Friday, July 30, 2010

Mounting solar panels

Steve on s/v Siempre Sabado tells us how he mounted his new solar panels.  He had to address the problem that Eolian and many other cruisers have: the proliferation of things hanging off the stern pulpit.
I finally got one of my two solar panels hung up yesterday. Still have to hang the other one and then do all the wiring but at least I've gotten started. Actually I'm ahead of schedule on this. We didn't actually plan to be able to afford solar panels for another couple of months. But with the money that Lulu made sewing cushions we were able to buy the anchor chain, freeing the anchor chain money up for solar panels.

First, I had to figure out where to mount them. Stern pulpits, side rails, dodger and bimini tops, and stern arches are all common mounting spots.

Well, our stern pulpit is already full of stuff (outboard motor, BBQ, Lifesling), all of which would have to be moved and all of which have similar mounting requirements as the panels.

We don't have any rails beyond the bow and stern pulpits. It's all wire lifelines after that and you can't hang the panels from flexible lifelines.

Our dodger isn't big enough and we don't have a bimini. And we definitely don't have a stern arch like the one on the Westsail 28 in this photo (those rectangular things way up high are the solar panels):

Obviously I was going to have to make something. I decided the best idea was to parallel the first length of lifeline forward of the stern pulpit with a 1" stainless steel handrail. This would give us somewhere to mount the panels and also add a little more security in the cockpit. Without having some custom welding done, I couldn't just parallel the lifelines because, although it's easy enough to find fittings to use on the 1" stanchion at one end, attaching a 1" horizontal piece to the 2" boom gallows upright at the aft end was going to be problematic. So, after tossing and turning in bed a few nights, I finally decided to take the path of least resistance and not try to attach to the boom gallows. Instead I would install another vertical stanchion. I'm sure that's about as clear as swamp water so here's a couple of pictures instead:

Lifelines are still in place so this is just redundant safety. At the aft end, where it looks like I used rope to tie it to the boom gallows, it's actually tarred marline. I ran about 5 loops of marline to connect the handrail and the gallows and then tightened the whole thing up by wrapping more marline around the loop. The pieces are now bar-tight. They're just there to stiffen things up and are not really intended as safety features. On the bottom piece I finally remembered how to macrame so it came out with a nice running spiral. The top piece is sort of a floundering embarrassment and will have to be redone. Otherwise I'll just have to tell everyone that Lulu did it.

So, with that done, all that was left was to actually hang the panel. I installed 4 lengths of aluminum angle (3/4 x 3/4) to the back of the panel so that I'd be able to attach my hangers anywhere along the height of the panel that worked best. For now, I'm just using electrical conduit clamps (4 per panel) to attach to the rail. I'm not entirely convinced they'll be strong enough in the long run but that's about all that was available in Newport. They'll work for now until I find something better.

And, finally, the finished product. We be lookin' salty now, eh, mate?


  1. This is what I love about solar panels, you can install it almost everywhere wherever you need it. You will never run out of solar energy as long as you have the solar panels installed.


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