Owning a boat or yacht can be a high-cost factor – having a PV system on the boat is a sustainable and cost-effective option to provide electricity. Below you can read everything you need to know about a photovoltaic system on a boat.
How does a PV system for a boat work?
We already know the process: when sunlight hits the solar panels of a boat, an electric current is generated. A battery stores this power so you can use it to meet your boat’s power needs. But what should you think about, especially when it comes to solar power on boats? Most boat solar systems also require charge regulators to prevent the batteries from receiving more voltage than they can handle – without a charge regulator there is a risk of overcharging and damaging the battery.
Depending on your boat’s electrical setup and the type of equipment you need to power, you may also need an inverter that converts DC to AC power. Some electronics on a boat operate on direct current and therefore do not require an inverter with a solar panel. However, if you use some household appliances on your boat or yacht, such as a microwave or refrigerator, they are likely to be AC powered and you will need an inverter.
Hobbyists beware: you can purchase all of these components individually, but there are also solar panel kits that include some or all of the parts required. Some boat solar panel kits also include the wires, cables, and mounting hardware needed to fully commission your boat’s PV system.
The advantages of solar systems for boats
There are numerous benefits to powering your boat with solar energy. One of the most attractive advantages of boat PV systems is financial savings. You have to invest money to get a solar system first, but once it is up and running, you will generate free electricity for your boat. Alternatives to electrifying your boat, such as gasoline-powered generators, require ongoing purchases of fuel. Switching to solar energy can reduce these purchases while protecting you from rising fuel costs.
Another advantage of PV systems for boats is the quiet operation. For those who venture out to sea to experience nature, running a generator can be a noisy disturbance. Solar powering your boat allows you to enjoy tranquility without losing power.
Plus, you can safely generate electricity and charge your battery with solar energy while you’re away from your boat. This is not possible with generators – running a generator requires manual operation and supervision. With solar panels, you can generate usable electricity during the day and then use it for boat trips at the weekend.
Install PV system on a boat
However, installing solar panels on a boat can present some obstacles, perhaps the biggest of which is the space available. Ideally, you can install your solar panels in an area with uninterrupted sunshine. Depending on the type of boat you have, this spot can be easy or difficult to find. While you’re likely to get plenty of sun while out on the water, the space can be too small or have too many obstructions that make it difficult to attach the number of solar panels needed to generate all of the electricity needs.
When looking for a place to install a PV system, consider your boat’s deck or tarpaulin. Keep in mind that the positioning of your solar panels will also affect the type of equipment you should purchase – you may be able to use traditional monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels if you install them on a fixed, rigid part of your boat. However, if the only free space available is not suitable for fixed mounting, installing lower efficiency flexible solar panels may be a better option. Some flexible solar panels have an adhesive backing so you don’t have to worry about the limitations of traditional mounting and framing materials.
The number of panels that you ultimately need to install to cover the energy needs of your boat varies greatly. The number of solar panels you need for your boat depends not only on the type and size of your boat but also on the quality of the installation chosen, the number of hours of sunshine on the boat, and the amount of electricity required.