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Old 21-02-2017, 14:11   #91
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Re: Illustrated Guide to Solar Installations on Boats

Just a note regarding Sunpower panels. I was talking to a marine electrician the other day who decided to test a range of panels that he had on hand for various installations with respect to the impact of shading. He said that the Sunpower panels experienced the lowest performance hit, by a dramatic margin, vs. the other panels (which included on Kyocera and a few others I don't remember). He said the delta was much higher than he expected and that based on that he'd go with Sunpower, not for overall efficiency but due to the shading performance.

I'm in the beginning phase of designing an install for my boat. Fortunately, there's not a lot of shade (relatively speaking) where they are going, over the bimini.
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Old 21-02-2017, 14:12   #92
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Re: Illustrated Guide to Solar Installations on Boats

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Originally Posted by offpist View Post
Here is our setup.
2x327W sunpower
4X100W Infinium flexible panels
Total 1054W.

2X200A Balmar AT200 alternators with external Mastervolt regulator.

1000AH Lifepo4 Winston battery.

3000W, 150A Mastervolt Mass Combo Ultra.
Wow, what sort of amperage do you see going in...its huge for that size boat, very cool.

Sent from my vivo Y35 using Cruisers Sailing Forum mobile app
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Old 21-02-2017, 14:17   #93
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Re: Illustrated Guide to Solar Installations on Boats

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Originally Posted by senormechanico View Post
It's good to see so many setups without radars, wind generators, antennas etc ABOVE the panels !
Being in the planning stage of a new arch for solar and dinghy, it does look like a good place to put at least some antennas, things ike GPS, WiFi booster, AIS VHF antenna, etc. How best to place these to minimize shading on the panels? Off to the side? Will the antennas lose any effectiveness being mounted parallel to the metal piping of the arch?

Thanks,
David.
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Old 21-02-2017, 16:49   #94
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Re: Illustrated Guide to Solar Installations on Boats

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Wow, what sort of amperage do you see going in...its huge for that size boat, very cool.
We see about 70-75A at mid day from solar alone.. and 300+A when running the engine.
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Old 02-03-2017, 00:36   #95
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Re: Illustrated Guide to Solar Installations on Boats

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Originally Posted by noelex 77 View Post


Yes, this is the output Sunpower measure assuming it was converted to 28.8v by a 100% efficient solar controller.

However, the measuring conditions used by Sunpower, and all the solar manufacturers, is exceptionally good. It corresponds to very bright conditions and very cold temperatures. It does not take into account the losses in the wiring or inefficiencies in the solar controller converting the roughly 60v of the panels to 28.8v (if that is the battery voltage at the time).

So in practice even in very good conditions you will see less than this. 85% to 90% (so 85% would be 0.85x327x4/28.8=38A) would be a reasonable maximum number on most days. However, if you monitor the system long enough and operate in an area with very good solar output you will see exceptional conditions. There is no need to stare at the dial. The better solar regulators will record and store the maximum results often for 30 days or more.

These exceptional conditions often occur on days with scattered cloud. With the sun behind cloud the solar panels can cool down. As the sun pops out there can be both direct sunlight and reflected sunlight from the edge of the cloud. The brightness can briefly exceed the test conditions and you will hit the "theoretical" maximum or even slightly more, which in your case would be 45A if your battery voltage is 28.8V at the time. More if the battery voltage is low (with a heavy load) and less if the battery voltage is high. Watts are independent of the voltage so are a better unit for this measurement if you solar regulator will display the output in this way.

These brief maximums are not of much significance in influencing your total output, but they demonstrate your system is working well. You will not hit these peaks if there are any suspect connections or excessive voltage drop in wiring etc.

Just a word of warning. The meters on solar controllers are often optimistic, sometimes significantly. I suspect this is deliberate, higher numbers imply the solar regulator is doing a good job. So if you want accurate numbers verify the dial with some independent check of current. A simple way is to use a clamp on multimeter or turn off all loads (make sure they are truely off, not just on standby) and compare the current input shown on the battery monitor to the result displayed on the solar regulator. Clamp on multimeters and battery monitors are not wonderfully accurate, but they don't have the consistent optimistic display that is common on solar controllers.

Once you have some idea of the error, you can make a mental allowance when reading the output shown on the solar controller.
Thanks again Nolex...... my last local purchase will be the Solar PV and Controller disconnect breakers as shown in this Outback diagram, which I am following.

Local Solar installer just has really big residential stuff, which he of course wants to sell me.

What type and rating of disconnect breaker is appropriate for these 4 Sunpower panels?
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Old 02-03-2017, 02:01   #96
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Re: Illustrated Guide to Solar Installations on Boats

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What type and rating of disconnect breaker is appropriate for these 4 Sunpower panels?
For the charge controller disconnect breaker just divide the total wattage of the solar panels by your battery voltage and select this rating or the next highest.

So for 4x330w panels on a 24v system the breaker should be 1320/24 = 55A. As a 55A breaker is not likely to be available, go to the next largest size. The limiting factor for wire selection in boat systems is usually voltage drop, which will tend to make the selected wire size generous for this current, but double check the wires current rating is well over the selected circuit breaker size.

The solar companies recommend breakers on the solar side. The panels can never put out more than their rated output, so many argue these breakers do little. If nothing else, it is helpful to be able to isolate the panel output so I still think they are not a bad idea. For the solar disconnect breaker the principal is the same, but use the Vmp of the panels. The Vmp of the Sunpower panels is around 57v so the breaker should be 1320/57= 23A or greater. Once again, select the next largest size. There is an advantage using one breaker for each panel. This needs more wiring but the wiring can be thinner. This allows an individual panel to be isolated, by flicking the circuit breaker. In this case each breaker would be 330/57 = 5.8A so the first available size might be 10A. Note these breakers (and the wire) need to be rated above 60V DC. Some marine breakers are not. The din rail mcb are a good solution and usually cheaper and better made than "marine" breakers.
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Old 02-03-2017, 03:07   #97
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Re: Illustrated Guide to Solar Installations on Boats

Thanks again Nolex,

The local Solar installer was also recommending 2 pole breakers (Pos and Neg) for my installation.

This is what they are offering
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If I remember correctly, you are installing Sun power on your new boat

With the Sun power default design of Positive ground, is the 2 pole something to consider?
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Old 06-03-2017, 08:24   #98
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Re: Illustrated Guide to Solar Installations on Boats

Was reading through this thread to see whats new and improved, as we are about to update one our of boats up north.

Think this gallery should help with some ideas on solar mounting. They built two arches for us...rock solid mounting and relatively clear of shadows and halyards!

We have not experienced a huge loss with shadows (antennas,mast etc) using two MPPT controllers on a 4 panel parallel system. Panels are Canadian Solar Monocrystalline (600W total).

One of the best recommendations was building up our battery bank...that is where we found the best bang for our watt $$$. I think just the reduced cycling of the batteries has paid for itself alone.
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Old 06-03-2017, 14:56   #99
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Re: Illustrated Guide to Solar Installations on Boats

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Originally Posted by newburycruisers View Post
Was reading through this thread to see whats new and improved, as we are about to update one our of boats up north.

Think this gallery should help with some ideas on solar mounting. They built two arches for us...rock solid mounting and relatively clear of shadows and halyards!

We have not experienced a huge loss with shadows (antennas,mast etc) using two MPPT controllers on a 4 panel parallel system. Panels are Canadian Solar Monocrystalline (600W total).

One of the best recommendations was building up our battery bank...that is where we found the best bang for our watt $$$. I think just the reduced cycling of the batteries has paid for itself alone.
Welcome to CF.... Really nice designs and artistry in your metalwork
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Old 07-03-2017, 09:27   #100
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Re: Illustrated Guide to Solar Installations on Boats

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If I remember correctly, you are installing Sun power on your new boat
Yes, we are installing 3 Sunpower panels.

All our electrics, as on our old boat, have double pole circuit breakers for all circuits. It makes for a lot of circuit breakers, but it is the best way of wiring an aluminium boat.

The original Sunpower panels were positively earthed to keep the cells correctly polarised. This is no longer the case with the modern panels.

I think double pole circuit breakers for a fibreglass boat are probably overkill, but the added expense is only slight. One drawback of the Sunpower panels is that they can give a significant shock. Voltages over 50V are even deemed as potentially lethal so you need to be careful. I certainly would not go against anyone suggesting double pole breakers.

One word of caution is that some DC circuit breakers are polarised ie they need to be connected with the positive and negative the correct way around, and this is not possible with a solar installation. If the CB are polarised they will have the + and - marked on the breaker.
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Old 07-03-2017, 09:44   #101
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Re: Illustrated Guide to Solar Installations on Boats

I used fuses in my combiner box, fuses are smaller and cheaper than breakers.
likely not much use, but I like that I can power down the system by opening the fuse holders, each panel has it's own fuse
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Old 07-03-2017, 10:13   #102
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Re: Illustrated Guide to Solar Installations on Boats

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I used fuses in my combiner box, fuses are smaller and cheaper than breakers.
This can be a good solution, but watch the maximium voltage rating. This is often low for fuses. For example ANL fuses are only rated to 32v, which is lower than some of the larger panels.

It can be argued the fusing is really to protect from the battery side, but it seems silly to put a 32v rated fuse on a 60v panel.
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Old 18-03-2017, 15:14   #103
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Re: Illustrated Guide to Solar Installations on Boats

Thanks for this - really good read. So here is my $0.02

Type and model and size of boat.
Beneteau Oceanis 34

Total Panel Output (How much power can be generated?)
5 x 20W panels connected in parallel. There are actually 6 panels but controller is only 100W so 6th is a spare.

Panel Size: How big are the panels? Individual? Total area required?
each panel is 30" x 15", total area= 15.6 sqft

Age of Panels: When did you install the panels?
Panels installed 2013

Panel Location: Where is the panel located and does it cause problems there? Does it cause problems with any other gear or while sailing? Does it cause windage problems? Has shading of the panels been a problem due to location of the panels and surrounding rigging or equipment?
On a custom built pushpit frame, above and behind the bimini. Well out of our way and as somewhat of an extension to the bimini provides good shade. No windage issues noted, no issues sailing. Only shading is from aft stays (no issues) and mainsail when under way.

Type and Brand of Panel: Who made the panel? What type of panel is it? Marine or Domestic (land) panel? Origin?
Unknown at this time, will post a reply next time at boat.

Total Cost: How much did it cost to build the system? How much was each panel?
Estimate only - AU$2,500 for 6 panels, charger and 100W wind turbine (Amp Air)

Total Efficiency: Do you consider the installation efficient? Please any comments that may help another improve efficiency, based on your experience.
Efficient? I estimate we are getting about 50 Hrs in a 24 hour day in sunny Australia. Is this efficient? Haven't thought about it so expect more in the coming months.
One recent improvement was changing the wire size as there was too much voltage drop from panels to charger. I am currently having trouble with the charge-controller itself (Ampair SM1B) which manages incoming amps from both the wind turbine and the solar panels as well as the out-going amps to the house (2x105AHr) and engine batteries. Anyone have a recommendation for other charge-controllers please let me know.

Damage? Has the installation been damaged by wind or corrosion or breakage?

None

What would you do differently next time? Tips? Different type of panel?
Not sure I would do anything more than look for better panel efficiency (assuming technology has moved on). And pay more attention to the wiring basics. How we missed this, don't know. That said it was easily corrected.

Any problems? Disappointments? Surprises? Disatisfaction? Issues? Weaknesses of gear or system?
I am finding very little out there on duel input / output charge controllers. What I do find seems to be proprietary - i.e. works only with their own wind generator.

How has adding the solar affected your sailing or cruising?

For a while there, I only needed to recharge the batteries every 4th day when cruising. (Assume fridge, some lights, no inverter and some motor power being used when anchoring, mooring, etc.) On a recent 1 week routine, I needed to charge every day. This is what pointed me to looking at the charge controller and ultimately this thread.
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Old 18-03-2017, 15:15   #104
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Re: Illustrated Guide to Solar Installations on Boats

Another picture
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Old 18-03-2017, 15:37   #105
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Re: Illustrated Guide to Solar Installations on Boats

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Another picture
Thanks for your previous good post which I appreciate followed the suggested format and you answered the questions which helps.

I don't see the photos you tried to post. I will post a few tips on how to post photos here on CF, in case you are unsure.

Thanks for participating and contributing good stuff for us all.
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