Video of Solar and Wind Generator:
After our first cruising jaunt down the Chesapeake this summer, we quickly learned how terrible our old electrical system was. The batteries were on their last breath and the cables were a crazy assorted mess of different sizes (which effects the flow of current), some leading to nowhere. It was a hazardous disaster. One of our main missions was to replace the entire electrical system, from the batteries to the cables and everything they hook up to. Renewable energy sources were also a must, so we could be more sustainable.
The first (and probably hardest) was figuring out a good solution that would work for us. Initially we were ambitious and planned to build a solar arch and attach 3 solar panels and a wind generator. After considering cost, time and size-limitations, we came to our senses and came up with a much more reasonable solution. The cost of a solar arch was completely outrageous so we decided instead to do a custom roof-rack over our bimini to mount the panels and wind generator. The custom roof-rack was built and installed by a local shop, Inner Banks.
Once we made that decision, I started to do some research to find the best deals on solar panels and wind generators. If budget is of no concern, there are some really sleek, lightweight (and high priced) solutions. But that wasn’t our case. I discovered that different renewable energy devices hooked into one electrical system is complicated. Each device (whether solar or wind) accepts and distributes the charge in its own way, which effects how it needs to be setup to linked in the system. To be most effective, each device has its own set of rules and materials (like remotes, cables, etc) required to work. So even though I found some great deals on panels or wind gen, the extras started to add up in both cost and complication.
So, I took a different approach and looked for one all-inclusive solution. Thankfully I stumbled across a great source, eMarine Systems, where we found
our wind and solar Hybrid Kit, which included EVERYTHING necessary to make the system work altogether.
As our new engine was being installed, all of the old electrical was replaced with new, larger cable. We took advantage of the boat being torn apart to do all of the wiring for the wind generator and solar. We enlisted the help of an Oriental Local, Chuck Lee (who has sailed all over the world) to help with the installation. Chuck and Jake worked for days fabricating everything, mounting the systems and hooking up all the wiring into our new electrical system. Jake learned some great information that will be very useful if ever we need to make adjustments.
Jake also decided to undertake the mounting of the solar panels all by himself (to save some bucks). Unfortunately, there were no instructions that came with our kit. He assembled the panel mounts incorrectly 3 times before he finally figured out the “right” way. It wasn’t without a lot of huffing and puffing, but he got it done and thats all that matters! Way to hang in there!
What Renewable Energy Means for Us
You might be wondering how this whole renewable energy thing works on the boat. Warning, it is really techy and nerdy so feel free to ignore it if you just don’t care. 😉
You may remember that I mentioned we have all new batteries onboard. Batteries on the boat are split between the house bank and the starter (which is dedicated to starting the engine). We only use the house bank for our personal, everyday use, so we don’t take into account the starter battery in the following calculations:
House Bank = 420 Amp Hours Total
(NEVER let batteries drop below 50% of their charge or it will kill them fast)
50% House Bank = 210 Amp Hours Total
Average Daily Consumption of Power = 120 Amp Hours Total or 5 Amps / Hour
(Yes, I made a spreadsheet to figure this out)
Theoretically, the wind / solar generators could give us up to 400 Amps per day. You don’t need to be a genius to see that this would more than cover our basis. We could be completely off the grid indefinitely at that rate. But that’s only if conditions are PERFECT. And c’mon, how often are conditions ever perfect?
But that’s in a perfect world with perfect conditions. Not realistic. We did some calculations in a very conservative way, we can probably see 80-120 Amps per day from our hybrid system. If its particularly cloudy and wind-less, then it would be less. And obviously if sunny and breezy, it would be much more. But if we take the average, we could last for 5 days without the need to put a charge on the batteries.