Marine & Mobile Solar OverviewSave fuel and enjoy the silence...
Why choose solar power for marine & mobile applications?
Solar installations will save engine or generator run time and provide top-end charging, helping to maintain the longevity of your batteries & equipment. OceanPlanet Energy helps harvest this free and consistent energy, specializing in high output, light-weight, thin, marine tested solar panels. OPE has been at the forefront of development in marine solar technologies and is excited to offer new lines and options that have advanced dramatically in recent years. Choosing the perfect panel for your needs is easy and depends on variables such as space available, how trafficked the location is, weight, budget, shading, and personal preferences…
We are proud to be partnered with the following marine solar panel manufacturers:
Question #1: Where will you be installing the panels?
For canvas installations, we recommend Solbian panels. They are lightweight, semi-flexible and can be sewn through for secure installation in canvas biminis and dodgers.
On deck in a highly trafficked area.
On a curved cabin top or pilot house and it will not be walked on.
We would recommend Solbian panels in this case. If you have a lot of space, then go with the SR+ series as they are less $/Watt. If you want every bit of power possible, we recommend the SP series. These can be installed with fasteners or adhesive, with junction boxes or backside wiring.
Hallett Canvas in Portland, ME has engineered a slick solution using Solbian panels. Solbian Lifeline Installation Kit Handout
Coastal Climate Control builds mounting kits for Solara Power-M panels. Check out the EZ Mount Solution.
We recommend Solara panels for this type of installation.
There is a lot of space. Shade is not an issue. The mounting area is totally flat.
You have many options depending on your preferences but the option with the longest warranty is the Merlin GX180.
It needs to be able to be deployed and stowed easily
Check out our Portable Power page.
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Feeling overwhelmed by all this info? Learn the basics with BoatHowTo!
BoatHowTo is bringing you the most reliable and accurate information about boat systems on the internet and OPE highly recommends learning the basics here.
Other things to think about
If any portion of a series string of cells is shaded, the current will drop and the output will be reduced from the entire string. The general rules for minimizing shading losses are; install one MPPT controller per panel; install multiple, smaller sized panels rather than a single large panel in a given space; and install longer panels fore and aft rather than athwartships.
It is important to think about how to route your wiring early in the design process. Will you use backside wiring and drill holes? Will you need deck seals or plugs? Can you run them down the bimini support bows? Check out our solar installation guide & accessories page for some options.
It can be helpful and exciting to monitor just how much power you are getting out of the sun at any given moment. Some solar charge controllers have monitoring capability but if you want cumulative data or to integrate with other system monitoring, there are a few different products that are easy to install, affordable, and can provide the data you want. More Info
Interesting Facts & Frequently Asked Questions
Why are Solbian & Solara panels using Sunpower cells so much more expensive than other panels I see online made with "Sunpower"cells?
Sunpower manufactures millions of cells. They test each cell and based on the cell’s performance, they put these cells in different quality “bins”. Solbian & Solara buy only the highest quality cells which come at a much higher cost but are far superior in performance. Panels you see online and usually made in China use “Sunpower” cells from the lower quality “bins” which have defects and imperfections that cannot be seen by the naked eye. Check out this side by side test of Solbian vs. other panels using “Sunpower” cells.
How much solar do I need?
It depends on many factors but if you are trying to cover a lot of loads, then the answer is probably “as much as you can fit”. If you want to find out what your daily loads are, check out our energy calculator. If you are just trying to keep your batteries topped off while on a mooring and you just have a small load such as a bilge pump, then 25-50W is probably plenty. If you are trying to cover a small to medium refrigerator, you will want something closer to 120W or 150W. This, of course, is just an estimate and will depend on your actual loads as well as the amount of sunlight you are getting, etc.
Is there still a solar tax credit?
Yes! The Federal Government offers a solar energy tax credit. This 30% tax credit applies to qualified expenditures when purchasing and installing solar panels on your home. It does not have to be your primary home so if your boat has a head and a galley and is docked in the US, it counts as a second home and qualifies for the tax credit! This 30% tax credit is good through 2032. Also, it can be retroactive for equipment placed in service after 2006. Here is a link to a simplified explanation of the tax credit from the Save on Energy website. Check out the tax form here.
How does it all connect? Do I need a controller? What does it mean to wire panels in series or parallel?
While the details on the electrical side of any project can sometimes be intimidating, solar installations are quite straightforward for the most part. Some people are able to do the installations themselves if the system is not too complex. Check out the OceanPlanet Energy Electrical Installation Guidelines for more details on how it all works.