10/25/2013 – More POWER!!!!

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.

240 watts (20 amps @ 12 volts) of pure power from Old Sol.  And a privacy screen to boot.

240 watts (20 amps @ 12 volts) of pure power from Old Sol. And a privacy screen to boot.

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.


About sryoder

Steve & Lulu... retired. Had enough of the cold wet dreary fall/winter/spring in the Pacific Northwest. Bought a boat, fixed it up, sold our home and sailed to Mexico in November, 2010. Been here ever since except for occasional forays to the States (summer only, thank you) to visit the kids, parents and siblings. If you're looking for a sailing blog, this is the wrong place. This is a traveling, hunkering in, eating blog. Sailing is just how we get from place to place when we can't walk.
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3 Responses to 10/25/2013 – More POWER!!!!

  1. Steve,
    Can you dish on the manufacturer and where you bought these panels.? Also what kind of controller are you using?

    • sryoder says:

      I bought these panels mail-order from the altE store out of Hudson, MA. They are the ALT120-12P polycrystalline panels. Shipping from MA to OR was $70. At the time I ordered them I knew that I wanted polycrystalline although now I can’t really remember why that was? Price? Less sensitive to partial shadowing? Can’t remember for sure but I’m sure it was a very good reason. Other than that I was using a formula that started with the physical size we could handle, then how many watts could I get in that size and finally who had the cheapest panels that fit those requirements. I reused our Magma BBQ mounting brackets for fastening them to the rails.

      We’re using a Blue Sky Energy Solar Boost 2512i 25A MPPT charge controller. Our new panels have about maxed it out amp-wise. No complaints so far.

      Sure do envy you all that engine room space but, even more, your workbench.

      • Thanks for the recommendations on the solar panel and controller. the Alt E Store looks like a great resource and I am impressed with how reasonable the prices on Solar panels have become. I also see that the controller you have will actually take up to 40VDC panels. I noticed that 20VDC panels are becoming a bit more common and might be a better fit is some cases.

        The work bench is looking good. Wish me luck on our shaft coupling operation today. I’ve got a good feeling about this can of Kroil and an impact wrench.

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