Solar panels - what's next?
Now that we completed our first season in the Mediterranean Sea and we know how our solar system can be affected by the extreme summer temperatures, the big question is how are we going to tackle this situation. It’s very clear that we want and need to be able to run all our appliances as normal as possible.
Bottom line is we need more power production.
We can and will improve the insulation of the fridges and freezer but that itself won’t change the current situation dramatically and we are not replacing the main fridge at the moment, that may happen at some point but not in the next few years (we hope).
So, after some serious re-thinking of our current solar installation and the efficiency of the flexible panels, or in this case how they seem to be affected by the higher temperatures, the decision is quite obvious to us, it’s time to move to new rigid solar panels. The market has already evolved a fair bit since our original purchase of panels and efficiency levels are getting better, justifying the new investment.
As a result of some querying the internet groups and research, we have come down to two different solar panel specifications that interest us. Both models have the same physical dimensions and weight, the difference is on the wattage output, 335w and 360w and of course the price.
(for the relevant specification link click the desired watt number highlighted in orange above)
Because the dimensions are the same on both models we can focus immediately on the installation details and leave the final decision of which panel model we are getting to be based on the price, availability and possibility of delivery in a place yet to be determined (this will affect the final price in both cases).
One of our biggest concerns has always been the addition of even more weight to the stern of The Dream, hence the current flexible installation of the panels directly on the Bimini frame avoiding the addition of an arch, but now that we are moving to rigid panels it requires more attention to the reinforcing and mounting details.
On the other hand more watts don’t come for "free" when it comes to the panel sizes and these new panels will be much bigger than the current ones, the best location to install them however is the place where the current ones are to avoid shading from the boom and mainsail as much as possible (the current installation gets little shading, pretty much only while sailing and when the sun is in a certain position).
Having all this in mind and after measuring the available area "property" we already concluded that we can only have a maximum of 3 panels in the least shaded area because of the width limitations from the backstays.
3 panels will only give us 1005w or 1080w depending on the model. And this is already a big improvement from the current 720w and for sure that with much better efficiency numbers the actual power production capacity will increase considerably!
But we are greedy for power and our brains never stop thinking, so we have a few options on the table for consideration
Current installation - 4 panels
The current installation is of 4 flexible panels giving 720w and a total added weight to the Bimini frame of around 15kg including the mounting backing panels, etc.
Option 1 - 3 panels
This will gives 1005w or 1080w and a total of added weight to the Bimini frame of at least 56 kg (not counting any additional reinforcement or connections).
Option 2 - 4 panels
In this case, we would get 1340w or 1440w and a total of added weight to the Bimini frame of at least 75 kg.
Option 3 - 5 panels
In this case, we would get 1675w or 1800w and a total of added weight to the Bimini frame of at least 93 kg.