A Solar System of my Very Own!
I've always been intrigued with alternative energy systems and wanted to install one on Chameleon mainly for the experience and knowledge gained from building the system myself. Due to the way we currently use our boat (daysailing and the occasional overnight) our needs were not that great. I did a calculation of our electric needs based on current consumption of our onboard electronics and found that a 50 watt panel would probably suffice to replenish our batteries on a bright sunny day. I ended up purchasing two 60 watt monocrystalline panels off Ebay for $120.00. One panel will be mounted on the stern of the boat to provide power while on the water. The second panel I pole mounted beside the boathouse so I can keep Chameleon plugged in when we are out of the water. I absolutely hate having to remember to connect battery chargers every few weeks to keep the batteries topped off and in good health. Now it's all automatic! BONUS: should our power needs increase over the years this system is expandable! But everyone knows that would never happen, right?
Uhh, what's the Captain up to now? Is he trying to contact the aliens? I can just hear what crew and visitors are thinking upon setting eyes on this contraption. The pole mount itself was an old, re-purposed satellite dish that I cut the LNB arm off of. For panel support I bolted two 3/4" square tubes to the face of the dish. All materials here were pulled from my scrap metal pile. Total cost: $0.00
Luckily this eyesore was only visible for a few days while I was awaiting a storm system to move off. 2014 has to be the wettest October in our history. The month is not even half thru and we have already received over 9" of rain. After the latest deluge moved off to soak the eastern seaboard I was able to get the 60 watt panel mounted and hooked up. Power began to flow and lights began to glow. I feared that due to the length of cable I would experience some voltage drop but I was getting a steady 20V input and both batteries were receiving a 14.7V charge which tapered off once the batteries had their fill.
Inside the cabin I mounted a 20 Amp PWM dual battery solar controller also purchased off Ebay. I ran a pair of 10 AWG cables 23 feet in length and equipped with MC4 connectors through the aft motor control gland and into the bilge where it terminates at the controller. Instead of drilling one large hole to accommodate the six cables running to the controller, I opted to drill two smaller 9/16" hole to keep things tidier. I then ran another pair of 50' line along the roof of the boathouse to connect to the fixed solar panel.
150' cable: $75.00
I still need to mount the secondary panel which will most likely find a home on the starboard aft quarter. I'll post more on that once I get a mounting system figured out. Right now I will move on to my next project which is the installation of our new AirHead toilet.
Total cost of the PV system: $218.00
Cost of sunlight powering all Chameleon's systems during off season: Priceless!