Marine Solar Panels 101: Types, Benefits, Pros and Cons, Size

solar generatorAre you thinking about purchasing marine solar panels?

Sailing is an awesome experience that everyone should enjoy. However, to enjoy the wonderful adventure and bliss that comes with it, you need some power.

Although your boat has a battery in it, it will run out of power if you do not keep the engine running.

Considering how expensive gas can be, most boat owners now resort to using solar energy to power their boats.

It is a better option as it is an affordable, safe and clean source of electricity.

In this article, we explore everything there is to know about marine solar panels. Most importantly, we have a list of the best solar panels that you can use for your boat.

3 Types of Solar Panels You Should Know

Solar panels come in different shapes and sizes. The popular misconception that people have is that the size of the panels determines their energy production. In reality, the type of solar panel, that is, the kind of solar cells in it that plays a major role in the energy conversion of the solar panel. With that said, the following are the types of solar cells that are commonly used in boats.  

1. Amorphous Solar Panels

These are the least efficient of all solar panels. However, with new technology, the efficiency of these panels has started to improve. Even with their low energy conversion efficiency, amorphous solar panels have some unique advantages over other types. First, you can install them on curved surfaces and they also do well even with poor lights.

2. Polycrystalline Solar Panels

These are solar panels that come from different tiny fragments of silicon. To produce these panels, these tiny pieces are melted together to form one piece. Generally speaking, polycrystalline solar panes are very efficient with the energy conversion. However, they are not as good as monocrystalline solar panels. As a result, they command a higher price than amorphous solar panels but are not as expensive as monocrystalline solar panels.   

3. Monocrystalline Solar Panels

Like their names, monocrystalline solar panels are made from single crystals of silicon. They are usually considered the best as they are the most efficient with the energy conversion.


Why Do You Need Solar Panels for Your Boats?

yacht

Solar panels do not come cheap; purchase and installation come with expensive prices. As a prudent spender, it is very normal that you ask why you need a solar panel in your boat. There are many reasons why you should have solar panels in your boat.

The first reason is that solar panels help you save cost in the long run. Without a solar panel on your boat, you have to keep your engine running so that you can use your lights and other appliances. Without putting on your engine, you will likely run down the battery of your boat. However, to keep your engine running all day, you need gas which can be very expensive.

With solar panels, you do not have to make any more purchases after installing your solar panels. Compared with powering your boat with gas, you get to save a lot of money. In the long run, you will only be paying for very affordable maintenance fees.

Besides, solar panels are the best option for environmentally conscious people. The energy generated from your solar panels does not destroy the environment since they emit no carbon. So while you get the best of electricity, you can also rest easy knowing you are doing your part to save the world.

Solar Energy Pros And Cons: The Top Benefits/Drawbacks

solar panels

Solar panels like any technologies come with advantages and disadvantages. If you are planning to invest your money in this relatively new innovation, it might be worth considering the pros and cons it has.

Pros:

1. Electricity at no cost

Probably the most important advantage of solar panels is having to generate your electricity on your own without paying for fuel. Even though the initial cost of installation is high, solar power is more cost-effective in the long run as it helps you save money on fuel. All you need is the sun, which is free to use and you are good to go.

2. Sturdy enough

As you sail the open sea, you will have to deal with the extremes of weather elements. Some days, you will have to pull through heavy rains, high winds and sometimes it’s the hot sun of the summer. Just like your boat is designed to withstand all these elements, your marine solar panels can as well. Even in the most extreme conditions, you will be surprised to see that your solar panels are not damaged.

new energy

3. Green energy

Solar energy is a clean source of electricity that will not leave behind any dangerous emissions to the air. At the moment, the world is carrying the weight of pollution and as a sailor, you get to see that better than anyone else. Think of all those plastic wastes lying all over the ocean and how our emissions keep destroying the atmosphere. Using solar energy might be your little contribution to saving the world.

4. Adequate power

When it comes to solar energy, there is a popular misconception that it is not as powerful as the traditional energy sources we have today. That is not true. In reality, solar energy has evolved over the years. Today, it has proven itself a worthy challenger of the traditional non-renewable energy in terms of affordability and power. So long you have the right panels that can deliver the electricity requirement of your home, solar energy will show you wonders.  

5. Flexibility

Solar panels today come in flexible thin films, which means you can install them on any surface you want even if the surface is curved. You can even have them indoors, so long they can have access to sunlight.  

Cons:

1. You will always need sunlight

The first problem with using solar panels is obviously the fact that you will always need sunlight. Unlike regular fuel generators, unfortunately, you can not buy sunlight on a rainy day. That means on such days, you might not have as much energy as you need. But then, solar panels like the monocrystalline types may still generate little electricity even at night or in low light conditions. But the electricity will not be enough like when they are exposed to full sunlight.  

2. Some solar panel systems are bulky

Some solar panel systems come with lots of gadgets that take up space especially those used for residential properties. However, there are a few especially those used for boats that are multipurpose and do not require lots of space. Flexible panels in particular are a good example of solar panel systems that don’t require lots of space.

calculator and changes

3. Initial investment cost

Like we said earlier, as wonderful as solar energy can be, it comes with a prohibitive installation cost. However, the initial cost of installation is justified by the fact that you will get electricity at no cost for a long period.

4. You might have to make extra purchases

If you pay so much for a solar panel, it's normal that you expect a full service. Unfortunately, not all marine solar panels come with other essential products for installation. In most cases, all you have in the pack is the solar panel and that’s all. Therefore, you still need to purchase additional equipment like batteries, wires and sometimes even the mount!

What Size Solar Panels Do You Need?

To rely solely on solar energy, you will need solar panels that provide at least 20% more power than the total amount of electricity for basic needs. However, that is easier said than done for many reasons. First, you need to be sure your boat can carry all the panels that will supply that energy. Even if you have the space, can you afford all the panels?

Whatever the case may be, you need to estimate your daily electricity usage in your boat. That is the total amount of ampere of DC energy your electric devices use per hour and the estimated time that you use them. Most appliances have their ampere ratings written on them usually at the back.

To calculate the energy used, multiply the amps of the device by the number of hours you usually leave it on.

 


Amps

Hours/used

A-Hrs

W-Hrs

Cabin lights (led)

0.5 A

4

2

25.6

Refrigeration

5 A

10

50

640

Anchor light

0.25 A

9

2.25

28.8

Electronics/VHF

0.75 A

6

3

38.4

Totals

 

 

57.25

732.8

57.25A-Hrs*12.8V=732.8W-Hrs

After you have gotten your energy consumption, now divide that value by 6 hours (we are assuming you will have 6 hours of sunlight at least daily). Whatever you get, multiply by 1.2 (plus the 20% extra). That should give you the amount of power you need from your solar panel.

732.8W-Hrs*1.2=879.36W divided by 6 hours=147W of solar required.

Recommended Marine Solar Generators for You

After careful consideration, the following are some of the best marine solar panels you will find on the market today. 

bluetti pv120 solar panel

BLUETTI PV120 120w solar panel

This solar panel is the ideal choice if you need a powerful solar panel but you have a stringent budget. Don’t let the price fool you, this solar panel can generate up to 120w electricity. The BLUETTI PV120 is built to withstand the harsh elements thanks to its advanced laminated technology making it ideal in whatever weather you sail. In addition, its surface is made of long-lasting ETFE material, making it scratch-resistant and lasts as long as possible.portable solar panel

Besides, you will enjoy the fact that it is easy to portable and can be folded when not in use. The good part is, this panel works with most solar generators so you really do not have to worry about compatibility problems. It comes with an MC4 connector that allows you to connect with almost any solar generator on the market today. 

bluetti sp200 solar panel

BLUETTI SP200 200w Solar Panel (Out of Stock)

The BLUETTI SP200 is the ideal choice if you want powerful panels and you have a large budget. At such a high price, you get 24v which is better than the 18-22v rating of most other solar panels. Combine that with 200W; that’s enough energy to power all of your appliances without any hassle.solar panel

Plus, the solar panel is compatible with most solar generators so you don’t have to worry about compatibility. More so, it is foldable and portable and can be carried around either on your boat or anywhere else. 

bluetti ac200max power station

BLUETTI AC200MAX Power Station+3*PV200 Panel Combo

If you are looking for a power station that has almost all you need you might consider this combo. The BLUETTI AC200MAX Power Station comes equipped with its PV 200 solar panel and has a capacity of 2048Wh. LFP Battery that you can charge up to 3,500 times to 80%. If you feel that is not enough, you can even extend the battery to give you up to 8,192 Wh(with 2*BLUETTI B300). To make this even unique, you can control and monitor it using an app on your phone.bluetti ac200max power station

FAQ

1. Which brand of solar panels is the best?

The brand of solar panel that you choose will depend on what you want. However, when it comes to quality, we recommend BLUETTI. Their solar panels are durable, well designed, and energy efficient. 

2. What are the 3 types of solar panels?

Solar panels are usually classified based on the type of cells they have in them. Using that classification, you have three types of solar panels; monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and amorphous solar cell types.

3. Do solar panels give you “free electricity?”

Considering solar panels do not require you to pay for fuel, you can say that they give free electricity.

Conclusion

Solar panels are better options for generating electricity in boats. Asides from that, they can save you some money, using solar energy helps you contribute to the safety of the planet. If you are considering getting a solar panel, consider getting any of the above products we have reviewed. Also, be sure to mount the panel on the top of your boat for maximum benefits.