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Old 04-03-2013, 10:30   #1
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Solar Panels - one big one or two small ones

We are thinking of going solar with a plan to install 300W in panel capacity (although at this time that is probably more than I need).

My question is if it is best to go for 2 or 3 small panels (100-150W each) or one big panel (300+W).

The smaller panels would likely be easier to handle and position at the expense of more complex wiring and mounts (roughly 1x.5m or 4x2ft).

The larger panel (which is about 1.9x1m / 6x4ft) is potentially difficult to position due to the size and weight but would simplify the wiring.

Another benefit of the smaller panels is if one fails, the others can still provide power whereas if one panel fails, all power is lost. Also the advantage of the smaller panels is to be able to grow as my need increases.

I haven't priced it yet but I suspect that the smaller panels cost more per Watt.

What are your thoughts?
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Old 04-03-2013, 10:41   #2
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Re: Solar Panels - one big one or two small ones

One panel would be the best. Easier mounting, less wiring.

These picture may help with mounting ideas.

See the SunPower specs also.
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Old 04-03-2013, 10:48   #3
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Re: Solar Panels - one big one or two small ones

I could fit 2 130 watt panels or 6 65 watt panels. I went with 6 panels though the cost was more. Redundancy and less shadow issues with more than a single panel.

John
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Old 05-03-2013, 06:59   #4
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Re: Solar Panels - one big one or two small ones

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Originally Posted by Cotemar View Post
One panel would be the best. Easier mounting, less wiring.

These picture may help with mounting ideas.

See the SunPower specs also.
Thanks. Yes I was thinking a arch would be the best solution. Others have recommended using davits but having the arch keeps them out of danger, it would seem to me. What capacity are your tow panels?

Andrew
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Old 05-03-2013, 07:05   #5
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Re: Solar Panels - one big one or two small ones

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I could fit 2 130 watt panels or 6 65 watt panels. I went with 6 panels though the cost was more. Redundancy and less shadow issues with more than a single panel.
Thanks. What was the cost difference? Any wiring issues?

Andrew
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Old 05-03-2013, 07:15   #6
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Re: Solar Panels - one big one or two small ones

i own 6 panels. i have 3 smaller 3 amp rated babies and 2 larger sized ones--one of those is a 130 wtt panel and the other is a semi rigid 3 amp. i use the smaller ones and keep the 2 larger ones resting for now.. in other places with less sun i use all of em. i bought all mine in used condition. not much price an dlots of free electricity.
the number and placement of panels is a very individual thing. each boat and each owner is different, depending on your electricity usage.
do you part time cruise or full time--the answer will be different in each case.
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Old 05-03-2013, 07:19   #7
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Re: Solar Panels - one big one or two small ones

Part time now but bigger plans once we have an empty nest. Hence I have modest needs now but want to be able to grow the system later.
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Old 05-03-2013, 07:25   #8
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Re: Solar Panels - one big one or two small ones

right now just plan on getting something to keep batteriess charged so if you find a thief in marina isnt a huge loss...build on it later.
do remember that when ye place panels on transom area even on a nice rollbar, you will have more added weight in stern which can cause pounding--might wanna trim load to be appropriate--i have seen so many with extra-light bows and complaints of pounding action while at sea.....
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Old 05-03-2013, 07:28   #9
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Re: Solar Panels - one big one or two small ones

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Originally Posted by ADMPRTR View Post
Thanks. Yes I was thinking a arch would be the best solution. Others have recommended using davits but having the arch keeps them out of danger, it would seem to me. What capacity are your tow panels?

Andrew
Those panels in the picture are two SunPower 230 watts each
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Old 05-03-2013, 07:30   #10
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Re: Solar Panels - one big one or two small ones

Consider the fact that you may wish to remove the panel if a storm is comming. Where will you store the panel? Can you get it down the companionway???

We have three panels now, all three can be removed in a few minutes, and fit down our companionway.


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Old 05-03-2013, 07:41   #11
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Re: Solar Panels - one big one or two small ones

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Consider the fact that you may wish to remove the panel if a storm is comming. Where will you store the panel? Can you get it down the companionway???

We have three panels now, all three can be removed in a few minutes, and fit down our companionway.


Chris
storms and panels...if they are affixed properly they wil have no problem. i tie my loose ones down with line during storms. i sailed thru electrical storms in gom--fla area...we had panels on the bimini--no problem. they mounted flat to sky--wind goes around em. make sure they are installed well and securely. only thing we did notice was that rain comes thru the gaps in the panel placement. big deal. sun comes thru there also. no big deal. both boats survived hurrycames and tropical storms . so did the panels, still in place, no damage.
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Old 05-03-2013, 07:41   #12
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Re: Solar Panels - one big one or two small ones

admprtr - i've got one 135 watt panel and expect to add a second one which will provide all the power i need. when i put it on i found it was about as much as one person could handle (actually i had two others helping when i mounted it). now i kind of wished i had gone with 100 watt panels instead - or even 80 watt panels - and for all the reasons you stated in your original post.

someday you may be preparing for a hurricane and, in addition to taking down all your canvas, you will be taking down all your panels - maybe by yourself. be a whole lot easier with smaller panels.

by the way, i was once in a serious storm in the gulfstream on a cs 36. great boat.
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Old 05-03-2013, 08:02   #13
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Re: Solar Panels - one big one or two small ones

Zee,

maybe with your boat, in the storms you have encountered, but I think it is dangerous to make blanket statements like this. Every boat is different, and every storm is different. Some boats have more windage, so the effects of the panels, as a percentage, is less. On our 35 footer, the panels do add a good bit of windage, in the right conditions. On your much bigger boat, the effect would be less.

Wind and waves can be act together to turn and heel a boat, so that the panels are not just slipping through the wind.


Chris



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storms and panels...if they are affixed properly they wil have no problem. i tie my loose ones down with line during storms. i sailed thru electrical storms in gom--fla area...we had panels on the bimini--no problem. they mounted flat to sky--wind goes around em. make sure they are installed well and securely. only thing we did notice was that rain comes thru the gaps in the panel placement. big deal. sun comes thru there also. no big deal. both boats survived hurrycames and tropical storms . so did the panels, still in place, no damage.
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Old 05-03-2013, 08:04   #14
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Re: Solar Panels - one big one or two small ones

I always like having a backup. With one big panel it just takes a seagull with a clam thinking that your big solar panel would be a great place to drop the clam to smash it open. That could ruin your cruise.
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Old 05-03-2013, 08:10   #15
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Re: Solar Panels - one big one or two small ones

what i observe is not merely my own boat. my trip in gom was on a seidelmann 37 sloop...not fun, but panels were mounted well and did not come into problems in hurrycame ida or any of the severe electrical storms we encountered and survived in gom.
my boat doesnt have permanent mounts for solar as yet--i merely tie em down onto coach house roof in winds. works great so far, despite extreme winds...
as for the stern mounted ones making for pounding ride--i watch and listen to the complaints of those doing the deed as i described. is not merely my own boat of which i speak.
is all boats i have observed since i was 7 yrs of age.
so a cat 5 comes--everything is going to be hurt--remove everything--but, as for the usual every day tormenta with winds only to 95 or so knots per hour--tie em on. make sure your mounts are adequate.
hurrycame bud was a no show for us, but we did have many awesome windy tormentas in banderas bay and in mazatlan. winds to near 90.
stuff tied to coach house roofs tightly...did not move at all. even with being heeled over 20 degrees at the slip for the duration of night.
i stay on board to cat 3. is my home---mebbe i do things differently than you, but i also do not have the money to replace disappeared panels. i wont be risking them--i do what is needed.
removal inmost cases is not necessary.
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