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Old 03-07-2015, 05:47 PM   #1
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Semi-flexible solar panel install

The install of the solar panels on my bridge canvas is almost complete. I thought I would share info on progress to date. I purchased three Semi-Flexible 150 Watt Solar Panel, High Efficiency Sunpower Marine Rated panels on eBay, a Morningstar TS-MPPT-45 Tristar 45 Amp MPPT Charge Controller & Morningstar TS-RM-2 Remote Digital Meter. Our canvas needed replacing so we had the canvas folks add the new Velcro lapels and channels to the new top. They also stitched Velcro to the front and back of all the panels. The panels will be secured to each other with stainless hex bolts through the grommets on the panels.
The output cables from the solar panels are #10. They will run inside a Velcro pocket on the roof to the bimini support frame pockets. I ran the cable in a silver/chrome snake skin down the bimini support post. I thought it would look better and protect the cable from the sun.
There is a 2 pole 50 amp beaker that is wired to the solar panel positive and the solar controller positive output. This will result in isolation of the controller input and output on a fault.
The MPPT controller ties into the positive terminal of a 50 amp fuse panel on the bridge. This fuse block is supplied by the 940 amp-hr house bank via #2 cables and a 100 amp fuse. The fuse panel was previously installed to support a fridge on the bridge. It’s not part of the system the leads just pass through it.
The Morningstar MPPT has a remote monitor that is mounted inside the boat. It has a ton of info that can be pulled with a computer. It also saves historical data.
As soon as it warms up a little and my stainless sex nuts come in we will finish the install and the MC4 connector work. I haven’t seen too many of these set ups. I saw a few online on sailboats. I hope it works out. Fryedaze consumption on the hook is about 200 amp-hrs a day. I hope to get about 150 amp-hrs out of the panel in fair weather. Wish me luck.
Dave

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Old 03-07-2015, 06:33 PM   #2
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Thats "sex bolts"
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Old 03-07-2015, 06:41 PM   #3
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A few more pictures.
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Old 03-07-2015, 07:12 PM   #4
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I've been looking forward to this thread for some time. Interested in hearing how your system performs as it would more than cover our meager requirements. The soft panel may be just the ticket we've been looking for.
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Old 03-07-2015, 07:43 PM   #5
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My panels are rigid, mounted both sides of the FB, outboard of the railings. They get occasional shading, but are safely located. To avoid stressing the panels by any deck uneven-ness, I made mounts by screwing the panels to aluminum angle strips, in turn screwed to 1" square teak sections, and instead of screwing the teak mounts to the deck, glued them on with Sikaflex. So far so good.
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Old 03-07-2015, 08:51 PM   #6
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Thats "sex bolts"
Thanks. I was about to ask where I could order some of those. Seems like something I should keep on hand.
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Old 03-08-2015, 03:12 AM   #7
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I have two Uni-solar flexible solar panels up on the bridge way back near the corner closest to the pole for the Airbreeze, so out of likely foot traffic. They can be mounted by simple bimini or cover mounts, (see pic). Although I did carefully seal the screw holes those are mounted with, it would have been better if I had done what Bruce did and glue wood squares down to mount them on, and that would have given more air-space under them as well. As it is, I ran a thick white rubber fender strip along the length of each down the centre for a air gap. However, my upper deck core is already damp, so what the heck.
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Old 03-08-2015, 03:59 AM   #8
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I wish I would have thought to mount them on my bed like you.
But my only question is whether your cabin gets enough sun? Or do you just turn on lights to have the panels produce power?

Thanks for all the details.

The hardest part of our install was getting the cables through the Pilot house race, as it is already packed full.
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Old 03-08-2015, 08:27 AM   #9
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I wish I would have thought to mount them on my bed like you.
But my only question is whether your cabin gets enough sun? Or do you just turn on lights to have the panels produce power?

Thanks for all the details.

The hardest part of our install was getting the cables through the Pilot house race, as it is already packed full.
Oh I see, Irish humor
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Old 03-08-2015, 06:58 PM   #10
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Yeah! She is all done.

Well we had a 50F day so the boss and I installed the panels. We connected the three panels and covered the underside with plastic. The plastic was used so we could slide the panels in place without the Velcro interfering with sliding them in place. Once in the right location the plastic was slid out from under neath panel and the Velcro sealed. They went up pretty easy. The guys at Quantum Sails did a great job with the fit up on the top. The MC4 connectors were greased up with dielectric grease and fit into the pockets designed by the fabricator. When I hotted up the system it was putting out 233 watts at 3:30 PM in a clear early March sky. I will do some research and see if that is what I should expect. Once things warm up I will pull shore power and get a feel for what the daily output is.
Dave
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Old 03-08-2015, 08:45 PM   #11
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With my limited knowledge of things solar I'm impressed with 233 watts out of 450 watts of panels. My understanding is that panels are rated at best case scenario under impossibly ideal conditions. A very clean looking install on otherwise useless real estate adds up to a win-win in my book.
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Old 03-08-2015, 09:19 PM   #12
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Thanks for the informative post, I've contemplated some solar but have never pursued it because of the lack of suitable mounting locations. I never gave any thought that the bimini was a possibility. I would really appreciate a update in a year on how well this works out for you, I'll try to remember to ask for one.
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Old 03-08-2015, 09:49 PM   #13
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Thanks for the informative post, I've contemplated some solar but have never pursued it because of the lack of suitable mounting locations. I never gave any thought that the bimini was a possibility. I would really appreciate a update in a year on how well this works out for you, I'll try to remember to ask for one.
Ron, once I can kill the engine room heater I will drain the batteries down and pull shore power and see how the data looks. All I need to do now is figure how to dump the data to the laptop.
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Old 03-08-2015, 10:20 PM   #14
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With my limited knowledge of things solar I'm impressed with 233 watts out of 450 watts of panels. My understanding is that panels are rated at best case scenario under impossibly ideal conditions. A very clean looking install on otherwise useless real estate adds up to a win-win in my book.
Craig: Before I reskinned my roof to prepare for new panels, I once saw 155 watts out of my twin 84 watt Kyrocera panels. It was Miami FL and full mid-day sun. Pretty close, huh?
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Old 03-08-2015, 10:24 PM   #15
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That is close Larry, closer than many I've heard about. Being nearer the equator is always a good thing with solar.
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Old 03-08-2015, 11:28 PM   #16
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I work on 50% of theoretical output, if I see that I`m very happy. Most controllers tell you what went into the panels the current day(pun not intended, really,)and 2 days preceding.
Rebel, who hasn`t posted in a while, installed over the bimini canvas, and the canvas people created reinforced holes for the "you know what" bolts to secure them.
With solid panels it is best having airspace of an inch underneath for cooling. If the flexible panels sit on canvas is that ok? Could be, it`s not like an impenetrable surface. The great thing about Dave`s install is the no loss of use of any part of the boat. My location achieves that too, but PV exposure is less optimal.
One thing to watch is battery fluid level, usage can be quite alarming. Mine was worse than it should have been, I mistakenly set the float voltage too high, but still got 5yrs out of the first LA batt which I just replaced. I also turned off monthly equalization, that hammers batts, I understand sulphation comes with chronic undercharging, which is not usually the case with panel fed batts.
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Old 03-09-2015, 07:31 AM   #17
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This has been a very interesting thread for me too.

I had done some thinking about placing a hard top over our aft cabin deck and mounting solid panels but now I am giving some thought to using a canvas top over the aft cabin deck and mounting semi-flexible panels as the OP has done. Michigan isn't ideal for solar panels but I have seen a few. My primary motivation is to do the loop with an extended stop over in Florida.

Looking forward to more posts on performance and suitability of this type of approach.
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Old 03-09-2015, 10:13 AM   #18
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This has been a very interesting thread for me too.

I had done some thinking about placing a hard top over our aft cabin deck and mounting solid panels but now I am giving some thought to using a canvas top over the aft cabin deck and mounting semi-flexible panels as the OP has done.

Me as well...I have an aluminum framed "soft" hardtop over my aft deck that would be the perfect place for flexible panels....

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Old 03-09-2015, 10:32 AM   #19
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Fryedaze,
Curious what $ you figure you have into the project materials? Labor hours?

I have a hardtop where I have been considering mounting two good size panels. I have other projects competing for $.
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Old 03-09-2015, 11:07 AM   #20
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Morningstar TS-MPPT-45 Charge controller $369
TS-RM-2 remote panel $103
3-150 watt semi-flexible panels $897 eBay
50' #10 solar panel cable $31.68 Amazon
(2) Tri MC4 connectors $12 Amazon
(10) MC4 Male /Female connectors$8.49 Amazon, only need two
5 feet #8 tinned cable est $8 West marine
Box connectors $5
Canvas work $300-$500 to en existing top. I needed to replace my canvas anyway so I rolled it into the replacement
Chrome colored wire snake skin, $1/ft

All in $1800

I probably spent 10 hours mounting equipment and running wires, then an additional 4 hours for the wife and I to install the panels and finish the last connections. I work pretty slow
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