Even though the title may conjure up images of Tim (the Toolman) Taylor, I don’t really have some sort of neanderthal need for MORE POWER, OOH, OOH, OOH! No, I’d just be happy if we can anchor out for a week or so at a time, be able to run all the stuff we need, including the fridge and the watermaker, without having to fire up the Honda generator. On our long trip back down from San Carlos last winter/spring, we discovered that we were almost self-sufficient with just the solar panels. However, whenever we decided to run the watermaker, I always started up the generator just in case. Never really had the nerve to try running it on just the solar panels.
One of the goodies we brought back down from the States this time was a pair of larger solar panels. Our old panels were 80 watts each (6.7 amps at 12 volts) for a total of 160 watts (13.4 amps). Of course, you never get that much unless the panels are in exactly the right position at exactly the right ambient temperature with absolutely NO shadows on them anywhere. And even then, it’s unlikely we’d actually see 13 amps. So, the numbers aren’t really good for much of anything except as a guideline and as means of comparison.
Our old panels were approximately 20″ x 45″ and I didn’t think the real estate available would actually support anything much larger. However, since we bought our panels back in 2009, the power:physical size ratio has gone up quite a bit. 80 watt panels were about as large as we could support space-wise back in ’09. But, after doing a little shopping on the internet, I found that we could now get a panel the put out half again as much power (120 watts) in a space only about 5″-6″ larger in each dimension than our old panels. As a bonus, two of these panels cost about what one of the 80 watt units cost back in 2009.
I installed the panels the other day and they seem quite a bit larger than the old panels although I’m getting used to them now.
Seems sort of crazy to do this upgrade not too long before we plan to put the boat to bed for awhile but when I ordered the panels the idea of an epic road trip wasn’t even a germ of an idea yet. We’re looking forward to going out and finding out what these babies will do for us. I suppose I could unplug the umbilical cord and test them dockside but I don’t like to run the watermaker dockside where the water is of questionable quality. Guess we’ll just have to wait until next spring to see if we’re energy self- sufficient yet or not.