Please select your home edition
GJW 2018 728x90

Where is the best place to install a solar panel on my boat?

by Jeff Cote 26 Aug 2018 13:01 UTC
Solar panels on boat © Bluewater Cruising Association

We get this question a lot and it all depends on what type of boat you have and how much solar "real estate" you have available.

The first consideration is shadows. If you own a sailboat, your biggest concern will be the shadows cast by the mast, boom and rigging. On a powerboat, you will have to consider the arch and antennas.

The best place to start is to determine how much space you want to cover in panels, and then purchase the panels to fit the space. On a sailboat, canvas dodgers and biminis are a great place to install flexible solar panels, as they can be sewn directly into the fabric.

If you have a large hardtop, it is possible to glue flexible panels directly onto the surface. If you choose to go with rigid panels, then you will have to build a frame or support to ensure that there is good airflow between the panel and the structure. This is not required for flexible panels.

When the sun is directly overhead, the rays are the most direct and intense. As the sun becomes lower in the sky, the same area of light covers a larger area of Earth, the intensity decreases and the solar panel output decreases. There is a solar angle calculator that estimates the optimum angle to get the most energy from your panel. It works like this: Take your latitude and add 15 degrees for the winter, or subtract 15 degrees for the summer.

For example: if your latitude is 50 degrees, the angle you want to tilt your panels in the winter is: 50 + 15 = 65 degrees. In the summer, it would be: 50 – 15 = 35 degrees. Of course, this calculation varies based on your location in the world and the season. You can actually buy an automated solar tracker, but they are expensive and impractical on the water, especially if you are anchored.

Some boaters who have chosen not to permanently install solar panels, and simply attach them to a railing or lay them on the bow, will actually move the panels throughout the day. This is a big responsibility and many boaters just simply forget.

Therefore, we recommend that you eliminate shadows, maximize solar "real estate" and install the panels to take advantage of the most direct, overhead rays.

This article has been provided by the courtesy of Bluewater Cruising Association.

Related Articles

Calgary Club Night: A South Pacific Odyssey
Escape the Calgary winter and head back to the South Pacific Escape the Calgary winter and head back to the South Pacific with Pam and Ted Simper as they continue their exploration of tropical islands on their 40' Moody, Roundabout II. Posted on 22 Feb
Docking Skills
Learn how to manage docking Improve your docking skills whether you are single-handing or have help, on a sailboat, or a powerboat. Posted on 21 Feb
Electronic Systems: Simplifying Choices
Jeff will provide an overview of the most essential electronics In this informal two-hour presentation, Jeff will provide an overview of the most essential electronics for today's boaters and cruisers. Posted on 16 Feb
Sailing in Chile: Part 3
Interpreting the Guidebook Guidebook writers must be a curious breed. While they provide incredibly useful information in terms of what to expect in an anchorage or in a general area, they don't always give that information in a straightforward manner. Posted on 5 Feb
Victoria to the Sea of Cortez: The Journey Within
The places we journey to within ourselves while cruising Stefa Katamay and Jürgen Harding spent three years preparing themselves and their Tayana 37 Mazu for an offshore voyage from Victoria to San Francisco and then the coastal hop to the Sea of Cortez. Posted on 4 Feb
Rigging Essentials for Smooth Sailing course
Steve White to share years of experience at Jericho Sailing Centre Steve, owner of Steve White Rigging, shares years of experience in this day long course. He will cover preparing your vessel for leaving, maintenance and repairs. As well, he will take an in-depth look at standing and running rigging and winches. Posted on 31 Jan
Calgary Club Night: Buy a boat and sail the Med
Garry and Linda Orme were motor boat owners for over 25 years Garry and Linda Orme were motor boat owners for over 25 years before they took up sailing in 2015. They took their ISPA certifications on the west coast of Canada, then began the journey of buying a sailboat. Posted on 25 Jan
The Eastern Mediterranean - Egypt to Turkey
Cruising through countries often in the throes of unrest Near the end of an 8000 NM one year odyssey from Australia, we continued via countries often in the throes of unrest: Israel, Palestine and Cyprus. In spring 2003 we felt there was a window of opportunity to visit despite traditional conflicts. Posted on 21 Jan
Mbtiles for OpenCPN
A huge step forward for satellite charting Around 2005, mariners who were also computer geeks, began to realize the potential to use satellite imagery alongside nautical charts in poorly charted areas of the world, using (free) services like Google Earth™. Posted on 16 Jan
Passage Making two day seminar
From the psychology of leaving to living in cramped quarters Passage Making is a multi topic two day seminar. From the psychology of leaving to living in cramped quarters, the Gillstroms bring deep knowledge and experience into this conversation. Over the two days, they will cover broad and relevant subjects. Posted on 11 Jan
Grapefruit Graphics 2019 - FooteriSails 2020 - February - FOOTERMarine Resources 2019 - Footer