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Old 30-11-2015, 08:25   #1
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Lennie's Avatar

Join Date: Dec 2008
Boat: Jeanneau 43 Deck Salon
Posts: 96
MPPT controllers

I'm a bit confused about controllers. I plan to install three 200w panels and have been told I should have a MPPT controller for every panel. And I have also been told it's not much of an advantage to have more than one controller if you run all panels to the controller in parallel.
So one controller or three?
I'm sure this has been hashed out before but I found myself a bit overwhelmed with all the info and opinions expressed.

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Old 30-11-2015, 08:47   #2
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Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Oakland
Boat: Cross 40
Posts: 1,393
Re: MPPT controllers

The short answer, "it depends". An MPPT controller attempts to maximize the output from the solar panels by tracking the optimum DC voltage from the panels. And the DC voltage is directly tied to how much sun is on the panels.

If all of your panels receive the exact same sun exposure then a single MPPT controller, with the panels in series or parallel will work fine, be cheapest and simplest, and get you the most power for your $.

But, on boats, it is frequently difficult to get the exact same solar exposure on all of your panels. One may have a hard shadow from the boom or some piece of rigging while another is in full sun. These shadows will cause the DC voltage to drop on that panel. An MPPT controller connected to all the panels can only find one solution to the maximum power point, and it will likely not be the optimum solution for all of the panels if some are shaded and others are not.

Hence the "one controller per panel" recommendation, that way each controller can optimize for the conditions on each panel. Is it worth the $/time/effort? Depends on how much different the solar exposure will be between one panel and the next.
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