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Old 01-10-2014, 05:35   #1
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Is it a bad idea to be ENTIRELY dependant on renewable energy on my 45' trimaran?

First, let me provide some context. I'm considering having a customised Neel 45 built for my future long distance cruising, which should eventually include Europe to West coast US via the Northwest Passage. The choice of boat is not the point of this post.

I'm seriously considering having an electric saildrive engine (15 kW Oceanvolt) instead of a diesel engine (not too radical so far), but also not to have a diesel generator at all. Thus, I will be entirely reliant on energy being generated by the 2x wind generators, 2kW solar panels and 2x hydro generator.

The weight saving by not having a diesel engine (200kg), diesel generator (100kg) or diesel & tank (350kg) allows me to have 400ah 48Vdedicated battery bank for the propulsion and a 1000 aH 12V battery bank for the household items and still be 200kg lighter. With an inverter, I can run AC, dive compressor, etc.

With this set up, the only time I can not generate power to recharge batteries is on windless nights, foggy days, either at anchor or if the vessel can not go at least 3 knots (which a trimaran will easily do in a 6kt wind).

A slightly less radical approach would be to have a diesel generator to have instant power if needed, but negates the objectives, or to have a methanol fuel cell as an option.

The up front cost is considerably higher, mainly due to the cost of Lithium batteries, which are not coming down as fast as predicted. But, for being totally energy independent, and thus avoiding very expensive marina fees just to plug in to recharge, as well as hardly any maintenance costs (compared to diesel), this in the long term should reduce the total cost difference.

So, the feedback I'm looking for from the forum members, especially the experienced long distance cruisers, is the pros/cons/challenges that will come with this type of system.

Thanks,
Floating Dutchman
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Old 01-10-2014, 06:06   #2
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Re: Is it a bad idea to be ENTIRELY dependant on renewable energy on my 45' trimaran?

Relying on wind and solar and a hydrogenerator at 3 knots plus to provide propulsion as well as house power?

You talk about storage, but don't mention how much solar and wind generation capacity you intend to have to replenish it.

Northwest passage?
Have you thought about heating while in the Arctic?
How many boats got stuck this year?

Good luck with that!
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Old 01-10-2014, 06:13   #3
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Re: Is it a bad idea to be ENTIRELY dependant on renewable energy on my 45' trimaran?

What energy source and how much of it you want is entirely up to your mindset.

You can go 100% renewables, you can go 100% oil, or any combination of the two.

I would NOT go for electric aux propulsion if you energy source is 100% renewables. Imagine a dark, windless spot and a careless fisher coming your way.

With a genset backup, you can have a 99% renewable energy boat that will be also able to motor on a dark windless night.

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Old 01-10-2014, 07:00   #4
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Re: Is it a bad idea to be ENTIRELY dependant on renewable energy on my 45' trimaran?

If you are doing it out of some moral compunction and are willing to live with the expense and performance limitations...there isn't much point in further discussion. You have already made your choice. Yes, it can be done but most cruisers aren't willing to accept those limitations on a new expensive boat.

If you think you will somehow save money in the long run...I have bridge in brooklyn to sell you.

If you scale back to more modest goals so that you get a significant portion of your power from renewables with a smaller generator to fill in the rest, you can eliminate most of the downsides and keep the cost not drastically higher than a typical cruising boat.
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Old 01-10-2014, 09:01   #5
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Re: Is it a bad idea to be ENTIRELY dependant on renewable energy on my 45' trimaran?

I would like to know this piece of info to help us understand your thinking. Have you cruised before? Have you made extended trips off shore or coastal? Because if you haven't then that helps explain your crazy idea of setting up a cruising boat of that size to just run off wind/solar and luck.

All it would take is one dark and stormy night with dead batteries, no way to power off the lee shore and you would understand why I'm calling it crazy, but then it could be too late.

These type of ideas are often floated by folks without the experience to know just how bad of an idea they really are and in a chat room filled with "I have a better way to do things folks" they will always give you support for crazy ideas just because it sounds cool. But Amigo...unless you want to go cruising on a Science Project then have a diesel generator aboard.
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Old 01-10-2014, 09:20   #6
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Re: Is it a bad idea to be ENTIRELY dependant on renewable energy on my 45' trimaran?

To be fair, up until the 20th century, all we had was renewables!

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Old 01-10-2014, 09:24   #7
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Re: Is it a bad idea to be ENTIRELY dependant on renewable energy on my 45' trimaran?

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Originally Posted by MasonMcD View Post
To be fair, up until the 20th century, all we had was renewables!

and how did that warm beer and no ice work for ya...
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Old 01-10-2014, 09:41   #8
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Re: Is it a bad idea to be ENTIRELY dependant on renewable energy on my 45' trimaran?

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and how did that warm beer and no ice work for ya...
Ha. Just means a British beverage.

Reminds me of the Tom Waits tune "Warm beer, cold women..."
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Old 01-10-2014, 09:55   #9
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Re: Is it a bad idea to be ENTIRELY dependant on renewable energy on my 45' trimaran?

There are ways to do it safely, you could have a low voltage cut off that left enough reserve for emergencies, but you would have to only use it for an honest emergency.

expect to spend many days waiting until you have enough current available to move, I think more days than you may expect, even with a genset I bet it's x number of hours on charge to = 1 hour propulsion, or it would make more sense to drive the motors directly off the genset ala WWII submarines if the genset were big enough.

Make sure you build the propulsion system etc. yourself so when it's not working you know what to do as I doubt you'll find many marine mechanics that can tackle something like that.

I think eventually we may see production boat designs that are hybrids like you imagine, just ain't ready for prime time yet I guess, I don't think we are nearly able to go without fossil entirely, maybe in the tropics first?
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Old 01-10-2014, 10:06   #10
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Re: Is it a bad idea to be ENTIRELY dependant on renewable energy on my 45' trimaran?

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To be fair, up until the 20th century, all we had was renewables!

Actually coal powered the industrial revolution back into the 1800's. Most early steam ships were coal powered. Even before that it was used for heating and oil was used in lamps.
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Old 01-10-2014, 10:12   #11
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Re: Is it a bad idea to be ENTIRELY dependant on renewable energy on my 45' trimaran?

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Actually coal powered the industrial revolution back into the 1800's. Most early steam ships were coal powered. Even before that it was used for heating and oil was used in lamps.
Yeah. I was thinking specifically of Slocum's solo navigation. But then he was lost at sea shortly after that, wasn't he?
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Old 01-10-2014, 10:18   #12
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Re: Is it a bad idea to be ENTIRELY dependant on renewable energy on my 45' trimaran?

the man who has a 41' ct with electric propulsion has to use a honda genny occasionally. just sayin. he cruises sea of cortez, aka gulf of california.
boat is named karmaseas
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Old 01-10-2014, 10:19   #13
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Re: Is it a bad idea to be ENTIRELY dependant on renewable energy on my 45' trimaran?

The pacific ocean voyagers relied solely on solar panels and batteries, and had successful circumnavigations of the Pacific. They had about a 20 mile range under electric power. I would be a little more concerned about the Northwest Passages, where time is critical.

See Specifications | Pacific Voyagers
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Old 01-10-2014, 10:23   #14
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Re: Is it a bad idea to be ENTIRELY dependant on renewable energy on my 45' trimaran?

To be politically correct, somebody bless you. What a project if more than I pipe dream. Wish I could help.
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Old 01-10-2014, 10:49   #15
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Re: Is it a bad idea to be ENTIRELY dependant on renewable energy on my 45' trimaran?

I love the idea as not motor has been done for millennia and you had me until the NW passage bit. It's all good to be able to wait on wind and tide but Mother Nature may not be as patient as you are.

Don't name her "Endurance" for starters.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shackleton_expedition


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