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Words from the field:
Victron MPPT controller
"Speaking of things that can take over your life, I paired [my new solar] panels with a very neat Victron BlueSolar MPPT controller with Bluetooth dongle.
This contraption connects to an iOS or computer app that allows you to track exactly what’s going on and change any settings you like. How cool is that?
Not only does it show you live data (you can see the changes as clouds or shadows cross the panels!!) it logs history so that you can analyze performance over time."
- Matt & Lucy, s/v Independence, Lagoon 380 www.boatlifelarks.com
Thank you Matt and Lucy (and Hastings, too) for your enlightening blog about life onboard.
When you want solar on your boat... You Want Solar On Your Boat! Now, where you put it depends on what real estate you have available that is relatively free of potential shading and yet still gives you room to move around.
Those of you with a sail boat need to be aware of the shadows cast by your mast, boom, and rigging. If you have a power boat, be aware of the shadows cast by your radar, arch, antennas, water toys, helicopter, etc.
So, let’s look at what others have done.
1. Dingy davits are popular locations for either glass panels or lighter weight semi-flexible panels. The davits themselves should be specifically designed and fabricated to carry the extra weight. Notice the clever person who put lightweight panels in-line with the davits to allow easy access to the dingy and swim ladder.
An increasingly popular question we hear at Boat Shows is "What size solar panel do I need to run the refrigeration on my boat?" Of course, this begs the question "What is your refrigeration's current draw?" which in itself may not have a set answer.
The current consumption of any refrigeration system is meaningless unless all the conditions are specified, i.e. box temperature, ambient temperature, water temperature, compressor speed, voltage, etc. The manufacturer's figures are simply average numbers; some manufacturers, like Frigoboat, attempt to give a true average figure, while others use their figures more as a marketing tool.
Making use of variable compressor speed, as Frigoboat does with the Merlin and Guardian speed controls, and others do with the Danfoss/Secop AEO control module, brings even higher efficiency and lower overall power consumption in air- and keel-cooled systems, but is counter-productive in a pumped-water system. This is because the pump adds 25% to 35% extra current draw, and so it is best to run the compressor at full speed and get the job done as quickly as possible. The most efficient system is one using the Keel Cooler; no pump, no fan, and variable compressor speed can be used to gain even higher efficiency.
Daily consumption is measured in amp/hours per day, and you can get an idea of what to expect by using a watts meter, like Watts Up, on your refrigerator leads. These meters can tell you how many amp/hours per day a device is using, and it's best to use it over several days to get a daily average. The running consumption will vary dependent on conditions, as will the on/off cycle time, so you will need to be able to come up with an average daily amp/hr draw.
As a general rule of thumb, a solar panel with SunPower® cells will give approximately 1/3 of its rated wattage as a daily yield in amp/hrs. A panel with regular monocrystalline cells will produce about 1/4 of its wattage as daily amp/hrs, and a polycrystalline panel produces around 1/5 of its wattage rating in amp/hrs per day.
Let's take an example:
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