Solar panels

Today the stainless steel specialists has started to install the frame for the solar panels and the dinghy. On one hand it hurts a bit to see the beautiful sailing boat transforming into a more practical cruiser boat, but on the other hand that is exactly what we want.

It’s almost magic what the specialists can do with the steel parts. We are so lucky with them. They are really good experts, work beautifully and also very nice people.

Why do we need solar panels?

We will tell more about the technical details of the boat later, now we just would like to give an overview of our options generating electricity.

Although the electric systems of the boat run from a 12V battery, there is also a 230V domestic electric system installed. Similar to the one in a house. This powers the microwave, laptop chargers, TV, washing machine, vacuum cleaner, bread maker, coffee machine, rice cooker, induction cookers and many other appliances. There is one big difference compare to a household electric system, namely that most of the time this one is not connected to the electrical network, instead we generate the power on the boat. We have four different power sources:

  1. The boat’s internal engine. This, while powers the vessel also generates 12V power which charges the batteries.
  2. We have an 8kW diesel fuelled generator, which not only charges the 12V batteries but also directly connected to the 230V alternating current.
  3. Solar panels (soon to be installed) from which we hope, in ideal conditions 1.2 – 1.3kW maximum power. This will charge the batteries.
  4. If we are in a marina, usually we can connect to the electric system there, which charges the batteries and also connects directly to the 230V system.

If only the batteries are available, there is a 2kW inverter which provides the 230V from the 12V. (We would like to change this at some point for a more powerful one.)

The internal engine only gives limited electric power and because we would like to use mostly the sails anyway, we are hoping not to rely on that too much. If we fill up both tanks in the vessel fully, the fuel would only be enough to run the engine for 5 days in total. Beyond the obvious environmental considerations we will have to minimise using the engine because at certain places the filling stations can be scarce, spending weeks or even months between them. Also there might be longer periods without any wind when we will need the engine.

The generator can be used for short times, but because of environmental considerations and also because of the limited fuel supply, we don’t plan on using it much.

Most of the time we won’t be in a marina, so we are not counting on using the electric systems there.

This leaves us with solar panels. There are other renewable energy sources that could be used in a sailing vessel, but the solar panels provide the best performance.

Beyond the appliances mentioned earlier, we have another essential piece of electrical equipment, which requires a lot of the power produced on board: the watermaker. This equipment produces our drinking water, the water we use for cooking or showering from seawater. On average it produces 40-50 liter of water per hour. If we didn’t have any solar panels, it would take around half an hour to use all the energy from the batteries running the watermaker. However, once the solar panels are installed, we hope to make most of the water we need using purely solar energy.