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Old 10-06-2015, 01:37   #1
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Pacific north west - solar?

Hi, I'm wondering just how efficient solar power would be in the rainy, cloudy area of Vancouver, BC and north of Vancouver along the pacific coast. I understand that solar panels are becoming more efficient at drawing power but wouldn't wind power more be more efficient in this area? I don't have either at the moment but I will have to chose sometime in the near future. It's my understanding that newer wind power generators no longer have a noise issue, but still have a high price. I lived many years in the central coast of BC and really don't have a great deal of knowledge of photo voltaics but I think that solar power might be a stretch. Just some thoughts. chile1
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Old 10-06-2015, 10:05   #2
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Re: Pacific north west - solar?

Solar works surprisingly well up here. I was pretty shocked to see real amps in winter on cloudy days. Rain and mist does have a negative impact. Sunny days are best of course. But days are long in the summer so more opportunity to get solar juice. Of course, you want to keep shade off of the panels and have them pointed towards the sun if possible, but even just flat on top of a bimini or arch you will get power.

You can get wind too but very variable up here. Which is why many folks just motor their sailboats on their vacations up here. You don't see too many wind generators on boats around here and those you do were mostly put on by previous offshore cruisers or those who plan to.
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Old 10-06-2015, 18:21   #3
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Re: Pacific north west - solar?

The generally cooler temperatures improve the solar panel output, so the reduction isn't as bad as you might think. Also, there are lots of windless days.
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Old 10-06-2015, 18:31   #4
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Re: Pacific north west - solar?

It works great we have 200 watts and haven't needed to augment that since February all lights are led and the refer is a real energy efficient holding plate system.
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Old 10-06-2015, 18:39   #5
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Re: Pacific north west - solar?

We just outfitted our boat with 180W of solar and 250W of wind. We have been away from the dock for one month and had no power shortages. For a couple of days I had to refrain from using power tools or run the engine to do some work.
I have a diversion controller hooked up to the wind genny, diverting excess power to the hot water tank. On two occasions, we had nice warm water.
We are in the Southern Gulf Islands of BC
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Old 10-06-2015, 19:00   #6
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Re: Pacific north west - solar?

Keep in mind the benefit of our longer days at this latitude. More hours of sunlight = longer period of output
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Old 11-06-2015, 08:30   #7
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Re: Pacific north west - solar?

Chile,

I've had solar panels on 3 different vessels over the last ~30 years- all between 56 and 62N- and can attest to their viability year-round. I realize this is a little further north than you inquired about, but thought you might be interested anyway...

The newer panels seem to eek power from conditions my past panels would have ignored...

Our current vessel also has a wind generator which is a viable but intermittent contributor [no consistent breezes where we currently sail...]

Cheers!
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Old 11-06-2015, 08:43   #8
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Re: Pacific north west - solar?

I have two larger panels that serve as my bimini roof. They produce enough power year around that I hardly ever run the genny any more. That in itself is a problem but not the solar panels fault. I have the equivalent of 800Ah battery bank and they are always topped off.
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Old 11-06-2015, 10:08   #9
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Re: Pacific north west - solar?

I installed large solar panels a year ago in San Francisco, where we also have a limited amount of sun. They consistently provide 99% of my needs. The wind generator, I find, is less powerful. Even on overcast days I find the solar produces power to charge the batteries. Most people I talk to report the same and that wind, while helpful, is second to solar.
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Old 11-06-2015, 13:15   #10
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Re: Pacific north west - solar?

Average summer wind speeds in most of the inside passage are less than 10kn so will not even start up a wind genny. People report good results with solar which does not surprise me. The air is so clear even in winter the sun has real power. Although rainfall is high it tends to be heavy not long spells of wet cloudy weather so rare 'to go for long without sun. A word of warning though, fog is common so radar is really usefull
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Old 11-06-2015, 16:28   #11
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Re: Pacific north west - solar?

We are going on our 3rd year of Solar in the PNW and are very happy with them. Over this time I pulled the log data from the solar controller to track the ACTUAL production. In short from April to September they produced an average of 28Ah / 100W of installed panels, a bit more (31Ah) during June..Aug.

Our setup is two 245W panels, mounted largely 'flat' (I do not try to tilt them towards the sun) combined with a TriStar MPPT controller. Here is a graph of the actual output:




You might also notice the blue 'modeled' line. Before installing our panels I did a predicted modeled output - and am happy to say the actuals match up with the prediction rather well.

Here is a tool that can be used which will let you pick many places in the world and model results. It needs a bit of 'massaging' to function for a marine install (vs. the land/home install is is primary targeted for), but I do have details here - skip down to "An easer way (the Shortcut)":

mv.VikingStar: Solar Panels on the Boat - Modeling and Performance




And you can see more data / details on our install here:

mv.VikingStar: A year and a bit on Solar Panels - Last post perhaps??



When I collected our data we had been more in the San Juan's and lower BC area (Sunshine coast, and Gulf Islands area). Using the tool above you should be able to get an idea what to expect further north.

Might also add: for grins I compared the PNW to Key West in Florida, turns out the solar output during the 'prime' summer months the PNW offered greater solar output then Florida!
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Old 11-06-2015, 17:19   #12
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Re: Pacific north west - solar?

Have 260 watts of solar production in two panels wired in series. Panels are in a fixed horizontal position and unshaded except by the mast if heading toward the sun. Battery bank was two 6v Golf Cart batteries about 220 amp/hr. Current draw is fairly low, no refrigeration or radar The GPS plotter and AIS on 24/7 with intermittent Ham Radio, Pactor Modem and computer usage as well as LED cabin and running lights. On the sail to Hawaii, the panels didn't keep up with consumption for the first 12 days of the trip because of heavy overcast. By the 12th day batteries were down close to 12v Once the sun broke out, the panels began to charge the batteries back up though hadn't gotten to full charge by the time I arrived in Hilo after 15 days. Lack of sunshine puts a serious crimp on the output of solar panels.

Look at the production posted by thomasow. Note the significant drop off in production between October and May. That's because of overcast and shorter days. Doubt that solar panels would do the trick in the winter unless you had a ton of them. In the summer, production will be gang busters especially if they could be tilted to better capture the rays. How feasible solar would be as your sole source of electrical generation would depend on when you'll be cruising.

Wind will probably be next to useless in the summer. Windmills take at least 10k wind to produce any electricity and really don't begin to turn out significant juice till north of 15k. My experience with the PNW summer is winds are usually light and below a windmills minimum needed wind velocity. In the winter, Wind may be more viable which would be nice addition to the slumping solar output.

So the answer is have both if you need year around production. Solar Panels alone if it's just summer cruising.
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Old 11-06-2015, 22:28   #13
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Re: Pacific north west - solar?

Thanks to all for the great response, John
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Old 11-06-2015, 22:55   #14
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Re: Pacific north west - solar?

Assuming space is not an issue, is it better to get one large panel or two panels with half the output each? I'm thinking redundancy, total cost of ownership, durability, efficiency.
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Old 12-06-2015, 08:40   #15
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Re: Pacific north west - solar?

Quote:
Originally Posted by jkindredpdx View Post
Assuming space is not an issue, is it better to get one large panel or two panels with half the output each? I'm thinking redundancy, total cost of ownership, durability, efficiency.
Actually IMO it would be better to have multiple smaller panels ie: say you want 400 watts get 4 100 watt panels or something similar. For multiple reasons one being redundancy and another is a constant problem on sailboats shading. Shade from the mast or boom will cut the output of a single panel significantly and if you have one panel your out of luck.
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