Boat and Marine (Solar Panels)

"Solar panels for boats and marine applications have long been one of the best methods of generating power away from the marina and, as such, there are a number of products on the market designed especially for the marine environment."

One of the biggest problems when installing a solar energy system on a boat is the lack of space. To overcome this, there are a number of boat solar panels that have been designed so that they can be walked on, maximising the use of available deck space. Some marine solar panels have the added benefit of being light enough so that they can be hung from a mast or boom. Where there is sufficient space on the boat to install glass-fronted solar panels (which can't be walked on), unlike other manufacturers, we are comfortable for our solar panels to be used in salt-water environments; in fact, our panels are often used as a power source for buoys and lighthouses.

As with all solar installations, the first stage is an 'energy audit' of the boat. During this process, we need to work out how much power we use on a daily basis (in watt-hours). This information allows us to decide how much energy we want to produce with solar panels and therefore how large the panel(s) need to be. One of the most important things is to be realistic as to how much energy we can expect from solar on our boat, given the UK climate. Our Our Solar Calculators will do these calculations for you, but we typically use a very conservative estimate of 70% efficiency for 5-hours a day in order to ensure that we create a system that will work effectively all year round.

Navigation lights (10hrs) = 240Wh (20Ah*)

Internal lighting (4hrs) = 192Wh (16Ah*)

Instruments (24hrs) = 144Wh (12Ah*)

Bilge/water pump (1hr) = 60Wh (5Ah*)

Miscellaneous = 96Wh (8Ah*)

TOTAL usage = 732Wh (51Ah*)

Based on a requirement to produce 732Wh a day throughout the whole year, we recommend installing between 100W and 200W of solar panels. However, in reality, most people use their boats primarily in the Summer months and therefore, the size of the marine solar power system can be reduced significantly, but up to 50% to 100W.

Perhaps one of the best approaches is to fit a system that can be grown over time. As long as the charge controller is large enough (15A for a 200W solar system), you can initially install a much smaller solar panel and then add additional panels based on actual usage and performance. Since every solar installation is different, this is the most accurate way of working out how large the solar panels need to be for a boat installation.

Contact us at Leading Edge for help and advice about marine solar panels for boats.