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Old 12-04-2016, 21:58   #1
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Solar panels with Blue Sky

Time to replace our bimini mounted solar panels and I'm trying to figure out which ones to buy and where to get them.

We have an existing Blue Sky 3024i MPPT controller and I'd like to keep that. From Blue Sky I learned that the open circuit voltage of our fufure panels must be 45.6 or less and also 400 watts or less, assuming a 12 volt system like our boat has. I'd like to come as close to the 400 watts maximum as possible.

Our bimini is about 80" wide and in order to avoid the worst of potential shading isssues I would like to have 2 panels oriented in parallel along its outer edges so that there is about a 20" area below the boom (when it's centered) where there will be no panel directly beneath it. So, the maximum dimensions of panels I can fit is two panels of approximately 30"X65".

I've looked at what's for sale on the internet and have seen approximately 200watt Sanyo/Panasonic panels that seem like they'd be great, but I noticed that their output is between 40-55 volts (so some are above the 45.6 volt limit) and I can't find any advertised prices.

I've read that Sunpower makes great solar panels but they don't seem to be available in the US at all?

I'd like advice from anyone who has knowledge about these 2 brands or any other brand approx 200 watt panels that you'd recommend that would be appropriate for my bimini top setup, and also where to get them.

If anyone has experience with approximately 44 volt panels wired to a BlueSky 3024i controller, I'd be interested in hearing how it does reducing the voltage for 12 volt system charging or would you recommend sticking with panels that put out the more normal 17 volts so there is less of a voltage reduction required by the controller?
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Old 12-04-2016, 22:47   #2
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Re: Solar panels with Blue Sky

Unfortunately I think what you are finding is that the solar industry has moved on from the specs around which the BlueSky was designed. The 3024i is designed around 36 to 60-cell modules, while the 'small' modules in the industry are now 250W 72-cell panels.

To stay below the voltage limit you'll have to stay in the 60-cell range, assume you are looking at something like the Panasonic/Sanyo HIT 205A01. These would be a good match if you can find them, but they are an old design, only about 16% module efficiency. Panasonic's current HIT line is above 20%.

You can still find modules around in your size range, but they are getting scarcer, and don't usually have to the latest in high-efficiency cells. Sorry, don't have any recommendations on where to find them, you would have to call around and see if anyone happens to have a couple available. With the efficiency gains in the last several years you could easily fit 500W in the same space, but would have to change out the controller.
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Old 13-04-2016, 11:44   #3
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Re: Solar panels with Blue Sky

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Originally Posted by Dsanduril View Post
Unfortunately I think what you are finding is that the solar industry has moved on from the specs around which the BlueSky was designed. The 3024i is designed around 36 to 60-cell modules, while the 'small' modules in the industry are now 250W 72-cell panels.

To stay below the voltage limit you'll have to stay in the 60-cell range, assume you are looking at something like the Panasonic/Sanyo HIT 205A01. These would be a good match if you can find them, but they are an old design, only about 16% module efficiency. Panasonic's current HIT line is above 20%.

You can still find modules around in your size range, but they are getting scarcer, and don't usually have to the latest in high-efficiency cells. Sorry, don't have any recommendations on where to find them, you would have to call around and see if anyone happens to have a couple available. With the efficiency gains in the last several years you could easily fit 500W in the same space, but would have to change out the controller.
I'm afraid that you might be right about this and since I plan to keep these panels awhile, maybe I need to consider replacing the Blue Sky controller with something that allows the more efficient panels. If I do go that route, what would be a good controller to replace it with?
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Old 13-04-2016, 11:54   #4
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Re: Solar panels with Blue Sky

S.A.L.T. in Marathon Fl carries the Sunpower panels. Be prepared for sticker shock as they were about 3.5 times the price of other panels of similar output. They were however smaller than other panels of similar output. If I remember correctly a 350 watt panel was running about $1400. I looked at them when I was there in January.
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Old 13-04-2016, 12:27   #5
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Re: Solar panels with Blue Sky

The three that I see used a lot are Midnite Solar (the Kid), Outback, and Morningstar. My preference would be to use a small MPPT controller at each panel, like the Genasun, but these suffer from the same limitations as the BlueSky when used with current panels. There are lots of options out there, I would just recommend staying away from the cheaper options, they tend to have poor algorithms. You might also check out MaineSail's articles (I find them quite informative): MPPT vs. PWM Controllers Photo Gallery by Compass Marine How To at pbase.com

Sunpower panels are hard to come by, in theory the dealer selling them must install them, otherwise they lose their dealer license. Sunpower cells, on the other hand, get incorporated into a variety of brands of modules made for the marine market.
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Old 14-04-2016, 02:21   #6
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Re: Solar panels with Blue Sky

When the input voltage is too high for Blue Sky or Genasun, we have been using Victron or Western with good results. With the Victron it's fun to use the Bluetooth interface to program or monitor them.

However, most boats don't have unshaded areas large enough for the big high voltage panels, so overall we sell far more Genasun than all the rest...
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Old 14-04-2016, 05:08   #7
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Re: Solar panels with Blue Sky

I'm running Renogy panels on my boat and have been super happy. You could do 2 150W panels and 2 50W panels to get to your 400W. Depending on shade conditions, series/parallel (150 in series with 50, then parallel with second series set) may work for you (and under your voltage limit). Otherwise you could do the whole thing in parallel. Either way, you will need some pretty heavy wire.

In any case, its a pretty cheap solution. I ordered my panels from Amazon and had them in Key West in 1 day.

Here is a link to the specs.
150 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Panel | Renogy Solar
50 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Panel | Renogy Solar

P.S. I have those exact 150W panels and they easily put out their rated wattage at high sun here in Key West.
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Old 14-04-2016, 09:29   #8
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Re: Solar panels with Blue Sky

Keep looking into the Sunpower panels. They have 345watt panels that are 21.5% efficient and also just came out with 360watt panels that are 22.2% efficient. They are 42" X 62". You could get two 360watt panels and get 720watts. I am trying to add solar to my boat and trying to determine if these panels would make sense. I have attached the link to the PDF spec sheets to this reply and have access to these panels, but they do need to be installed by a licensed Sunpower dealer to get the warranty, but I'm not sure if the non-residential, ocean environment would be covered under this warranty anyway. Maybe one of their commercial panels would be an even better choice??

I'll post more as I get more info.

http://us.sunpower.com/sites/sunpowe...-datasheet.pdf

http://us.sunpower.com/sites/sunpowe...nical-spec.pdf
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Old 14-04-2016, 10:04   #9
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Re: Solar panels with Blue Sky

This may be thread drift...

For those of you with the high output panels, how do you dissipate the heat beneath the panels? (I have read that the underside of the panels gets very hot, like 110 F hot on a cool day in Maryland.) I ask bc I live in Florida.
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Old 14-04-2016, 11:14   #10
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Re: Solar panels with Blue Sky

I have the BlueSky 3024I and my manual confirms that with a 12 V system I can take up to 540 Watts of solar panels that are 18 V nominal voltage. BlueSky also confirmed that fact as well.

So I purchased three 150 Watt panels from China direct.
I had had four 100 Watt Siemens panels on the system prior to that and it worked very well with my 790 AH battery pack consisting of four L16 size AGM batteries at 6 volts 395 AH each. One of the panels was destroyed by my destructing KISS generator and I sold the other three off for 300 dollars and covered more than half of the cost of the three new panels including air freight to Southeast Asia.

I now have 500 AH LiFePo4 battery. The AGM batteries were damaged as well somehow in the wind generator failure and I needed to replace them about a year later.

The 3024I doesn't work well with it, so I have replaced it with a different MPPT SCC from China (where most of the others are made as well). It is designed for solar charge controlling with LiFePo4 batteries. I haven't installed it yet but will in May when I am back on board. So I will be disposing of the BlueSky unit and it two remotes including a ProRemote for controlling it.

There is no problem purchasing the correct voltage solar panels and if you interested, private message me I can give you the information you need to have them shipped to you.
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Old 14-04-2016, 11:36   #11
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Re: Solar panels with Blue Sky

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There is no problem purchasing the correct voltage solar panels and if you interested, private message me I can give you the information you need to have them shipped to you.
True, but there is a problem purchasing the correct voltage panels with current technology. You can go one of two roads; you can purchase commodity panels in the open market, in which case you are generally looking at 15-16% efficient panels, because the major players with the best efficiency/technology have moved on. If they can fit 300W in the same space they used to use for 200W (and they can) then they build 300W panels. Neither the panel size nor the cell size has changed (saves on tooling costs), just that cell efficiency has increased.

The other option is to go with the small market, purpose built 'marine' panels that use Sunpower and other high-efficiency cells. These are a great product, but the small market means they are much more expensive, per Watt, than commodity prices. If you want commodity prices on high efficiency cells you will have to move toward higher power panels because there is really no market to produce commodity quantity high efficiency low power panels.
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Old 14-04-2016, 11:49   #12
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Re: Solar panels with Blue Sky

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Originally Posted by travellerw View Post
...You could do 2 150W panels and 2 50W panels to get to your 400W. Depending on shade conditions, series/parallel (150 in series with 50, then parallel with second series set) may work for you (and under your voltage limit). Otherwise you could do the whole thing in parallel. ...
You can't series the 50W with the 150W because the 50W has an Imp of 2.7A and 150W has an Imp of 8.38. Putting those in series your whole string will have a maximum current of 2.7A and you've lost 76% of the power output of the 150W panels.

You could parallel them all, the Vmp specs are 18.5 and 17.9, so your MPPT controller would drive the whole lot somewhere around 17.9, and you would lose 0.6Vx2.7A = 1.62W per 50W panel at rated power. Real world it really won't make a difference. Shading will, but that is a separate discussion.
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Old 14-04-2016, 12:06   #13
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Re: Solar panels with Blue Sky

So, which is better? Having a separate MPPT controller for each panel, or having them paralleled to a single large controller (assuming the panels have blocking diodes).


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Old 14-04-2016, 14:47   #14
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Re: Solar panels with Blue Sky

Just removed 3 no brand 120 watt semi flex solar panels from our flybridge roof which were dead after 14 months. Replaced with 2 345 watt sun power glass panels and a victron 109/50 controller with Bluetooth monitor.

Best day so far 2.64 kWh and we get some shade issues from the sat and radar dome in the afternoon.


Between 10.30 and 2.30 we are running our three fridges and one freezer and pushing 20 amps into the batteries.


Best we have seen is around 600 watts output for approx 38 amps. Voltage peak 66, normally 45 to 55.


Very happy.


Note do not buy cheap flex panels and do not deal with camp sales. Com.au in Sydney who refuse to back up their products.
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Old 14-04-2016, 18:55   #15
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Re: Solar panels with Blue Sky

Thanks for the informative discussion so far! I'm waffling between getting some lower voltage panels and keeping the Blue Sky, or getting a Victron MPPT controller and more modern panels.

My 32" max width constraint, which is necessary to keep the inner edge of the panels from always being shaded by the boom, prevents me from getting really big panels. 32" wide panels will leave about 20" open down the center of my bimini. I do have the flexibility to go a little longer than 60" but haven't seen any panels shaped that way.

In favor of keeping the Blue Sky controller is the installation will be less expensive and much quicker. But less power gained every day. So, another thought is to get some so-so old tech panels for now, and then plan to get a more modern MPPT controller and future state of the art panels in about 4 years when we will begin to be aboard almost year round. Here in Maine, where our boat currently is located, clean, fresh water is plentiful and free, so no need to use the power thirsty watermaker, and we have to run the genset or main engine every day anyway to make hot water for showers and dish washing, etc. so can use the battery charger to partially charge the batteries while making hot water.

In favor of upgrading the controller now and going with more efficient panels is the advantage of only doing this once and having more power right away. I don't think installing the Victron MPPT controller looks like any big deal as far as difficulty or time. But state of the art controllers/ panels and price in 4 years both could be greatly improved if we wait to upgrade. But then I'd be wasting whatever I pay for the old tech panels now since 4 year old used panels won't be worth much to sell.

Hmmmmmm.....
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