Solar Panel Installation Aboard
SHEARWATER

By Tom and Kaye Assenmacher
Kinsale
, VA

Hit Counter Visits Since 7/12/2009

About 4 years ago, prior to our cruise to the Bahamas in 2006-2007, we decided to become more 'energy independent' by installing 2 (85 Watt) solar panels above the dodger.  These panels have really reduced our dependence on running the engine (with 80 amp Balmar alternator).    This spring, we decided to install another solar panel (this one is 130  Watts) on top of our Bimini.  This installation increases our electrical  independence by a large amount.  So far, in relatively sunny conditions, the combined panels appear to be handling our electrical needs (radio/computer usage; lighting; refrigeration (a very old Adler-Barbour Cold Machine); water pumping, etc.  We are currently using a Morningstar ProStar 15 Solar Controller (sort of a smart voltage regulator in the alternator sense), but have purchased (but not yet installed) a newer type of Solar Controller called a Maximum Point Power Tracking (MPPT) solar controller.  The MPPT controller takes advantage of the higher voltage produced by solar panels (in the 17 Volt DC range).

 

The Bimini and Dodger panel mounting "Rails" were fabricated from 1" square aluminum tubing (1/16" wall thickness), and the mating "Rails" on the Solar Panel(s) were fabricated from 1" aluminum 90 Deg. 'L' cross section lengths (1/16" wall thickness).  The 'tilting' supports were fabricated from 1" aluminum (1/8" cross section) strap material.  The "Tabs" for tilting were fabricated from 1" aluminum strap material (3/16" thickness).

 

Stainless steel ball pins were used to secure the panels in both the stowed operation position and also in the tilted operation position.

 

The following photos show the (complete to date) solar panel installation, with emphasis on the Bimini Installation.  The Dodger installation is very similar to the Bimini installation.  This installation may not appeal to all cruisers, but it "Works For US"!

Beginning of Solar Panel Installation On Bimini
(Solar Panels Previously Installed On Dodger)

 

Installing 'Rails' On Bimini

 

Looking Aft Over Dodger To Bimini (With Rails Installed)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rails With "Tabs" Installed
(Tabs Used When Tilting Solar Panel)

 

Installing "L" shaped rails to the Bimini Solar Panel

 

Stiffeners Added To Help "Rigidize" the Bimini Frame

 

Solar Panel Rails Are Through-Bolted Through the Bimini Cover And The Bimini Frame
With 1/4" SS Bolts

 

Solar Panel Rails Are Through-Bolted Through the Bimini Cover And The Bimini Frame

 

Solar Panel Installation Complete (In Stowed Operation Position)

 

Dodger Solar Panel In Tilted (To Port) Operation Position
(Panels May Be Also Tilted To Starboard, And Also Tilted Fore-Aft - Note The Pins Holding Tilt Supports In Place)

 

Bimini Solar Panel In Tilted (To Port) Operation Position
(Panels May Be Also Tilted To Starboard, And Also Tilted Fore-Aft - Pins Are Also Used To Fix The Panels In Place In The Stowed Operation Position)

 

Showing Both Panels In Tilted Position

 

Again, Showing Panels In Tilted Operation Position
Note The Boom Hauled To Starboard To Avoid Shadows On Panels

 

Tilted Operation Position

 

ProStar-15 'Smart' Solar Controller
(Currently In Use)

 

MPPT Type Solar Controller
(To Be Installed)

(Posted 7/12/2009)