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Old 16-05-2016, 18:23   #1
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Wind Vs. Solar - Best Options

Hi,

I am considering the options to provide power generation on my sailboat to live off the hook in the Caribbean. Looking for feedback/opinions on which is better - wind generator vs. solar panels.
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Old 16-05-2016, 18:30   #2
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Re: Wind Vs. Solar - Best Options

Solar first, then, maybe, wind. Lots of solar.

Maybe. Why? 'Cuz one may not choose to anchor in an anchorage that's windy, 'cuz it's not so relaxing and wind comes into its own over 10-15 knots.

That's my takeaway from reading this forum for many, many years.

That's even before the noise issue to you and your neighbors with wind.
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Old 16-05-2016, 19:01   #3
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Re: Wind Vs. Solar - Best Options

I agree solar first, but wind complements it wonderfully! Have been around the Caribbean for 13 years and counting and started out with a KISS wind generator and some flexible solar panels. Added 300 watts solar in Panama soon after. Got another boat 6 years ago and quickly installed about 400 watts which I can tilt during the day, could use some more but tough install. Installed another KISS on this boat and wouldn't think of not having wind! Only a few times a season do we have too much wind where we need to seek more protection and actually favor anchoring behind a nice long reef or low island with the wind blowing! Keeps the boat cooler, the KISS is cranking and no bugs, what's not to like? Our wind is installed on a pole on the stern and as we sleep in the aft cabin we installed a damper on the pole and enjoy the low him of making power overnight while sleeping. The only time I ever hear somebody's gen turning is one of the older NavX system!


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Old 16-05-2016, 19:06   #4
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Re: Wind Vs. Solar - Best Options

Other than very high latitudes I would never consider wind. Solar is cheaper, more reliable, more predictable, and makes zero noise. By the time you add as much solar as you can fit, adding wind is likely to actually reduce solar production because of the shading problems with the turbines.
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Old 16-05-2016, 19:07   #5
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Re: Wind Vs. Solar - Best Options

Solar provides a much higher percentage of our power. Quiet with no moving parts.

The comment about wind being more effective at higher latitude is a good rule of thumb.

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Old 16-05-2016, 19:40   #6
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Re: Wind Vs. Solar - Best Options

Have both. Like both. Complimentary, not exclusive. Solar is great during the day. Wind can blow 24 hrs. Anchorages are often low-wind, but 24 hrs of low wind can produce lots of amps. Often no wind days means more wind. Solar also takes more real estate on the boat than solar.

If I had to prioritize I'd start with solar, but go with both if you can. Best of all world.
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Old 16-05-2016, 19:49   #7
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Re: Wind Vs. Solar - Best Options

If you are limiting your cruising to the eastern Carib, then wind gens do very well there as so many of the anchorages offer tradewind consistency. Just about any other typical cruising destination - not so much. I prefer solar, as I just don't like highspeed wizzing blades circling over my head.
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Old 16-05-2016, 20:05   #8
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Re: Wind Vs. Solar - Best Options

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Often no wind days means more wind. Solar also takes more real estate on the boat than solar.
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Old 16-05-2016, 20:06   #9
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Re: Wind Vs. Solar - Best Options

solar is by far the preferred option in lower latitudes. It is also nearly maintenance free. Wind doesnt do much in wind speeds that are comfortable to anchor in and most anchorages in the Eastern Caribbean are on the lee side of pretty high islands. That is less true if you are farther north in the BVI's , Anguilla, Barbuda and some other places but is mostly true in the WIndwards. Sure there are some exceptions (e.g. the Tobago Cays) but I tend to avoid windward anchorages because I hate anchoring off a lee shore.
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Old 16-05-2016, 20:27   #10
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Re: Wind Vs. Solar - Best Options

Even in high latitudes I would go solar first. Except for winter, there is often plenty of sun, and it tends to either be calm, or blowing so hard the windgen shuts itself off. Solar for high lats really benefits from mounts that can be angled. And the cold and long days increase efficiency significantly.

The exception to this is if you end up in high lats in winter. Then a windgen makes sense.

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Old 16-05-2016, 22:12   #11
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Re: Wind Vs. Solar - Best Options

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Even in high latitudes I would go solar first. Except for winter, there is often plenty of sun, and it tends to either be calm, or blowing so hard the windgen shuts itself off. Solar for high lats really benefits from mounts that can be angled. And the cold and long days increase efficiency significantly.

The exception to this is if you end up in high lats in winter. Then a windgen makes sense.

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Hell, BEn, even here in the Pittwater (~33 deg S) now that winter is here, we find that we need to supplement the solar with some diesel burning. The combination of low sun angle and short days is a killer, even in mid latitudes imo.

Note that we have an Air-X wind gen too, but these last few weeks have been mostly low wind in this area.

Jim
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Old 16-05-2016, 22:22   #12
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Re: Wind Vs. Solar - Best Options

Solar first then definitely add a wind generator here in the 48° north its solar in summer and wind in winter. Small 400 watt 12 volt generators can be had for under $500 USD .
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Old 16-05-2016, 22:57   #13
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Re: Wind Vs. Solar - Best Options

As someone else said, solar first and when you run out of space for solar, wind starts becoming an issue shading the solar.
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Old 17-05-2016, 00:48   #14
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Re: Wind Vs. Solar - Best Options

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Other than very high latitudes I would never consider wind. Solar is cheaper, more reliable, more predictable, and makes zero noise. By the time you add as much solar as you can fit, adding wind is likely to actually reduce solar production because of the shading problems with the turbines.
My own experience with wind, with a highly rated wind generator, is that it produces zero useful power, while cluttering the stern of the boat and producing noise. Even though I live in a very windy place. Others I know here have had the same experience.

My own experience with solar is that it produces wonderfully useful power at all latitudes. It might work even better at higher latitudes because of longer daylight hours and cooler temperatures.

Solar is a nearly ideal power source. Except for one little thing -- there is almost no way to put a reasonable amount of solar on a cruising boat without turning it into a windage-ridden junk pile. A barn door mounted on a pile of stainless off your stern? If you don't really like to sail then maybe that's not a problem -- it was absolutely superb on my father's boat -- but for me that's just not acceptable.

Therefore, forced to choose between wind and solar, I chose -- a diesel generator.
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Old 17-05-2016, 01:08   #15
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Re: Wind Vs. Solar - Best Options

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My own experience with solar is that it produces wonderfully useful power at all latitudes. It might work even better at higher latitudes because of longer daylight hours and cooler temperatures.
Spoken like a true summer month sailor, DH. Lots of us sail/cruise all year long. Not at extreme latitudes, but as I posted above, even at ~33 south our 340 watts of solar in winter goes from completely satisfying our energy needs to failing abjectly to do so... and it is over a month to the solstice. So, I have to question your belief that solar is always a better energy source than wind. All of the criticisms of wind posted above, save yours, are valid. Your bad experience simply means that either your turbine was defective, your installation was bad, or you overestimated the average wind velocities in your immediate location. I can say this with some certainty because of the experience of ourselves and a lot of our cruising friends differs from yours: we do get useful output from wind generators. I don't pretend to know why yours (and those of friends of yours) failed, but that failure is not the universal experience.

Not to say that I don't think that solar as the first level of energy production is wrong, for it is wonderful. But in some environments and at some times of year, it ain't enough.

None of the posts above touch on the water turbine type power source, which I reckon is the best while under way. But that's another subject for another day.

Cheers,

Jim
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