Solar Panels on Narrowboat Charlotte II

"I don't want to rely on shore-power or need to run the engine to keep the batteries topped up. I want to fit solar panels, but donn't want them to detract from Charlotte's sleek lines.


Narrowboat Charlotte II

Andrew recently bought Charlotte II from the 'Bruce Wake Charitable Trust' in Upton, who had done a fantastic job fitting her out and maintaining her. Charlotte II is Andrew's first narrowboat and he plans to liveaboard all year round. 

Concerned about being reliant on shore-power or having to run the engine to keep the batteries topped up, Andrew wanted to fit solar panels, but didn't want them to detract from Charlotte's sleek lines. After meeting with our expert, Chris Betteridge, we decided to start with 300W of panels, which should produce up to 2000Wh of solar power during summer. Knowing that the panels may fall a little short in the winter, we made sure that the system can be safely expanded to 500W by fitting a 30A Steca PR3030 charge controller. 

To meet Andrew's requirements to fit panels that were as unobtrusive as possible, we opted for the new FLEX-100 flexible monocrystalline panels. Since Charlotte II is an ex-charity boat that had been modified for disabled access, there are a lot more fittings on the roof than normal, so finding the right place for the three panels was a little tricky. Eventually, we managed to locate the panels so that they were relatively symmetrical and we were able to run the cables to the electrical area with only one hole in the roof! Normally, we would have used Sikaflex 252 to bond the panels. However, since Andrew is thinking about having the boat repainted in the next 6-12 months, we opted for a slightly less permanent adhesive* and used 10-pence piece sized 'blobs' down the long sides of the panel. This means that the boatyard can more easily remove the panels for repainting when the time comes. After the paintwork is complete, Andrew plans to use the Sikaflex to fit the panels permanently.

(*we used Evo-Stick 'Wet Grab' in this case)

The overall result is a solar system that blends well with the narrowboat, but still offers great performance.

Equipment Used:

3 x FLEX-100 monocrystalline solar panels

1 x Steca PR3030 solar charge controller

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

10m twin-core 4mm solar cable, 5m twin-core 6mm solar cable, 1 x 30A inline mini fuse holder