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Old 19-04-2021, 19:49   #1
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Solar panels along the railing?

My plan is to get a 30ish foot boat this coming year, and I've been doing research on gear to get for it.

One big problem is trying to figure out the solar layout for power. There just doesn't seem much good space for it besides making a solar stand up at the back.

But, then I was thinking, what about thin solar panels all along the railing that you can adjust? Not very wide to cause problems on deck, but even 6 inches to a foot, all up and down the railing, would add up to quite a lot of solar!!

I haven't seen anyone do this though, so I was wondering if there was a problem with doing additional solar this way? My guess is maybe it being soooo close to the water (especially when heeled over) might be a deal breaker?

Maybe with enough reinforcement and sealing it would be doable though?

Anyhow, curious what peoples thoughts are. Or if you have any other good ideas on how to fit more solar onto a smaller boat.
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Old 19-04-2021, 20:32   #2
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Re: Solar panels along the railing?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ivory View Post
My plan is to get a 30ish foot boat this coming year, and I've been doing research on gear to get for it.

One big problem is trying to figure out the solar layout for power. There just doesn't seem much good space for it besides making a solar stand up at the back.

But, then I was thinking, what about thin solar panels all along the railing that you can adjust? Not very wide to cause problems on deck, but even 6 inches to a foot, all up and down the railing, would add up to quite a lot of solar!!

I haven't seen anyone do this though, so I was wondering if there was a problem with doing additional solar this way? My guess is maybe it being soooo close to the water (especially when heeled over) might be a deal breaker?

Maybe with enough reinforcement and sealing it would be doable though?

Anyhow, curious what peoples thoughts are. Or if you have any other good ideas on how to fit more solar onto a smaller boat.
Depending on your power need.

We replaced our stern pulpit with an extended railing up the sides long enough to hold 48" solar panels One per side. They fold down, and when up are adjustable to catch the most sun. Two modest 135 watt panels give us 270 watts, or about 70 amp hours per day. Enough for all our needs including refer and freezer if we are in cold water.

These never have caught the water but in really rough weather we can fold them down and then they provide little resistance to the waves. In 35 years they have not been broken.
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Old 19-04-2021, 20:33   #3
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Re: Solar panels along the railing?

On my 26' boat, I could mount one 100w solar panel on the stern rail sideways. I may have been able to get 2 on there sticking out the back. I have seen some mounted on a pole off the stern rail to get it out of the way, but that seems pretty weak to me, especially in a strong wind. The one I have is folding, so I can take it off at the end of every trip. I think your concerns about the side rails and healed over are valid, you need to keep the panels away from water, and the sides do get a lot of splash.
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Old 19-04-2021, 20:40   #4
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Re: Solar panels along the railing?

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Originally Posted by wingssail View Post
These never have caught the water but in really rough weather we can fold them down and then they provide little resistance to the waves. In 35 years they have not been broken.
That looks pretty good! How big is your boat?
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Old 19-04-2021, 20:42   #5
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Re: Solar panels along the railing?

Your picture is interesting. I see with them that high up on rails it might be OK, and obviously you have proven the longevity of them. I am curious though, that picture is taken from mast looking aft, but why is there a row of gauges visible only from that position? Is that a trick of light, or actually like that? Maybe I need to look at more boats to understand. lol. Looks like tiller steering?

Quote:
Originally Posted by wingssail View Post
Depending on your power need.
We replaced our stern pulpit with an extended railing up the sides long enough to hold 48" solar panels One per side. They fold down, and when up are adjustable to catch the most sun. Two modest 135 watt panels give us 270 watts, or about 70 amp hours per day. Enough for all our needs including refer and freezer if we are in cold water.

These never have caught the water but in really rough weather we can fold them down and then they provide little resistance to the waves. In 35 years they have not been broken.
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Old 19-04-2021, 21:05   #6
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Re: Solar panels along the railing?

Got 680 watts of solar on a 33 footer. 3 * 100w mounted on the davits, 2 * 40w mounted on the pushpit rails and a 300w solar blanket that gets layed on deck.


The genset rarely gets used these days.


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Old 19-04-2021, 21:16   #7
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Re: Solar panels along the railing?

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Originally Posted by Ivory View Post
That looks pretty good! How big is your boat?
Our boat is 43'.
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Old 19-04-2021, 21:20   #8
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Re: Solar panels along the railing?

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Originally Posted by BugzyCan View Post
Your picture is interesting. I see with them that high up on rails it might be OK, and obviously you have proven the longevity of them. I am curious though, that picture is taken from mast looking aft, but why is there a row of gauges visible only from that position? Is that a trick of light, or actually like that? Maybe I need to look at more boats to understand. lol. Looks like tiller steering?
Yes it is tiller steered.

The gauges you see are the hydraulic pressure gauges for the Backstay, Boom Vang, Baby stay and Flattening Reef. (this is an old boat and we still have all of the old style sail handling controls). Most of our instruments are either on the mast or ahead of the companionway.
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Old 20-04-2021, 09:00   #9
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Re: Solar panels along the railing?

It's eminently do-able.
I mounted two additional Sunpower semi-flexible solar panels on my stern quarter rails -- well, built some additional railing to support the length -- that are essentially 180-degree rotatable. I then fabricated some supports from below out of PVC from the big box hardware store.
I had two 170W Sunpower semi-flexible panels that I mounted to 1/4" HPDE backing and then mounted to dinghy davits. I added these two, also mounted to 1/4" HDPE backing, but had to go with the 110W panels because slightly narrower, thus giving clearance to stern cleats when hanging vertically.

I have two photo albums on Facebook that should be public.

Panel installation, initially with support from above (Dyneema from backstay)
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?...4231072&type=3

Then installation of improved PVC support from below
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?...9623140&type=3

Welcome to direct message me with any questions.
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Old 20-04-2021, 09:26   #10
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Re: Solar panels along the railing?

Mounting them on the stern rail is all fine and dandy. But sounds like the OP wants to rig them forward along the lifelines as well. That is not so dandy. First, the lines used for sails will someday flap and catch on panels forward of the cockpit. Second, they are much more likely to get hit by waves the farther forward they are. Then there's the shading issue of all the rig forward... etc.
So, yes a few panels on the stern rail will work but I wouldn't mount them forward of the cockpit.
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Old 20-04-2021, 09:37   #11
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Re: Solar panels along the railing?

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Originally Posted by zstine View Post
a few panels on the stern rail will work but I wouldn't mount them forward of the cockpit
I agree with this. I skimmed over the portion of the OP suggesting panels extending "all up and down" the railings/lifelines.
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Old 20-04-2021, 09:37   #12
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Re: Solar panels along the railing?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ivory View Post
My plan is to get a 30ish foot boat this coming year, and I've been doing research on gear to get for it.

One big problem is trying to figure out the solar layout for power. There just doesn't seem much good space for it besides making a solar stand up at the back.

But, then I was thinking, what about thin solar panels all along the railing that you can adjust? Not very wide to cause problems on deck, but even 6 inches to a foot, all up and down the railing, would add up to quite a lot of solar!!

I haven't seen anyone do this though, so I was wondering if there was a problem with doing additional solar this way? My guess is maybe it being soooo close to the water (especially when heeled over) might be a deal breaker?

Maybe with enough reinforcement and sealing it would be doable though?

Anyhow, curious what peoples thoughts are. Or if you have any other good ideas on how to fit more solar onto a smaller boat.
With a thirty foot boat, you're probably going to need davits for the dinghy anyway which provides a good spot for solar panels on top. In addition to that, Mantus makes rail clamps which will allow you to fold the panels flat when not in use or in high seas. https://www.mantusmarine.com/mantus-rail-clamp/
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Old 20-04-2021, 10:16   #13
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Re: Solar panels along the railing?

This topic has come up several times in CF - try a Google search.

I posted a description of our folding and adjustable solar panel system which we have used for at least 15 years. Our system allows fully adjustable angles in several directions which can give you increased output from the panels. They are mounted just forward of the "pushpit" or stern hand railing, using the forward vertical tube of the pushpit as the main mounting point. You could see this with diagrams and pictures in my album on CF.

When underway I fold them down when conditions are windy and rough. For normal sailing conditions, they are far enough aft that they don't interfere with jib sheet leads or get any spray on them (but we have a largish boat with high freeboard).
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Old 20-04-2021, 10:59   #14
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Re: Solar panels along the railing?

Quote:
Originally Posted by joelhemington View Post
With a thirty foot boat, you're probably going to need davits for the dinghy anyway which provides a good spot for solar panels on top. In addition to that, Mantus makes rail clamps which will allow you to fold the panels flat when not in use or in high seas. https://www.mantusmarine.com/mantus-rail-clamp/
Putting davits on the back of a 30' boat (or a 40' or a 45' boat) is a bad idea if you like sailing that boat or moving in choppy seas.

Placing solar panels on it makes it a worse idea.

People buy 30' boats because that is what they can afford or for some other reason like it is a size they think they can operate or it is all they need.

Then they are tempted to pile stuff on it, virtually everything they'd like to have to make it convenient or to be as comfy as their apartment back home, or simply everything they see on some other boat (the standard cruising boat "pile-on" list).

In the end they have something far removed from the nice little sailing boat they purchased, and very likely it does not even provide all the conveniences and comforts of the apartment or house they used to live in and it certainly does not have the lively sailing performance the designer carefully created.

And finally, much of the stuff which is commonly added to boats now days adds complexity and other issues which offset any convenience which were anticipated.
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Old 20-04-2021, 11:06   #15
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Re: Solar panels along the railing?

I have a 50 watt panel that I move around on the railing facing one way or the other as needed and a 65 watt panel lying flat. Then I have two 20 watt panels that I move around.

I took the dinghy davits off my boat that the PO had mounted. Too much crap. I use a kayak which is stored on deck. It's a 16'6" kayak that can be seen in the video as well.

None of my panels are hard mounted and they provide all power to charge my two 90 ah 12 volt batteries that I have in parallel.

I don't have a picture right now but you can see 3 of the panels in this video. One of the 20 watt panels had fallen into the cockpit floor after it got really rough.

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