Celtic Lady Wide-Beam Canal Barge

"I recommended three ultra-high-efficiency 135W monocrystalline panels, which are ideally suited to the UK's changeable weather and a canal barge's constantly changing shadow / sun positions."

Chris Betteridge, Narrowboat Specialist

Company : CJB Services

Celtic Lady is a widebeam canal barge, which was recently bought by Nick, with a view to it becoming his permanent home. In partnership with a narrowboat specialist, Chris Betteridge of CJB Services, Nick needed us to give the dying battery bank and somewhat 'interesting' electrical system a complete overhaul and fit solar panels.

After spending time with Nick, evaluating his likely power usage and time between bank hook-ups, it was decided to fit a 3000W Victron inverter/charger, looking after a new 700Ah battery bank (Trojan AGM). In addition to the ability to switch between shorepower, a backup generator and the new battery bank, Nick needed the ability to guarantee power, even when not connected to the mains. To support this, Chris recommended three ultra-high-efficiency 135W monocrystalline panels, which are ideally suited to the UK's changeable weather and a canal barge's constantly changing shadow / sun positions.

Working on any kind of water-craft is always a bit of a challenge, mainly because of the cramped locations for items that you want out of the way, for example the battery bank down in the engine compartment. After a few hours removing old batteries, constructing a new support shelf for the bank and wiring everything together, there was certainly a sore back or two!

Once the new bank was in, the solar panels were fitted to Celtic Lady's vast roof. To balance up the appearance of the barge and to limit cable lengths (to reduce voltage losses), the three panels were mounted at the stern end, using aluminium mounting brackets with the horizontal legs underneath the panels. These were bonded to the roof to avoid having to drill and seal. The three cables were fed through the rear overhang of the roof, through waterproof cable entry glands. These cables were then fed through into the cabin area, where a Steca PR3030 solar charge controller with LCD (30A 12/24V) was fitted onto the outside of the electrical cabinet. The Steca was then connected directly to the 700Ah 12V battery bank using 2 x 4.0mm twin core cable, the panels were covered with the packing boxes they arrived in and then the three panel cables wired into the Steca. Despite managing to accidentally reverse the polarity on the battery-controller connection, once that was changed over, the panels were uncovered and the system was charging.

We chose the Victron Multiplus inverter charger range for a number of reasons. The Multiplus is able to swap between AC and DC power sources seamlessly (within 20ms), with priority to the 240V input. This meant that we were able to wire both the batteries and the new shore-power connection cable directly into the inverter/charger. For safety and regulatory compliance, a 200A fuse and battery isolation switch were fitted between the batteries and the inverter. The connecting socket for shorepower was mounted on the throttle column for easy access and wired into the AC input on the inverter. Now, whenever Nick connects to a mains supply or fires up the generator, the Victron automatically switches to the AC supply and fast charges the batteries, as well as feeding 240V directly into the cabin. Another feature of the Victron (only on 3+kW units), is that there is an auxillary AC output. AC1 is always on, whereas the auxillary AC2 is only on when mains/generator is connected. AC2 will later be connected to the onboard immersion heater, through it's own RCB and supply as per safety regulations.

Equipment Used:

1 x Victron Multiplus 3000W 12V 120A inverter charger

3 x Cleversolar CS-135 high efficiency monocrystalline solar panels

7 x Trojan 100Ah AGM batteries

1 x Steca PR3030 solar charge controller

1 x Victron BMV-602S battery voltage monitor

1 x Victron DMC remote display / control panel

1 x 200A inline fuse and 1 x battery isolation switch

3 x 5m 'clever-clip' solar cable sets

20m twin-core 4mm solar cable, 20m arctic blue mains cable, 25mm battery cables