Before deciding to place the panels aboard, one of the greatest difficulties I had was getting actual DATA from folks on how their panels performed. I got things from ‘All We need’ to ‘Great’, to ‘Fills my batteries by 11am’. (Monumental guy did not have any panels, so I am not considering his input). But without exception: all the ‘observations’ were gut feelings. No real data.
Being a (at one time, before crossing to the dark world of Marketing) Engineer – this just would not do. So I set out to model the panels, you can read more about that here:
To get actual data - the charge controller I purchased has data logging capabilities. But before we get much further, let’s make sure some ground rules are established:
- We cruise in the Pacific Northwest- if you are somewhere else, likely your results will be different. (See the Modeling post to learn more).
- Our ‘Cruising’ season is March through the end of October. During this time we are very rarely in port, and even more rarely have access to low cost shore power.
That last point is a critical one, as it means -- almost without exception -- every AH we consume we need to make on the boat. Either via the large 270A Leece Neville alternator attached to our main engine, or via the Kubota Dc generator - OR via the Solar Panels. And this, to be fair, is huge. It is VERY EXPENSIVE to generate electricity on a boat. I estimate it costs $1.14 / 100Ah running the DC Generator – direct costs only (Oil and Fuel). That does NOT include any amortization for the original cost of the Generator, or depreciation for its replacement. Every 100Ah costs over a buck…. And with us away from the dock so long, costs add up very quickly!
OK, on to the results. Here is a graph of the actual daily AH log as provided from the Solar Regulator. The thin purple line is the actual daily results – you can see cloudy days and sunny ones. The black line is a 15 day rolling average - to try and smooth things out a little. Finally, the thick blue line is what the modeler predicted our output would be.
|1 year actual results|
(Click on image for a larger version)
So, for a boat cruising in the rainy Pacific Northwest, the Solar Panels have a ROI of under 4 years. And best of all? I do not need to listen to the Generator during most of the time as a result! In fact, we are back into the time of year where we likely will not need to use the Generator at all until the end of September. And then only when we do Laundry.
(To see all our posts on the Solar Panels, click here: http://mvvikingstar.blogspot.com/search/label/Solar )