Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Solar Panel Installation

Cruising boats and solar panels just go together. But the way they get mounted is as individual as the cruisers themselves. Here we see how Jeff and Anne addressed the mounting on s/v C'est la Vie. Also, please note that the hard bimini top that they installed in 2010 gets replaced as a part of this prioject.
The addition of a photo-voltaic (PV) system to C'est la Vie has long resided on our wish list.  Thanks to Ben V., an friend and co-worker who's previous profession was solar installations, for providing the expertise to jump start this project.  We ordered two Sunmodule 80W panels and a BlueSky Solar Boost 2000E charge controller from altE. The size of the panels was a compromise between energy production and mounting space.  I'm certain many cruisers are faced with the same dilemma... want / need bigger panels, but lack suitable mounting options.

The equipment arrived in early March.

About a month ago I installed the BlueSky Charge Controller in the electrical panel.

BlueSky Charge controller is on the upper right of image

Then progress on the PV system installation took a back seat to painting and the cabin sole refinishing.  With the painting & refinishing projects nearly astern, we are now directing our efforts back to PV system.  Next step... mounting the two panels.

Our original FRP Bimini, installed in June 2010 (see Fitting Day For the New Bimini) held up well, but was beginning to show it's age... one ripped back corner the result of an accidental jibe and a couple cracks along fittings at the gallows.  All told we are very pleased with the performance of the FRP and elected to replace the bimini with a new sheet, $38 for a 4' x 8' piece at Lowes.  Experience taught us the best way to cut the material is with a fine tooth circular saw for long straight cuts, a hole saw for circles, and a dremel tool with cut off blade for short precise cuts or broad arcs.

We used the old bimini as a template for the new.  Once the centerline of the new bimini was secured to the frame via conduit clamps (see image below), we placed the solar panel on top and debated the best options for mounting.

The new bimini quickly took on a swiss cheese
look as we cut out access points for the solar panel installation

We decided to screw the forward panel frame directly to the wooden gallows.  The rear section of the panel is attached directly to the bimini frame via two conduit clamps.  The FRP bimini is also attached directly to the solar panel frame via machine screws & nuts along the leading edge.  Facilitating access to all the fasteners required five cut outs on each side of the bimini.

Port side bimini & panel installation from below.

From below the only noticeable difference are the cut-outs and the addition of two conduit clamps along the rear frame.  One pair of 10ga wires for each panel will exit the bimini and snake down to a through deck fitting, but that is tomorrow's project.

From above the panels' only shade will come from the mainsail.  Unfortunately the panels are not adjustable to track the sun, but outfitting a cruising boat is all about compromises.

The view from above.  The only shade will come from the mainsail.

From afar the panels are relatively obscure and do not add clutter to C'est la Vie's profile.

The starboard panel from afar. 
The installation adds little windage or profile
clutter beyond already existed from gallows and bimini. 

The panels will add to the difficulty to securing the mainsail boot.  Due largely to the boom gallows and the cut of our new mainsail, I do not feel the panels will be in any danger from the main sail hardware or sheet.

We created a photo album to document the PV project... Solar Power - Spring 2013

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