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Old 24-01-2021, 16:41   #1
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Sailrite DIY Bimini frame as support for solar panels?

Hi all,
I'm considering using 1" stainless 2 bar DIY bimini kit from Sailrite to support 2-3 rigid solar panels. I know that a few people have installed rigid solar panels above their canvas cover, but since I plan to cover a similar space with just panels, i figured I can skip the soft cover all together. I would add at least one set of steel supports instead of webbing to ensure that the bows stay in place. so there will be in the shape of "IV". Then install one in the center level and two on edges slightly tilted to the respective side so they sort of follow the curve of the crown. I could do all 3 level, but not sure if that's the best way.

I'm also considering closing the gap in between them.

I've seen this image floating around and figured it should work:




Anyone else with rigid panels on a bimini mounted to stern stanchions/pulpit?

Do you think this will support 30lbs fairly well? I figured about 10lb per panel?
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Old 24-01-2021, 17:44   #2
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Re: Sailrigte DIY Bimini frame as support for solar panels?

Here is another picture that seems to show someone's setup that is almost exactly what I'm thinking of doing. Looks like it should work.



And another showing exactly what I want to do!



Looks like this should work
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Old 24-01-2021, 20:18   #3
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Re: Sailrigte DIY Bimini frame as support for solar panels?

Hi George, yes the last pic you posted is my boat. I have others if you want different views.

I designed and built it all myself, although I did have a canvas shop do the bends for me. I used 7/8" ss tubing. There really isn't a lot of weight or force that is supported, so I bet even the 3/4" tubing would be fine.

What my picture doesn't show is the forward attachment. It is linked and supported by my existing dodger.

Here's a side pic that might help.
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Old 24-01-2021, 20:37   #4
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Re: Sailrigte DIY Bimini frame as support for solar panels?

She's gorgeous! I'd like more views of the solar set up!

I'm considering something similar on my O'Day 30 in a year or two. I run a canvas shop, so I have lots of options that don't make economic sense :-)

After using your rig, are there any changes you would suggest?
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Old 24-01-2021, 20:52   #5
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Re: Sailrigte DIY Bimini frame as support for solar panels?

Hey Mike. Your mounts are probably stiffened quite a lot by the connections to a sturdy dodger. I mounted my roof/panels on a 1” pipe frame with a setup in the front and another at the back. I had two vertical pipes at the back and found that the structure was quite wobbly side to side.

I added another pair of verticals to the front frame but it didn’t really stabilise the structure much. I then added a pair of 6mm SS wires crossed in the front and that did the trick from a stability perspective. The red lines in the attachment indicate approx where the verticals are and they are fitted front and back.

In addition, the roof is fitted with a full surround of clears but they also don’t lend a lot of rigidity. I’m now going to build and insert a hard dodger under the front of the roof to hopefully stabilise it a whole lot more.

My one abiding fear is that the boat falls sideways off a big wave and the structure comes tumbling down along with the solars, instruments and all the cabling. If that lands in the water in a heaving sea, even cutting it loose will be problematic because all the solar cabling is still live and very feisty, being connected to an 800Ah battery bank.
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Old 24-01-2021, 20:54   #6
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Re: Sailrigte DIY Bimini frame as support for solar panels?

Quote:
Originally Posted by kayakerChuck View Post
She's gorgeous! I'd like more views of the solar set up!

I'm considering something similar on my O'Day 30 in a year or two. I run a canvas shop, so I have lots of options that don't make economic sense :-)

After using your rig, are there any changes you would suggest?
Thanks KC, that's nice of you to say. We love her.

Hmmmm, changes... I'm pretty happy with how things ended up. My cockpit is quite limited in how I could build things, what with the end-boom sheeting and the long boom. I pretty much maxed out on usable space.

I could accommodate slightly longer panels, thereby adding add a few more watts (these are 150 watt panels). And I'm still working on a rain-collection system to catch the runnoff from the panels. It's hard to see but I've got them just slight tilted forward and in. My plan has been to set up some sort of gutter to direct rainwater, but I just haven't got there yet.

The only other issue I have is how I ran the wiring. You can't really see it, but it's run through the dodger, and then down the port side. It works great, but disassembly is a bit of PITA. I'd like to have easier quick-connectors so I can remove it faster, but that's a minor issue.
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Old 24-01-2021, 21:14   #7
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Re: Sailrigte DIY Bimini frame as support for solar panels?

Quote:
Originally Posted by CassidyNZ View Post
Hey Mike. Your mounts are probably stiffened quite a lot by the connections to a sturdy dodger. I mounted my roof/panels on a 1” pipe frame with a setup in the front and another at the back. I had two vertical pipes at the back and found that the structure was quite wobbly side to side.
My structure is quite stable. It hardly wobbles at all. If you lean hard on the side it will deflect a little, but it would take a tremendous force to move it much. You're quite right that my dodger attachment lends a lot of lateral strength. The other thing I have going for me is the fairly short width. Being a double-ender, my cockpit is not very wide, so the arches are smaller than yours.

Just spit-ballin' here (and you've probably thought of this), but could you run a 45º tube up from the aft verticals to the roof tube? If you did that on both sides, it might add some resistance to the port-stbd wobble.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CassidyNZ View Post
I added another pair of verticals to the front frame but it didn’t really stabilise the structure much. I then added a pair of 6mm SS wires crossed in the front and that did the trick from a stability perspective. The red lines in the attachment indicate approx where the verticals are and they are fitted front and back.
Ah yes, I see. That makes sense.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CassidyNZ View Post
In addition, the roof is fitted with a full surround of clears but they also don’t lend a lot of rigidity. I’m now going to build and insert a hard dodger under the front of the roof to hopefully stabilise it a whole lot more.
That will really do the trick.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CassidyNZ View Post
My one abiding fear is that the boat falls sideways off a big wave and the structure comes tumbling down along with the solars, instruments and all the cabling. If that lands in the water in a heaving sea, even cutting it loose will be problematic because all the solar cabling is still live and very feisty, being connected to an 800Ah battery bank.
Yes, that would be bad . There must be a way to secure the wiring. I ran a lot of mine through clear reinforced plastic plumbing tubing -- much like flexible conduit I guess. This contained all the wiring and was easy to secure.
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Old 24-01-2021, 21:26   #8
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Re: Sailrigte DIY Bimini frame as support for solar panels?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike OReilly View Post
Just spit-ballin' here (and you've probably thought of this), but could you run a 45º tube up from the aft verticals to the roof tube? If you did that on both sides, it might add some resistance to the port-stbd wobble.
I’ve been reluctant to add any obliques to the back frame because they would need to be “inside” the frame but we use that as access to the aft deck and don’t want to clutter the opening. I suspect your structure is not only narrower but also a lot lighter. With the solid roof, I have 180kgs up there Turns “wobbly” into an art form.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike OReilly View Post
Yes, that would be bad . There must be a way to secure the wiring. I ran a lot of mine through clear reinforced plastic plumbing tubing -- much like flexible conduit I guess. This contained all the wiring and was easy to secure.
My cabling is all in flexible conduit but I have no quick-release method. Also I have all my instrument cabling in the same conduit. If the roof goes over the side I lose all my instruments, AIS, solar panels, cockpit enclosure, Bimini, dodger, the works. That would not be cool. Hence the thinking around the solid dodger
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Old 24-01-2021, 21:28   #9
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Re: Sailrigte DIY Bimini frame as support for solar panels?

Thanks Mike!
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Old 24-01-2021, 21:29   #10
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Re: Sailrigte DIY Bimini frame as support for solar panels?

I appreciate the feedback and the information. I'm wondering if going with 7/8 Aluminum would also work as a lower cost alternative, considering that the panel frames would add to the stiffness of the structure?
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Old 24-01-2021, 23:11   #11
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Re: Sailrigte DIY Bimini frame as support for solar panels?

Using solar panels as a bimini is great for fair weather but a lot of sailors will like the option of a full enclosure.

Also take a look at gemini bimini fittings. You can use aluminium angle as support.
https://www.defender.com/product.jsp?id=6722078
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Old 25-01-2021, 00:57   #12
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Re: Sailrigte DIY Bimini frame as support for solar panels?

I started adding to my solar farm with a frame on top of the Bimini which came with the boat but was always nervous about the bimini hoops attachment to the boat so I rebuilt the support in 50 mm dia 3 mm wall thickness aluminium tube with flanges bolted through the hull/deck join flange.

Then I decided to expand the farm another 300 watts by rebuilding the dodger in alloy so that I could mount two more 150 watt panels in the top and have all round vision.

It looks a bit industrial but I'm no longer nervous about it blowing off in a gale.

I just noticed that there's nothing holding the back end up. The photo was taken when I had the dingy davit off for repair.
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Old 25-01-2021, 02:14   #13
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Re: Sailrigte DIY Bimini frame as support for solar panels?

LLCoolDave - we are in Southern California on the border with Mexico and it rains maybe 10 days a year, 15 if we are really lucky. Our boat is a short trip cruiser, plus in summer any rain is welcome and in winter we won't be going out in the rain anyway.

I'll take a look at the gemini, thanks.

RaymodR - thanks for posting. yea, it's much stronger for sure, but way more robust than i need most likely. I like it though - yours seems very solid.
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Old 25-01-2021, 04:07   #14
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Re: Sailrigte DIY Bimini frame as support for solar panels?

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LLCoolDave - we are in Southern California on the border with Mexico and it rains maybe 10 days a year, 15 if we are really lucky. Our boat is a short trip cruiser, plus in summer any rain is welcome and in winter we won't be going out in the rain anyway.

I'll take a look at the gemini, thanks.

RaymodR - thanks for posting. yea, it's much stronger for sure, but way more robust than i need most likely. I like it though - yours seems very solid.
One of the things to be mindful of if you live in or frequent a cyclone (hurricane) zone is that when you install panels on your bimini you will most likely lose the capability to readily lower and stow it in the event of high winds and consequently it need to be more substantial structurally.
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Old 25-01-2021, 07:43   #15
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Re: Sailrigte DIY Bimini frame as support for solar panels?

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Originally Posted by George_SD View Post
I appreciate the feedback and the information. I'm wondering if going with 7/8 Aluminum would also work as a lower cost alternative, considering that the panel frames would add to the stiffness of the structure?
I used 7/8" stainless steel tubing. Aluminum is quite a bit weaker, but if you're only supporting the solar panels, it's probably just fine. Solar panels don't weigh much.
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