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Old 07-17-2014, 10:11 PM   #41
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Just wanted to say that this post has helped me immensely. Thanks to all for their insight, experience, and knowledge of solar. I plan on supplying most of my daily use with solar. With approx 64 sqft of surface, it should suffice. I'm not a "dooms day prepper", but do find comfort in knowing that I will always have free (except for initial cost), environmental clean power if things ever went bad (ie ZOMBIES ).

Thanks again!

Josh
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Old 08-04-2014, 10:20 PM   #42
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Well, it seems a lot of the basics have been covered here, so I will just add our experience. We installed two 245w panels a couple of years ago and are very happy with them. We are full time cruisers and away from the docks ‘out there’ from sometime in March until the beginning of November when things turn too stormy. (Except this summer where are taking a break to help out my Wife’s folks). As such, we produce all our electrify on-board. Given the cost of diesel generation I figure our solar system will pay for its self in under 4 years. And all that time I get to listen to less generator run time!

The biggest cost and hassle was the panels themselves. Costs have dropped massively from a few years ago, easily under $1/watt these days, but this is almost exclusively with the large ‘house size’ panels. The sweet spot for them raise every year and are perhaps around 280-290w these days? But the problem with them is shipping – it can cost as much, or more, to ship a couple of panels as the panels them self. Purchasing local is the key. We talked to a local supplier who added a couple extra panels to the next pallet stack he ordered and got panels for a very reasonable price. Being in CA, you likely have many local options to pick from.

Finally, our MPPT controller has data logging capability, and I have tracked a couple of years of actual output. The following link to our blog has a year’s worth of data posted, as well as a link to a modeling process where you can predict rather closely the exact power output for any setup you will be considering. (I just could not live with 'Lots', 'All We need', 'Recharges batteries by 10am', nor 'I have no idea' that I got when asking folks for their experiences)

mv.VikingStar: A Year with Solar, or is it: “Wait until he figures out what a monumental waste of money that was”. . . . .


Good luck to you!
-al-
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Old 08-06-2014, 06:39 AM   #43
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The KEY to solar is the reefer load.

A boat with a high efficiency reefer is not that hard to go solar.

With a crap reefer the solar/battery/inverter costs get out of sight.
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Old 08-06-2014, 08:24 AM   #44
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The KEY to solar is the reefer load.

A boat with a high efficiency reefer is not that hard to go solar.

With a crap reefer the solar/battery/inverter costs get out of sight.
Agree in part. With a 110/220 volt refrigerator it would be more difficult to eliminate the use of a generator, but any reduction in use of the generator is a cost savings which may pay for the cost of the solar panels over time.
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Old 08-06-2014, 09:35 AM   #45
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My very small Home Depot frig-freezer, small apartment sz 19"x 44" and it pulls 90watts add in inverter easily totals 96 watts / 12 = 8amps+ at 12 volts. I can run my 3 2.5 amp Engles for that. Domestics wit Danfoss are about 3 amps at 12. Just to give ya an idea. In the AM I run the generator about an hour or so to make water, coffee, heat water, but I could forgo that if I do not need water. The PO put in one hell a system. 735 w solar, 400 w wind 1125 amps battery.
I am convinced that solar is the answer for our country need for electric energy, must be, considering how hard the electric companies are fighting it.
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Old 08-06-2014, 08:49 PM   #46
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Well, it seems a lot of the basics have been covered here, so I will just add our experience. We installed two 245w panels a couple of years ago and are very happy with them. We are full time cruisers and away from the docks ‘out there’ from sometime in March until the beginning of November when things turn too stormy. (Except this summer where are taking a break to help out my Wife’s folks). As such, we produce all our electrify on-board. Given the cost of diesel generation I figure our solar system will pay for its self in under 4 years. And all that time I get to listen to less generator run time!

The biggest cost and hassle was the panels themselves. Costs have dropped massively from a few years ago, easily under $1/watt these days, but this is almost exclusively with the large ‘house size’ panels. The sweet spot for them raise every year and are perhaps around 280-290w these days? But the problem with them is shipping – it can cost as much, or more, to ship a couple of panels as the panels them self. Purchasing local is the key. We talked to a local supplier who added a couple extra panels to the next pallet stack he ordered and got panels for a very reasonable price. Being in CA, you likely have many local options to pick from.

Finally, our MPPT controller has data logging capability, and I have tracked a couple of years of actual output. The following link to our blog has a year’s worth of data posted, as well as a link to a modeling process where you can predict rather closely the exact power output for any setup you will be considering. (I just could not live with 'Lots', 'All We need', 'Recharges batteries by 10am', nor 'I have no idea' that I got when asking folks for their experiences)

mv.VikingStar: A Year with Solar, or is it: “Wait until he figures out what a monumental waste of money that was”. . . . .


Good luck to you!
-al-
That is great data, and extremely helpful. I didn't see it mentioned, but I assume you are 12 volts, and in the PNW are generating around 1800 watts per day during the cruising season, or about 3.5 times the total rated wattage of the panels daily. Am I calculating that correctly?
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Old 08-06-2014, 10:12 PM   #47
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Hello,
I have been reading this thread with a lot of interest. I have been looking for Sunpower panels 327w or 345w for a while. One question I have - has anyone had any problems with solar putting a low amp charge into the batteries and causing sulfation?
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Old 08-07-2014, 12:49 AM   #48
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One question I have - has anyone had any problems with solar putting a low amp charge into the batteries and causing sulfation?
No. I think sulfation comes from a chronic undercharged state rather than a slow rate of charge. Might be different if the rate is so low batts never get fully charged.
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Old 08-07-2014, 03:15 AM   #49
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Being a solar virgin so to speak, can anyone give me an idea as to the average life expectancy of solar panels?

Given that most electrical equipment on boats tend to lead a tough life, especially those in salt water, will a marine environment unduly affect the operation of the panels and their connectors?
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Old 08-07-2014, 07:08 AM   #50
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Given that most electrical equipment on boats tend to lead a tough life, especially those in salt water, will a marine environment unduly affect the operation of the panels and their connectors?
Andy

The solar panels on Bay Pelican are the one item that has not suffered from salt water corrosion. I would think the key is to minimize the electrical connections on the exterior of the boat. In my case I used an unspliced cable from the panels directly to the solar controller on the inside of the boat. This is probably standard installation technique. The panels themselves, at least those in the marine world, appear to have connection boxes which are weather resistant.
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Old 08-07-2014, 07:41 AM   #51
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Old 08-07-2014, 09:48 AM   #52
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That is great data, and extremely helpful. I didn't see it mentioned, but I assume you are 12 volts, and in the PNW are generating around 1800 watts per day during the cruising season, or about 3.5 times the total rated wattage of the panels daily. Am I calculating that correctly?
Thanks, I was so frustrated by not being able to get hard data, thought might try and ease the pain for others :-)

Yes, 12v. I pulled the Wh data as well, but have not plotted it. Will do & so post it. I decided to go the Ah way as boaters seem most comfortable with that unit of measurement, incomplete as it is.

Scanning the data, there were a lot of 2,000 - 2,500w or so days during June/July/Aug - will put up a new chart later today.

-al-
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Old 08-07-2014, 09:51 AM   #53
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The KEY to solar is the reefer load.

A boat with a high efficiency reefer is not that hard to go solar.

With a crap reefer the solar/battery/inverter costs get out of sight.
Aside from refrigeration and freezer loads, we have been a bit surprise just how much computers can take - even our laptops. Doing a bit of work-from-the-boat, and the others face-book time we rack up a few hours a day. It can add up in Ah draw much quicker then I would have expected.
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Old 08-07-2014, 11:42 AM   #54
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Aside from refrigeration and freezer loads, we have been a bit surprise just how much computers can take - even our laptops. Doing a bit of work-from-the-boat, and the others face-book time we rack up a few hours a day. It can add up in Ah draw much quicker then I would have expected.
My netbook draws 11 watts, wife's 14" laptop 35 watts.
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Old 08-07-2014, 01:26 PM   #55
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Another power hog is sat tv boxes.
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Old 08-07-2014, 01:40 PM   #56
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Another power hog is sat tv boxes.
Living at anchor I have put in an on/off switch for power to the stereo, TV and all such boxes. The phantom draw when nothing was "on" was significant.
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Old 08-07-2014, 01:59 PM   #57
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I went back and created a chart from the Wh/day log file out of our TriStar MPPT controller. Also noted I have another Ah graph that includes about 18mo of data, a full cruising season + a major part of a 2nd one. Here are the two graphs:










Note the Ah one includes the predicted output as reference. For a bit more info on our experience with Solar panels, these graphs came from here:

mv.VikingStar: Solar


And Delfin, the average daily Wh output from our 480W (2x-240w) total of panels in 2013 was:
Apr: 1,410-Wh / day
May: 1,880-Wh / day
June: 2,194-Wh / day
July: 2,502-Wh / day
Aug: 1,695-Wh /day
Sept: 1,019-Wh / day

Refer to the above link for details on our setup.

Because we are away from the dock so much out of a year the panels are a no brainier. Doing everything again I likely would have doubled up on the panels, cut our house battery size in half - and perhaps forgo the DC generator... But the real answer comes down to individual usage patterns. For me, the best part of the above graphs is how the modeled/predicted output matched well the actual measured results. With tools out there it is easy to model any potential setup located about anywhere in the world.

-al-
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Old 08-07-2014, 09:11 PM   #58
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I went back and created a chart from the Wh/day log file out of our TriStar MPPT controller. Also noted I have another Ah graph that includes about 18mo of data, a full cruising season + a major part of a 2nd one. Here are the two graphs:










Note the Ah one includes the predicted output as reference. For a bit more info on our experience with Solar panels, these graphs came from here:

mv.VikingStar: Solar


And Delfin, the average daily Wh output from our 480W (2x-240w) total of panels in 2013 was:
Apr: 1,410-Wh / day
May: 1,880-Wh / day
June: 2,194-Wh / day
July: 2,502-Wh / day
Aug: 1,695-Wh /day
Sept: 1,019-Wh / day

Refer to the above link for details on our setup.

Because we are away from the dock so much out of a year the panels are a no brainier. Doing everything again I likely would have doubled up on the panels, cut our house battery size in half - and perhaps forgo the DC generator... But the real answer comes down to individual usage patterns. For me, the best part of the above graphs is how the modeled/predicted output matched well the actual measured results. With tools out there it is easy to model any potential setup located about anywhere in the world.

-al-
Again, thank you so much for objective data. This is most compelling information. We use around 5 kw per day, mostly because we run Delfin pretty much like a condo on water. No problem if we are moving, but I have to recharge after 36 hours on the hook. I am pretty sure we could fit slightly more than you have room for over our pilot house and it looks like we would potentially get half of what we use from solar, and that is nothing to sneeze at. And, if we made an effort to conserve (not our strong suit), we might be able to get closer to breakeven. The fact you are in the PNW where we are is a huge advantage in the utility of your data, so again, much appreciated.
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Old 08-08-2014, 07:00 AM   #59
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Superb info. For a change, I'm sure glad to be in the sunny State of FL.
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Old 08-08-2014, 12:17 PM   #60
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You are welcome for the data - I was sooo frustrated when I started things out not being able to find solid answers, I made a vow to collect real info and share it.

Now, I think the one thing that surprised me the most was how close our actuals tracked with the predicted. I went about predictions the hard way, and then found this tool: PVWatts Calculator

It is designed for land installs, but with some simple tricks can be used to product very accurate results for a marine/boat install as well. For fun, I used this tool just now - and looked at the differences between Friday Harbor up in the PNW, and Key Largo, down in the Sunshine State. Here is what I got for our 480W/12v system:



Kind of interesting to see that during the peak 'cruising' months predict more out of our Solar Panels up North then in Florida! Because the modeler uses actual data as its input (you pick a reference point to use), it can make adjustments not only for latitude, but also typical cloud cover.

I have some more details about this tool, and how to make adjustments for 'marine' use here: mv.VikingStar: Solar Panels on the Boat - Modeling and Performance

And before folks start abandoning Florida for the sunnier PNW, better remind folks about all the floating debris/logs waiting to hole your hull - Mosquitoes with first and last names, and what ever I can come up with
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