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Old 11-10-2010, 15:29   #1
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Solar Panel on the Rail

I'm considering mounting solar panels on my lifeline grab rails (1" stainless tube). I'll have a bit over 2" between the rail & the edge of my toe rail. Really don't want to snag a piling with a solar panel. Can I realistically do this? I noticed Kyocera 135 watt panels just grew from 1.4" to 1.8" thick. After mounting hardware, they may stick out beyond the rub rail. Are there thin panels I can mount?
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Old 11-10-2010, 15:59   #2
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My kyocera 130 panels are mounted on my Stern pulpit. They extend from the transom forward. I mounted them with Nylon Clips that I got from West Marine that allows them to be rotated down for docking clearance and when not needed for energy. In the down position they don't really stick out much and since they are aft have not been a problems. Never occured to me that I would or could catch them on something. Maybe could drift into a projection on a piling a fender hung aft keeps them well clear. The main problem is that in the down position they make it hard to put a mooring into the stern chock. Have to rotate the panels out slightly to give enough maneuvering room. Once in the chock the panels don't affect the mooring lines. Have thought about moving the clips down a few inches to give a bit more room but would have to move a couple of the antennas on the pushpit rail.

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Old 11-10-2010, 16:12   #3
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I don't have room at the stern for rail mounting. I'd have to mount closer to center which is more prone to rubbing against a piling when docking.
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Old 11-10-2010, 16:47   #4
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I have 2 80 watt BP panels on life lines. They peak at 8 amps on the controller. They are angled up about 60 degrees or 30 degrees off parallel with the water line. I can drop the struts and they flush up against the life lines. Not Ideal but it has worked several years now. I have to remember to drop the panel when docking which is infrequent for me. This winter maybe Ill build a davit thing on the transom and add a few more panels and will leave the life line ones as they are. I used SS hose clips and fuel line as a bearing and aluminum stock which is grooved to sit on the lower line. Its kinda rube goldberg but simpler Ill post a shot not that its fancy etall
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Old 11-10-2010, 18:44   #5
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e-marine supplied my two Kyocera 130 watt panels together with a mounting kit.



Although I have them mounted on the outside of my stanchions on an optional 7 foot pole, there is plenty of clearance between my hull rubbing strake & the panels when in vertical/stowed position.

If your safety rail stanchions are closer to the edge of the hull I see no reason why the mounting kit could not be clamped to the inside of the stanchions with the horizontal mounting tube on which the solar panels pivot well inboard & just above the top of stanchions so that when stowed they pivot over the top & lie very close to the outside edge of the stanchions.
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Old 11-10-2010, 19:07   #6
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richard

I don't understand your description regarding mounting on the inside of the stanchions.

I plan on running a 1" SS tube for the top rail in place of wire. The panel will pivot on this tube, very similar to your setup pictured. I will put the pivot point closer to the top edge of the panel so that there is very little intrusion on my side deck walkway. When horizontal, I want the entire panel to be out over water, keeping the side decks clear of the panel.

Thanks
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Old 11-10-2010, 19:30   #7
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Ok let me see if I can explain a little better. The e-marine mounting kit I use as shown in photo comprises two flat ally plates which clamp with two U bolts each to the vertical safety rail stanchions. They can be mounted on the outside of stanchion as in my installation or the inside as shown in the photo.

The ally plates are designed to protrude about 2" above the top of the stanchion with pre-drilled holes to take a further U bolt each, used to clamp the horizontal mounting/pivot pole. Here again you have a choice of mounting this tube on the outside or inside of the ally plate. This means you have four possible mounting scenarios.

I have mine mounted with everything outside the stanchion which thanks to my rubbing strake & the fact that the safety rail stanchion supports are well inboard, keeps the stowed panels inboard of the outer edge of the hull. Also the plastic covered safety lines fitted through the top of the stanchions remain in place slightly below & inside the pivot pole.

You will find the balance of the panel on the pivot rail rather extreme if you use other than the default pre-drilled location as shown in the photo. You may also find that telescopic support poles are too short as well if you use the e-marine kit. I understand your reasons for not wanting them intrude on the walkway when horizontal though, so the choice is yours.
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Old 11-10-2010, 20:00   #8
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OK, I finally figured out part of your description. I can mount the flat plate on the inside of the stanchion and ditto with the horizontal bar. But the lifelines are still there and the panel needs to be outside the lifeline. If the top of the mount is inside of the lifeline the panel won't side vertical.

Ultimately, the panel has to sit outside the lifelines and there is only a little more than 2" in that space. A 1.8" panel comes very close to the edge.
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Old 11-10-2010, 20:26   #9
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Yes sounds like you have the mounting issues clear in your mind.

The normal method of mounting I'm guessing is as shown in photo, with the plate inboard of the stanchions & the pivot pole outboard of the plate. This places the pivot pole in alignment with the stanchions if you look down on them from above (plan view). This in turn would allow the panels to pivot & stow just outside of the stanchions.
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Old 11-10-2010, 21:33   #10
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here's how i did mine:

Rebel Heart - Sailing, cruising, liveaboard blog and website - Eric's Blog - finally mounted the solar*panels
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Old 12-10-2010, 03:49   #11
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Thanks guys but my setup is a bit challenging for side rail mounting. I'm hoping there are some thin panels I can use...
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Old 12-10-2010, 04:19   #12
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Mine are 35mm wide i.e. 1.37 inches so slimmer ones are available.

Docking is a pain with mine as in the collapsed position they cover both the stern cleats!

My intention is to get them up on an arch at some stage...

If they were permanent they would go, as yours, on a tube further forward.

At least they are not secured on the edge of the pannel but close to the centre of the panel as I dont need the deck space there. It does away with a supporting pole.
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Old 12-10-2010, 08:35   #13
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Originally Posted by gettinthere View Post
Thanks guys but my setup is a bit challenging for side rail mounting. I'm hoping there are some thin panels I can use...
You can use flexible panels (barely 1/4" thick I think). They're much more expensive and put out less power, but it's an option. I'm actually considering using them as cockpit privacy panels of sort. I need to have cloth going around anyway and the intent is to keep the sun off, so why not solar panels? The cost is the only nasty part. Probably $2K to make that happen, so I probably won't do it.

But check out the flexible and rollable panels; they're pretty flat.
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Old 13-10-2010, 04:32   #14
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Reb

I was very interested in the flex panels from your other thread but I can't find anything to refute the short lifespan reported. I can't see paying a premium for a panel that won't last 5 years. Do you have any info to show they have a longer life?
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Old 13-10-2010, 04:48   #15
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Can you remove the frame from the panels and put another, thinner frame on?

Or can you remove the bottom 6 inches of frame where it would conflict with the toe rail?

Finally, you could keep the solar panels and buy a new boat....



LOL
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