just took a lot of time and effort.

3. You cannot configure the Victron battery charger over bluetooth; that is pretty bad given the great configurability of the Smartsolar controllers.

4. MacOS is not supported for the configuration software for the Victron battery charger. I had to download a Windows 10 VirtualBox image and debug the USB drivers.

5. The hard panels added a LOT of stiffness to the frame. It would have been possible to get by with a less robust frame.

Final thoughts

We achieved our goal of being able to go three days without charging the batteries with solar, generator or shore power. If the batteries get discharged more than 300 amp-hours it takes a couple of sunny Florida Keys days to completely recharge. However, with the partial state of charge capability of the Firefly batteries this is not an issue; they are happy down to about 80% DOD and do not like be float charged full.

The Victron gear is very easy to configure for custom battery charging parameters. The bluetooth interfaces allow the chargers to detect on-battery voltage and adjust charge voltages.

We would have been fine with our old Sterling Pro battery charger and the non-marine inverter that came with the boat. But the upgraded battery charger allows us to charge the batteries much faster using the generator; it also allows us to use battery assist to start the air conditioners if we ever need to do that.

Why not lithium batteries? A year ago when we started the project drop in lithium batteries were newish and expensive. Since then, we have a source for 400 amp-hour 8D size batteries for $2,500 each. The Firefly batteries are still cheaper and have similar performance and life. Maybe in ten years when the Fireflies are getting a bit old Lithium will be the replacement.

Cheers, RickG
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RickG & Sweet Christine
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St. John, USVI - hauling out Fajardo, Puerto Rico for hurricane season July 1
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Old 13-03-2019, 04:39   #247
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Re: Illustrated Guide to Solar Installations on Boats

I've enjoyed looking through all the installations in this post. I'm thinking ahead to next year when we are looking to install solar on our 2008 Beneteau Oceanis 43. This year, we have to replace the battery bank, which we're probably going to do with Lithium Phosphates.

Anyway, here is a photo I took a while ago of the type of panel set up we'd like to have. I'm not so keen on having a big gantry and lots of additional stainless steel, preferring to go simple. In context, we are also having the standing rigging replaced this year and we've asked for uprated the backstays to 8mm wire.

Does anyone have any experience of this type of set up and are there any known issues with it?
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Old 13-03-2019, 04:58   #248
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Re: Illustrated Guide to Solar Installations on Boats

We have an SSB with insulated backstay antenna, so that would not work for us.

Think about how you want to ground your solar, through the backstay or through a common ground with you solar controller (our approach).

Cheers, RickG
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Old 13-03-2019, 05:01   #249
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Re: Illustrated Guide to Solar Installations on Boats

Positive and negative not grounded, they go straight to the controller, The frames are earthed to common ground as lightning protection.
Lagoon 400S2 refit for cruising: LiFeYPO4, solar and electric galley...
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Old 19-03-2019, 07:32   #250
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Re: Illustrated Guide to Solar Installations on Boats

This is one of the best I have seen, and I intend to do something similar. I especially like that there are no sharp edges on the perimeter. I also appreciate that he tried to compliment the lines of the boat.

The pic comes from this thread
What $190k Gets You: Updating a Lagoon 440

I hope he does not mind me posting the pic.
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Old 24-03-2019, 07:46   #251
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Re: Illustrated Guide to Solar Installations on Boats

I have really enjoyed seeing the many contributions to this thread.

I want to give a special thanks to WATERANT and RICKG for adding the latest good, illustrative images and detailed descriptions of their projects. Very good stuff to see!

I particularly liked seeing the many photos of WATERANT’s project (in unfinished and finished state) and from different POV (including the all important profile of the entire boat on the water). That mix of views is very helpful, and I hope other members will try to follow your example (showing the boat from different angles, and from UNDER the solar Bimini, looking forward from the helm, to show visibility). From what I can see in the photos, it appears your project still allows good visibility forward and around, and that is good.

This discussion thread just keeps getting better and better with your contributions (from everyone).
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Old 13-04-2019, 10:16   #252
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Re: Illustrated Guide to Solar Installations on Boats

Originally Posted by a64pilot View Post
Sort of a garage for the dinghy, dinghy is slightly larger but not by much.
This is three 250 W panels, I have added a fourth since this photo, it covers the center of the Bimini, it is attached to the middle panel and to a Bimini bow with two dg clamps

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Looking for any other photo examples of a "dinghy garage" solution for Solar Panels.

I am presently changing out the vinyl Bimini for a fitted lightweight fiberglass top between the solar panels.

Have an opportunity to buy a 5th 370watt panel to fit above the dinghy davits with same idea as Pilot's but mounted higher as this is used as a stern gangway with a plank lashed to my stern ladder

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Has anyone got more pictures of a davit/solar panel mount to give me some design ideas?
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Old 13-04-2019, 10:50   #253
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Re: Illustrated Guide to Solar Installations on Boats

Palegic, [RE: #252]

I suspect our davits are lower than yours. The solar panels mounted above them are just aft of the transom- and pivot on their athwartships centerline. Therefore the panels are high [and aft] enough that we can still easily use the ladder on the transom, and the panels still do a pretty good job sheltering most of the dinghy when secured in the davits...

Let me know if any additional details would be useful. [Some details can be gleaned from this post on a related topic...]

Cheers! Bill
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Short on opinions; focused on research, facts & experience [yours and ours...]
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Old 15-04-2019, 07:01   #254
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Re: Illustrated Guide to Solar Installations on Boats

This is my new installation. 2 Renogy 50 watt poly panels wired parallel to a Victron Bluesolar 75/10. The panels do get some shading from antennas but so far are performing great. The small 26' trawler is on a mooring so no shorepower.

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Old 09-07-2019, 20:53   #255
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Re: Illustrated Guide to Solar Installations on Boats

I'm still in progress of setting up everything, but what follows has been a long project. I built myself a stainless steel arch for solar with an integrated dinghy davit system. The whole project started 10 months ago when I decided I would teach myself how to TIG weld. I did a few projects using stainless steel tubing to practice (like building a couch), and once I felt I had all the tools in my belt, I decided to tackle the arch project. Note that the arch itself is not entirely finished: I haven't polished it yet, so the finish is very rough, the welds have the usual coloration. I just got sick of working on the arch and decided to install it without all the fancy polishing, figured I could polish it over time, one day at a time.

The solar install itself is 3x305W panels in parallel, so 915W of solar. There's no shadowing, since it's above everything else aside for the rigging. The backstays are clear, so they don't shadow. I'm not going to install anything above the panels either.

I designed the arch in CAD, using a 3D scan of the stern of my boat (done with a Kinect) and a couple of projections in CAD from old plans for my boat, so that the 3D scan would be to scale. I designed the arch using these principles:
  1. Clear the backstays.
  2. Don't extend past the stern.
  3. Don't extend beyond the beam.
  4. Clear a 5'5" wide dinghy on the davits.
  5. Clear my head when I'm standing on the cockpit seats.
  6. Fit as much solar as I can.
  7. Strong enough to hold panels and a dinghy w/ outboard filled with seawater.

I found some used 305W domestic panels on craiglist that were selling for 90$, so I got 3 of them. They're 1000mm by 1500mm and 53lbs. See the spec. I fabricated an aluminum frame that holds them. The frame can be detached from the arch itself, so if I ever want to get different panels, I just need to change the Al frame (which was cheap to fabricate).

Here's a video I have where you can see the arch with the solar.

Fabricating the arch was quite the challenge. The 3D scan worked out great, and I built a mock-up using PVC tubing to get a sense of how the arch would feel once installed. It felt good and the dimensions from the CAD design were working out, so I went ahead and bought tubing and started bending and cutting and welding. Making the feet of the arch fit on the boat was the biggest challenge. The angles of the legs are compound and I wanted the back legs to land at precise locations on the stern (which has no flat surface), and the front legs to land next to the deck-to-hull join, so that I could use the existing bolts and avoid making too many holes. I'd say making the feet and adjusting the fit took about 50% of the project, and a lot of back-and-forth between the welding workshop and the boat.

Lessons I learned:
  • Stainless steel likes to eat tools for breakfast. I burned through a lot of hole cutters and end mills, and I learned a lot about milling hard metals.
  • 3D scanning is worth it. When it was suggested to me, I thought it was overkill/unrealistic. I attempted to use more "low tech" approaches, but decided to give it a shot, using a cheap second hand Microsoft Kinect. Surprisingly, the 3D scan approach worked out so well that it was well worth the 15min it took me to do. The scan was very precise and set me up for success, dimension wise.
  • If I do more custom stainless projects, I'll buy myself a portable TIG so I can weld on the boat directly. Doing the back and forth between the shop and the boat was a royal PITA.
  • More aluminum, less stainless. I started building the solar frame out of stainless steel, but when I realized it was going to be as heavy as the solar panels themselves, for no good structural reasons, I tought I should just grow up, learn to TIG on aluminum and do the frame in aluminum. I'll admit it was much harder to weld, but the result is much easier to work with. Fabricating aluminum parts is soooo much easier, and the frame is light and the materials were cheaper.
  • This arch is HUGE. Freaking huge. I don't know if I'll like it down the line. I'll try it out and if it sucks... I'll probably hire some experienced person to make a new, smaller and improved one. But for now, if it does the job, then I'll be happy! If it doesn't, I'll have acquired enough experience in the process to know what to ask.
  • 915W is a lot of power, and a lot of amps at 12V (~77A). Right now I'm planning on making a 24V LiFePO4 bank, charging it with the solar MPPT controller (it can handle 915W at 24V) and using a battery-to-battery charger to charge the existing 12V stuff from the 24V bank. I'll connect the inverter to the 24V bank, and keep the rest of the electrical system on 12V. MPPT controllers that can handle 77A are really expensive, and I don't want to run two or three smaller in parallels. Inverters in the range I'm interested (4 to 6 kW) are also pulling way too many amps at 12V, making for heavy/hot wires. We want to replace our CNG stove with an induction stove and a countertop oven, so we expect high power loads. So all this to say, I think having a secondary 24V bank makes sense. The existing 12V stays the same and is powered by a smaller 12V bank that's good enough to start the engine and run light loads. I can always change my mind and reconfigure to 12V down the line if it gets too hairy.

Disclaimer: I'm not a welder. I'm an engineer, but not mechanical or electrical (although I've had many engineering coursework in those specialities, enough to build this).
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