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Old 20-11-2021, 15:30   #1
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Bimini top made with solar panels

Has anyone made a bimini top out of solar panels? Iíve seen one catamaran that had done that, but canít find any images.

Our catamaran has a stainless steel tube frame supporting a canvas bimini and with a central walkway. We want to replace it with a hard bimini top, primarily to get rid of the leaking, but also to extend the covered area. Since most of the area will be covered with solar panels anyway, except for the central walkway, and the cost of making a fibreglass top is quite expensive, weíre thinking of just using solar panels and foregoing the fibreglass.

Has anyone done this?

Is it leakproof?

Is it feasible to put an edge around the perimeter for hand holds and to mount clears?
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Old 21-11-2021, 06:30   #2
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Re: Bimini top made with solar panels

The panels themselves are not likely to have the structural strength needed to form a top- they are engineered to support the solar membranes themselves, not someone grabbing the edge to avoid landing on one of Mark's manatees. However, the frame you build to support the panels can also be strong enough to do whatever you want, including being waterproof and supplying handholds. Design for the most demanding tasks, and then mount the panels on top of it.
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Old 21-11-2021, 06:34   #3
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Re: Bimini top made with solar panels

CF members Matt and Jessica who are up to their eye balls in epoxy at the moment, built a hard top which yo might be interested in:


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Old 21-11-2021, 07:35   #4
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Re: Bimini top made with solar panels

Parlay is doing that on his Lagoon 450. He's had the SS frame built and the panels mounted. Now he's building the honeycomb/fiberglass inserts. You can see it all near the very end of this vid.
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Old 21-11-2021, 07:49   #5
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Re: Bimini top made with solar panels

I have. I built my bimini from scratch. Designed it myself. Bought the ss tubes. Had a local canvas maker do the bends. Then I cut and fit it, and mounted the panels using simple U-bolts.

A cat is going to require a different approach given the area you need to cover, but I'm sure it's possible.
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Old 21-11-2021, 08:40   #6
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Re: Bimini top made with solar panels

Why you want a bimini will inform the direction you go. If you just want shade then something like Mike's should fit the bill. If you want rain protection then you will really be thinking more towards mounting solar panels on top of a bimini than using solar panels for the bimini.
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Old 21-11-2021, 12:04   #7
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Re: Bimini top made with solar panels

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Originally Posted by dougweibel View Post
Why you want a bimini will inform the direction you go. If you just want shade then something like Mike's should fit the bill. If you want rain protection then you will really be thinking more towards mounting solar panels on top of a bimini than using solar panels for the bimini.

Yes, we do want rain protection. We have three panels mounted side by side over our davits in an aluminium frame and they donít leak even though they are metal to metal. I donít see why that shouldnít be the case for panels above the cockpit using a similar frame and gaskets. But weíre looking for other mounting options.

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Old 21-11-2021, 12:18   #8
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Re: Bimini top made with solar panels

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Parlay is doing that on his Lagoon 450. He's had the SS frame built and the panels mounted. Now he's building the honeycomb/fiberglass inserts. You can see it all near the very end of this vid.

Thatís awesome, thanks. Some good ideas there for us.

His panels are mounted on top of round stainless steel tubes, then sealed but not fastened (as far as I could see) to each other. Iím wondering whether there will be too much movement to keep the seals intact?
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Old 21-11-2021, 12:51   #9
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Re: Bimini top made with solar panels

The trawler behind me in the slip way made a very large Bimini out of panels and aluminium angle. All up it was about 6000w. Worked very well as a shade/rain catcher/ solar generator. The panels essentially sat in channels edge to edge. No rain water fell through, it ran to a collection point.

Note that it had no loading beyond falling rain. You couldn't walk on top.

I'd definitely do the same if I wanted something that wasn't load bearing.
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Old 21-11-2021, 12:54   #10
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Re: Bimini top made with solar panels

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Originally Posted by fxykty View Post
Yes, we do want rain protection. We have three panels mounted side by side over our davits in an aluminium frame and they donít leak even though they are metal to metal. I donít see why that shouldnít be the case for panels above the cockpit using a similar frame and gaskets. But weíre looking for other mounting options.

It would be easy to install gaskets or gutters to our panels. My plan has been to do just that so I can then use them as a means to collect rain water.
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Old 22-11-2021, 06:01   #11
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Re: Bimini top made with solar panels

I lost my canvas but wanted to keep the frame.
Laid out 2 - 4x8 shower panels ($80 from Home Depot) side by side on a flat concrete floor, laid 2 layers of 1.5oz fiberglass and bolted what was now a hardtop to the frame using pipe clamps. Reinforced the frame with a couple of stainless struts and fixed 8 100 watt flexible solar panels on top.
It's worked well for 2 years but not convinced as to the efficiency of flexible solar panels
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Old 22-11-2021, 06:11   #12
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Re: Bimini top made with solar panels

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Originally Posted by GoneDiving View Post
The trawler behind me in the slip way made a very large Bimini out of panels and aluminium angle. All up it was about 6000w. Worked very well as a shade/rain catcher/ solar generator. The panels essentially sat in channels edge to edge. No rain water fell through, it ran to a collection point.

Note that it had no loading beyond falling rain. You couldn't walk on top.

I'd definitely do the same if I wanted something that wasn't load bearing.
Have seen a similar arrangement using aluminium U shaped channel. The panels could also be tilted to optimise incident sunlight but I never saw this happening. The water catchment facility was also used. Certainly not trafficable but much cheaper than constructing a fully water proof surface to mount the PV panels on. Any PV panel could be removed by lifting it and aligning it along the diagonal and then lowering it onto the deck.

Maybe you could even use PVC channelling instead of aluminium if adequate support can be arranged.

Considering that PV panels are now so common it is surprising to me that new boat manufacturers don't consider well integrated PVs on mew designs.
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Old 22-11-2021, 06:21   #13
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Re: Bimini top made with solar panels

A little late to the game, but, I had a Bimini someone else constructed on a previous catamaran. They used aluminum tubing as a frame and solar panels. It worked great. But they also pulled some vinyl and lashed it to some of the tubing in order to make it completely watertight. The panels by themselves will be very tricky to make water tight. You’ll need to add something else to keep the drips away.
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Old 22-11-2021, 06:27   #14
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Re: Bimini top made with solar panels

Check out Sailing Uma's installation on YouTube; it has taken them from the Caribbean to very high latitudes.
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Old 22-11-2021, 08:56   #15
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Re: Bimini top made with solar panels

Having the boom over your solar panels will cost you 30 to 50% of your output.
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