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Old 16-02-2014, 20:24   #1
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Mounting Flexible Solar Panels to Lifelines

Hi,

I am looking to mount some solbian panels to the lifelines. I have a pretty good idea of what can work but I wanted to see if there was anyone else out there with some hints or tips on doing so.

Thanks,

z
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Old 17-02-2014, 00:08   #2
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Re: Mounting Flexible Solar Panels to Lifelines

you need the solbain controlers as they are a weird voltage. buy panel, buy controller. connect to battery.
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Old 17-02-2014, 02:21   #3
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Re: Mounting Flexible Solar Panels to Lifelines

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Originally Posted by zboss View Post
Hi,

I am looking to mount some solbian panels to the lifelines. I have a pretty good idea of what can work but I wanted to see if there was anyone else out there with some hints or tips on doing so.

Thanks,

z
In my opinion mounting panels on lifelines is dangerous especially when you get caught out in a storm or sail in hard conditions.

The panels need to be mounted at the stern for safety.

You need to have a quick release system so you can dump them overboard without needing tools if a situation ever occurred. They should be able to be ejected withing 30 seconds.

Panels are horizontal when at anchor or in mild conditions. Panels lay vertically when sailing in harder conditions.
The panels should also have the possibility to be vertical inboard, not just outboard. This allows waves to pass under them without damaging lifelines, stantions or the pushpit.

If waves start hitting them hard, then they should be ejected as at this stage any dismounting and bringing onboard would be dangerous.
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Old 17-02-2014, 03:59   #4
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Re: Mounting Flexible Solar Panels to Lifelines

Zboss:

You can check in the ASSEABOAT webpage
There are a few pictures of what you need. I guess the solar panels are glued to flat marine grade aluminum sheet

Sun Bar Mini Rail
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Old 17-02-2014, 07:14   #5
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Re: Mounting Flexible Solar Panels to Lifelines

I mounted two 68W Unisolar flexible panels on my lifelines, and they've performed beautifully from Oregon down to Panama. These panels have been through 45-kt squalls with no problem, and they still kick out their rated output after a year and a half at sea.

For mounting, I screwed and glued cedar "ribs" on the backside of the panels to give them some rigidity (the outer border of the panel is screwable without wrecking any of the electronics) and ran a thin PVC pipe through pipe brackets on the ribs to stretch out the panel. Then I tied the panels at the level of my lower lifeline with thick fishing twine. They're suspended between the top of the stanchions and the toe rail at a slight angle to catch more sunlight throughout the day. From outside the boat you can't really tell they're there. Due to the curve of the hull and the length of the panels, however, there is a bit of "baconing" that uglies it up a bit.

The way they're suspended on the twine, when a strong puff comes they simply flip up against the stanchions and create a kind of cockpit cover. If they're flopping too much, I just tie them tight against the stanchion in the flipped-up position until the storm is over. No problems. If you do go this route, I recommend attaching them in the aft of the boat instead of at the bow, so there's no stress on the panels when your boat charges through waves. Also, my panels had roofing tar on the back side, which I recommend leaving there. On the one panel where I scraped it off, I must have nicked the backside because there's a small spot of corrosion starting up in the panel (which doesn't appear to have affected the output yet, strangely).

Photos of the setup can be found on our blog at Take to the sea. Look up the posts, "Cheap and Complicated, Just Like Me" and "Frugal Warriors". If you have any other questions or need a better picture, feel free to send me a message.
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Old 17-02-2014, 10:00   #6
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Re: Mounting Flexible Solar Panels to Lifelines

JeffB,

I was thinking along the same lines as you. The solbians are so light (5 pounds) and flexible I am thinking of using a polycarbonate backing to keep them rigid, at which point they would only weigh about 10 pounds and be about 11 mm thick. I could use glue, put grommets in the corners and use para-cord, or use velcro.

To attach them to the lifelines I could use quick links between the lifeline and grommets on the panels but I am concerned this may rattle, so I'll be looking for additional ideas on how to make that connection.

Then the bottom will be supported by telescoping rods. Just don't know where to get these.

FYI - I am also putting a pair on my bimini, so if heavy weather is expected, I will be able to remove them from the lifelines and put them below.

Please keep the examples coming...

- z
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Old 17-02-2014, 10:31   #7
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Re: Mounting Flexible Solar Panels to Lifelines

The twinwall polycarb backing panels can be sewn to the panels, with a nice canvas trim for grommets. This client uses the panels on both the bimini and on deck/lifelines/etc. The backing is highly recommended if you're going to be moving the panels around.
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Old 17-02-2014, 12:33   #8
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Re: Mounting Flexible Solar Panels to Lifelines

Someone else recommended not sewing into the panels because the thread is so exposed to UV and you end up having to resew every so often, compromising the panels. However, I am also reluctant to put so much stress on just two locations using grommets.

That setup with the canvas sure looks nice...
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Old 17-02-2014, 12:41   #9
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Re: Mounting Flexible Solar Panels to Lifelines

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Originally Posted by zboss View Post
Someone else recommended not sewing into the panels because the thread is so exposed to UV and you end up having to resew every so often, compromising the panels. However, I am also reluctant to put so much stress on just two locations using grommets.

That setup with the canvas sure looks nice...
Yes, ideally a Velcro covering flap on the bimini would be good for the threads. Also, there are threads with better UV life to consider.
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Old 17-02-2014, 16:13   #10
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Re: Mounting Flexible Solar Panels to Lifelines

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Originally Posted by jjt View Post
Zboss:

You can check in the ASSEABOAT webpage
There are a few pictures of what you need. I guess the solar panels are glued to flat marine grade aluminum sheet

Sun Bar Mini Rail
I did see that. I don't like their solution because it hangs by wires and I need the panel to be attached to the top wire. Also, I was concerned about shading the panels with the hanging wire.
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Old 18-02-2014, 08:54   #11
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Re: Mounting Flexible Solar Panels to Lifelines

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Originally Posted by zboss View Post
I did see that. I don't like their solution because it hangs by wires and I need the panel to be attached to the top wire. Also, I was concerned about shading the panels with the hanging wire.
We haven't noticed ill effects from wire shading, FYI. We aren't super obsessed with squeezing every watt out of the panels at all times, though, so it's all about what you want to care about when you're cruising.

Also, with regards to the plan to 'pole out' the bottom of the panel, I originally had that plan too but found that suspending the outside end of the panel from twine (attached to padeyes on the cedar ribs) was plenty sufficient to maintain the orientation we wanted.

Finally, the original plan was also to be able to quickly disconnect and stow the panels if bad weather was brewing, but that also ended up unnecessary and just one too many thing to worry about in the rush to prepare for weather.
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Old 31-03-2014, 21:45   #12
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Re: Mounting Flexible Solar Panels to Lifelines

All,

I ended up putting grommets through the corners of the panel and cutting some twin wall polycarbonate to the same size of the panel [for rigid backing]. I then put grommets in the poly at the same locations. I then used cable ties to attach the solar panel to the poly panel.

I then used two of those same grommets to attach the panels to the lifelines using quick links. The wires are attached via MC4 connectors.

Although not yet installed, I am putting a bottom support bracket as well. Alternatively, I could simply run a short piece of line to the bimini support to hold them up but that would get in the way of movement around that area of the boat. Alternatively, I could mount the panels on the middle lifeline wire and have lines go to the top and the bottom.

While sailing, the panels are simply removed from the lifelines and put in a berth down below.... they only weigh 8 pounds or so total. When at anchor, its a 1 minute exercise to mount each panel, wing them out, and attach the wires.

I still have two panels on top of the bimini when sailing.
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