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Solar panel(s) atop Bimini??

 
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Casey



Joined: 02 Nov 2003
Posts: 1094
City/Region: The Villages(FL)
State or Province: FL
C-Dory Year: 2006
C-Dory Model: 23 Venture
Vessel Name: "Dessert 1st"
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 07, 2015 5:13 am    Post subject: Solar panel(s) atop Bimini?? Reply with quote

Good Morning Brats,

I'm thinking of solar panels (future project ... not now) and wanted to get some opinions.

We carry a kayak on top of the cabin, so it's pretty busy up there, and very little room for solar panels (they'd be mostly covered by the kayak).

We also find that we usually trailer with the bimini (not the camper canvas) in place, and don't have any problem with the bimini flapping or fraying.

Have you ever heard of a solar installation with the panel(s) installed THROUGH the Sunbrella, attached to the strong/stable Bimini bows? I'm thinking that a solar panel (semi-flexible or rigid) panel could be installed up there with the wires running down through the bimini bow to the controller.

I've also considered building rigid hardtop to replace the Sunbrella Bimini (sort of like a Rosborough246...) but an entire new roof system would require replacement of the entire camper canvas.

It seems to me that you could drill through the Sunbrella and the Bimini bows, reinforce, seal and through-bolt the solar panel(s), and capture quite a bit of unused, topside space. It would basically be a permanent modification, not something you'd want to put up or take down. Thoughts?

Best,
Casey&Mary

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2006 CC23 "Katmai" (purchased August 2009)
2003 CD22 "Naknek" (sold May 2008)
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jennykatz



Joined: 15 Dec 2003
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City/Region: naples
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Vessel Name: Little Treasurer
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 07, 2015 8:30 am    Post subject: Solar Reply with quote

Casey instead of going rigid solar get the flexable one from renogy 100 watt for a little over $200 on Amazon It has grommits sewn in so you can mount it and remove when needed or use a vhb tape to hold to roof ? You might be able to mount it off the rear transom area .

Look at( fiberglass rv .com )and check out solar energy we have a 10 watt solar not that great but keeps batteries up
Hope all is well take care Jim

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jkidd



Joined: 23 Oct 2006
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City/Region: Northern, Utah
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 07, 2015 8:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think you could just bend up a set of bars that would clamp the the vertical side bars of the bimini then you wouldn't have to go through it. Mounting the panels so that they can turned and pointed to the sun will give you a whole lot more energy. My panels are temporary and mounted out on the bow. One of the boats at Powell had them on a pole at the stern maybe they will speak up or someone will have a picture. Here's mine.


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Sunbeam



Joined: 23 Feb 2012
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 07, 2015 9:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quite a few sailboats have solar panels mounted over/through dodgers and biminis (cockpit shade cover), so that might be a good place to see examples. This includes both rigid and semi-flexible panels. Back in ye old days, I had a rigid solar panel mounted on a dodger (which is basically built the same as a bimini - stainless tubing frame and Sunbrella top that covers the companionway on a sailboat) and the fixing points came through the canvas and into the tubing frame just below it. No problems at all with the mounting (of course shade was another matter...).

I've been thinking of something along these lines for the 22 - panels either over the cockpit/camperback or perhaps forming part of the shade structure. It's just in noodling stage though, and for now I'm going to put them on the cabin top (which is.... gasp... EMPTY for now!) (except for the steaming/anchor light). I really need a radome to clutter things up Very Happy

I did a Google search for "bimini solar panel" and then went to the "images" tab and there are countless examples (and then I'm sure you know this but you can click to go to the image page and there will usually end up being a blog post about how the solar panels were mounted or etc).

Not to chase you away from here of course, but just that lots of sailboats have the solar panel/canvas enclosure setup.

Sunbeam
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Pat Anderson



Joined: 02 Nov 2003
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 07, 2015 10:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Casey, if I were doing it over again, I would get two 100 watt flexible panels and mount them on the bimini, facing straight up to the sky.

As I see it, the objective of solar panels is to replace amp hours drawn from your house bank by your loads during the night (usually). If you track amp hour usage with a Victron battery monitor (HIGHLY recommended), you will see that a small panel could possibly keep your battery charged when there are no loads or minimal loads (i.e., during storage) but cannot possibly keep up with a fridge or freezer. The pole mounted solar panel that could be tilted and turned that we saw at Powell was cool hardware, but too small to be really useful (maybe whoever built it will chime in, but as I recall it was something like a 30 watt panel).

Ranger Tugs have a 250 watt panel mounted flat on the roof. Less ideal than being able to track the sun, but their experience has been that one 250 watt panel pretty much makes up the amp hours used by their loads overnight.

We have two 100 watt Renogy rigid panels on Daydream. They were $389 with the controller and free shipping. My mounting location is pretty much the only place I could put them. The cabin roof is required to carry the dinghy or kayaks. I do not have the mechanical skills to fabricate something large or complicated to allow turning or tilting two 100 watt panels to follow the sun. I do not see rigid panels on the bimini as a particularly good idea structurally, plus we like to take the bimini down when we trailer. So my panels are hung from the roof rails over the outboard wings of the roof.



I am thinking about installing two supports on each panel to raise the outside edges to make them face straight up toward the sky, which would capture as much sunlight as is possible in a system that can't track the sun.

Performance wise, these panels have done great in the PNW, much better than at Powell. I think that is because we were always in a canyon where the sun came up late and went down early because of the canyon walls. Still, even at Powell, while everyone else was running their Honda generators every day while we were at Oak Canyon for a protracted period, we only had to run the generator once in two weeks.

Flexible panels would be easy to manage, you could leave them in place or take them down, figuring a way to secure them would not be difficult, and they would be easy to store when not being used.

Just my $0.02 worth!




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Sunbeam



Joined: 23 Feb 2012
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 07, 2015 11:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A couple more notes, semi-random.

- For my uses, the panels provide energy for both day and night loads. During the day they both run loads directly (through the battery bank still, but I mean if there is enough solar power it can charge the batteries plus have extra power to run things right then) and charge up the batteries; at night they are idle and the loads (still) take power from the battery bank. If I'm at anchor I don't have any other way to run loads (no alternator then), but through the batteries.

- This is the worst photo ever (sorry) but it shows the "ye old days" mount of a solar panel on a Sunbrella/stainless framed dodger. This was considered a structural item, and as such we hung onto it during thick and thin, and the panel was along for the ride up there 24/7. Over a period of years there was no damage to the panel, the dodger/frame, or the users.



As you can (hopefully) see, there were two stainless "handrails" attached through the cloth to the stainless tubing frame below, and then the panel was mounted to the rails. Rock solid. Mind you this was done "back in the day" and might be more sophisticated if done now with tons of examples to see online, and easy access to hardware pieces and tools. Shading from the boom was a real pain, but such are the compromises of double-enders (that said, the single panel was put on by the previous owners, and two panels astern, mounted off the stern pulpit, would have avoided the boom shade better - but back then buying new panels practically required a mortgage!).

I have both rigid-framed glass-topped panels (RV) and the semi-flexible ones (boat). These are the "normal priced" semi-flexible ones, not the super special ones by Solbian, Aurinco, etc. They are not as flexible as you might imagine, and need to be stored flat. So I mean, it's not like you'd be rolling them up for easy stowage. They are about as flexible as a sheet of 1/8"-1/4" plexiglass or similar.

At this point in time, I think the rigid panels are better than the "normal priced" semi-flexible ones. More durable, longer warranty, and (depending on installation) better heat dissipation. The semi-flexible can have issues with cupping of the plastic top, and if laid right on a roof (not that this would be the case with a bimini) there is a bit of a heat thing (panels that are hotter don't work as well, plus they could heat up cabin below). I've been working through this in coming up with a good way to mount the semi-flexible panels on the cabin top.

You might be wondering why I then went for the semi-flexible panels for the boat. One is that they ARE much lighter (around 3# vs. around 16# for the same glass/aluminum panel). Two is that I may carry them in the RV as auxilliary panels to lay out in the sun when camping in one place for a longer time. So the lightness helps there too. Plus I just like checking out different concepts, and they were on sale, so I decided to try them out.

Even at the high prices, I was interested in the Aurinco or Solbian panels (not for the RV, but the boat deserves the best Very Happy). However, the sizes that were available at the time just didn't happen to work quite right for the space (budget was thereby saved).

Anyway, since you can (and do) trailer with the bimini up, I see this as a good possibility. One thing I would check on is the mounting of the bimini brackets to the boat, to make sure they can withstand the additional wind load when trailering (and if not, beef them up). I sometimes trailer with my bimini frame up (no cloth on it though), and I tie two lines in an X shape to the stern cleats - without them it sways back and forth; with them it's solid and stays still. You may already do this.
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BRAZO



Joined: 29 Jul 2008
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 07, 2015 11:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here is what we did:

http://www.c-brats.com/modules.php?full=1&set_albumName=album1937&id=IMG_20130804_151044_899&op=modload&name=gallery&file=index&include=view_photo.php

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Pat Anderson



Joined: 02 Nov 2003
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 07, 2015 7:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sunbeam, I did not say that as clearly as I should have. The solar panels both run the freezer and recharge the batteries during the day. If the batteries were not coming back to a 100% state of charge, I would turn the freezer off for awhile, as it holds pretty well, and I am mostly concerned that when the sun goes down, my batteries are back to a 100% state of charge and will be able to sustain the freezer, lights, anchor light, and everything else until morning, when charging starts anew, without going too far down.

Last edited by Pat Anderson on Sun Jun 07, 2015 7:34 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Sunbeam



Joined: 23 Feb 2012
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 07, 2015 7:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Understood. 100% is the holy grail! Very Happy
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