With the constant increase of on-board electronics, solar pv & wind power systems allow use of autopilots, communications, fridges, pumps and lighting without having to run the engine or a generator. Not only does this mean more peace & quiet and less fuel costs, it also means less dependence on expensive, serviced marina berths.
At the EDC we can custom design a solar panel kit or a complete solar power system to meet your exact requirements. We supply a range of marinised wind generators, solar pv panels, solar controllers and deep cycle batteries all suited to a harsh marine environment.
Marine Solar PV Panels
Most solar pv panels are not warranted for marine use, including those from Kyocera which are very popular on boats.
However, it has been proven over the years that a well-built pv module will survive life on a boat for quite some time. Fortunately, when using quality pv panels the need for a warranty claim is extremely unlikely.
Our most popular solar panels for marine use over the past few years have probably been the highly efficient Panasonic HIT 245W panels, which are built to high standards and have a potted junction box. The protection of the connections and connector ribbons inside the junction box is probably one of the most important considerations in a harsh environment.
Marinised Solar PV Controllers
Some solar pv controller manufacturers offer fully potted controllers which are likely to survive longer in a marine environment. Other manufacturers use a special 'conformal' coating on the electronics to protect them.
We would suggest considering the following models / ranges :
- Morningstar Solar Controllers - in particular the Sunsaver range which have potted electronics. On larger marine systems our favourite controller is the MS Tristar MPPT, although this has a conformally coated circuit board (as do most of the Morningstar range).
- Victron BlueSolar & SmartSolar - 10A & 15A MPPT Controllers, potted electronics, excellent value.
It can be worth considering multiple smaller controllers if the solar panels are on opposite sides of the boat and getting different amounts of sun or shading during the day.
Marine Wind Generators
A number of small wind turbines are designed specifically for the marine market. In particular, we recommend the Leading Edge range, as they are incredibly quiet and very reliable.
- The Leading Edge LE300 turbine has proven itself in a wide range of harsh environments. Special marine version available. 5 year warranty.
- Leading Edge LE450 - the latest evolution of small wind turbines - 450W max.
We also supply a range of wind generator controllers, or regulators.
'Marine' Deep Cycle Batteries
Marine power systems mostly depend on good quality batteries. All batteries are not the same and some so-called leisure or marine batteries are nothing more than a slightly heavier duty starting battery. Most of these batteries will complete up to about 200 to 300 complete discharge cycles.
Conversely, a top quality deep cycle battery will be able to complete perhaps 1000 to 1200 complete discharge cycles before needing replacement. Gel batteries are also more suited to rough conditions due to immobilised electrolyte, and most are non-gassing in normal use.
Of particular interest are the new Lead Carbon batteries from Victron which would seem to offer outstanding performance.
Battery Status Display
An accurate battery status display is the key to understanding exactly what's happening with your boat's power system.
The Victron battery monitor (BMV) range has become almost standard for marine applications. You'll wonder how you got by without one !
DC to AC Inverters
Custom Designed Marine Power Kits
Our system design engineers can design a marine power system to your exact criteria. We are also happy to work from an early stage with your boatbuilders or marine engineers.
When contacting us please include details such as available installation space for the solar pv modules, planned cruising area, number of battery banks and average daily power requirements. Please see the information section of our site for guidance on how to establish your average daily energy needs.
Charging Twin Battery Banks
As many boats have twin battery banks, one of the first things we recommend is to install a high quality automatic two-way split charge relay. This allows the battery banks to charge as one, and discharge separately.
The latest Victron Cyrix 'intelligent' relay is a zero loss, heavy duty, cost effective solution which will operate from any charging source, connected to either battery bank. A simple switch allows the Victron Cyrix to 'emergency' parallel the battery banks in case the starter battery should be faulty.
Alternatively, we supply solar charge controllers such as the Sunsaver Duo, which are specifically designed to charge two battery banks from one solar array.
The Benefits Of Efficiency Aboard
Boats & yachts can offer significant opportunities to improve efficiency. In turn, this reduces the load on the battery bank, which is easier and less costly than generating more power. Therefore, efficiency improvements are normally the first stage of any power system upgrades.
Through careful choice of the devices to be powered, dramatic savings can be made in the average daily energy demand.
We recommend using high efficiency appliances such as LCD TV's, T-Class Stereo Amplifiers and trying to minimise the use of AC power inverters with the use of DC power.
Efficient lighting technologies such as ultra bright LED and 12v CFL lights can make substantial reductions to the lighting load. Modern LED navigation lights also make a big difference as they can often run for long hours on a night passage.
On many older boats, halogen mini-spot lights are used for internal lighting. These can use from 5 to 50 watts of power. In most situations, clients have been able to replace these bulbs with LED clusters with a power draw of 1.5W to 3W.
That adds up to a huge saving in power. For the same amount of energy, the LEDs will provide approximately 15 hrs of light, compared to 1 hour of light using standard halogen bulbs.
A high efficiency power strategy, in turn, requires a far smaller battery bank, less bulky solar panels, smaller wind turbines, smaller cables, and far less total system weight.