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Solar power for boats
Old 05-31-2006, 09:22 AM   #1
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Solar power for boats

In another thread in the FIRE & Money forum, there was a discussion of boats and other boating-related issues. I recently came across some information that deals with solar power for boats that some folks here might find interesting:

Here's a thread in a boat design forum that discusses the issue:
http://boatdesign.net/forums/showthread.php?t=3476

I did some additional digging on Google, and also found the following:

http://www.westmarinesolar.com/solar_boats.html
http://www.batteriesdigest.com/sailboat.htm
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Re: Solar power for boats
Old 05-31-2006, 04:19 PM   #2
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Re: Solar power for boats

ya. we tend to think we are tethered to our local utility company but there are lots of alternate power sources.

solar & wind powered generators especially on sailboats. inverters (converting battery dc to ac for appliances). standard diesel generators. add watermaker, plumbing & sewer system and a boat becomes very independent.

similar systems are useful on islands or rural areas to live comfortably off-grid. this would especially be so in higher elevations where air conditioning is not required. add to that a propane stove and kiss 220-volt requirements buh bye. now all you need is a cell phone if there's coverage or a ham radio and satellite tv and you can snip those overhead wires that were obscuring that otherwise gorgeous view.

a relatively new kid on the alternative energy block involves propulsion for a boat not from a marine engine but from a diesel generator charging batteries running an electric motor driving the propeller shaft. here is one such company working on this: http://tinyurl.com/o22oq (i've no affiliation, just posting for reference).

it is supposed to be more fuel efficient, quieter, less vibration, etc., but also it looks like more stuff to break.
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Re: Solar power for boats
Old 05-31-2006, 04:33 PM   #3
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Re: Solar power for boats

After poking around a bit I about gaged when I saw a solar powered tanker.* Can you imagine that in heavy seas and a stiff breeze?* The saving grace is that it is a fresh water tanker, no risk of a major oil spil when it breaks.

Solar power is very popular with boaters, particulary to power refrig/freezers which take a lot of juce in warm climates.

WM's store roof system evidenly cost about $400,000 and saves ~$1,000/mo in power bills.* Nord, want to run the numbers* Unless they wrangled substantial credits I think the return on investment isn't there yet.
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Re: Solar power for boats
Old 05-31-2006, 04:39 PM   #4
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Re: Solar power for boats

Quote:
Originally Posted by lazygood4nothinbum
a relatively new kid on the alternative energy block involves propulsion for a boat not from a marine engine but from a diesel generator charging batteries running an electric motor driving the propeller shaft. here is one such company working on this: http://tinyurl.com/o22oq (i've no affiliation, just posting for reference).
it is supposed to be more fuel efficient, quieter, less vibration, etc., but also it looks like more stuff to break.
An electric drive is supposed to be a good deal if you had a complicated mechanical/hydraulic clutch or some sort of reduction gear in your old propulsion train. *

It used to be all the rage in 1920s/30s military marine systems. *A junior engineering officer named Hyman Rickover earned his reputation in the recovery from the Pearl Harbor attack by repeately washing the seawater-soaked TED systems of two cruisers back to full health.

I've heard that the Navy's VIRGINIA class is going with a TED system as well as a 700V DC bus. *All the A/C loads would be run off solid-state inverters. *Microprocessor controls have greatly improved the engineering but of course it's a lot harder for a DIY repair.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brat
WM's store roof system evidenly cost about $400,000 and saves ~$1,000/mo in power bills. Nord, want to run the numbers Unless they wrangled substantial credits I think the return on investment isn't there yet.
By all three measures I think that investment sucks.

Similar to what people thought about buying Wal-Mart stock in the early 1990s.

I can only imagine the shockwaves that'd run through the solar industry if they found out that their product was going to be WM'd...
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Re: Solar power for boats
Old 05-31-2006, 08:01 PM   #5
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Re: Solar power for boats

California and PG&E give HUGE kickbacks to the commercial solar installations. I saw a profile story in the local paper last year, large autobody shop that did a lot of welding. I'm going to try to ballpark whats going to be a bad recollection, but they had something like 20k-30k a month electric bills...installed a $250k solar system and had more than half of that paid back to them in rebates and credits. Bill dropped to a couple of thousand a month.

Pretty good payback for them, but their usage was huge and during daylight hours, and we get plenty of daylight around here...
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Re: Solar power for boats
Old 05-31-2006, 09:02 PM   #6
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Re: Solar power for boats

Lots of boater friends installed solar. Several friends did so in Florida, where at least in 2003 or so, there was a sales tax exclusion for components purchased for solar power projects. At that time, the best deals were to be had in person at http://www.sunelec.com/ -- I helped several boaters ferry back panels and other components via bus to the water's edge so we could take them to the anchored boats and install them.

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Re: Solar power for boats
Old 05-31-2006, 10:28 PM   #7
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Re: Solar power for boats

Quote:
Originally Posted by dory36
At that time, the best deals were to be had in person at http://www.sunelec.com/
Hey, that's where we bought our Evergreen EC-110 cosmetic rejects last November! $7000 credit-card purchase over eBay and never a problem...
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Re: Solar power for boats
Old 06-01-2006, 08:34 AM   #8
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Re: Solar power for boats

Interesting discussion. I was just curious whether solar power could be harnessed to power a decent-sized boat, rather than having to take on diesel fuel. One of the pages I found, but didn't end up posting, had a brief discussion of flexible solar cells that could be woven into a clear, durable fabric for sails. That would be an interesting way to catch some rays to charge the batteries below deck, while using wind power to sail the boat. The same power might be used to draw hydrogen from seawater for a hydrogen fuel cell, obviating the need for a diesel motor.
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Re: Solar power for boats
Old 06-01-2006, 09:10 AM   #9
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Re: Solar power for boats

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brat
WM's store roof system evidenly cost about $400,000 and saves ~$1,000/mo in power bills. Nord, want to run the numbers Unless they wrangled substantial credits I think the return on investment isn't there yet.
For Walmart, this makes perfect sense. Imagine the headlines: "Proposed Walmart store in Podunk Green City, USA to be solar powered?"

What better way to pacify a bunch of anti-walmart environmentalist activists? I've worked for walmart as a sub-sub-subconsultant on many different projects (in fact, I'm working on air quality issues for a local walmart today!). From past experience, Walmart will drop a few hundred thousand dollars to appease the local activists shouting "Down with Walmart" and get their proposed stores approved and built. Then they can make millions from that store. Time is money and if "environmental concerns" are at the top of the list of objections to their evil stores, then spending $400,000 seems like a quick fix to get their store approved, built, and operating.
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Re: Solar power for boats
Old 06-01-2006, 09:52 AM   #10
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Re: Solar power for boats

Ah... "WM" is WestMarine, not Wallmart.

I can't see Wallmart investing in something that didn't pencil quickly. Boaters have a different culture.
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Re: Solar power for boats
Old 06-01-2006, 09:57 AM   #11
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Re: Solar power for boats

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brat
Ah... "WM" is WestMarine, not Wallmart.
OK...nevermind.

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Re: Solar power for boats
Old 06-01-2006, 10:00 AM   #12
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Re: Solar power for boats

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brat
Ah... "WM" is WestMarine, not Wallmart.

I can't see Wallmart investing in something that didn't pencil quickly. Boaters have a different culture.
I was wondering about that...

Walmart certainly wouldn't do it for the direct economic benefit. They would do it, if at all, to get approval for their stores to be built.
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Re: Solar power for boats
Old 06-01-2006, 10:21 AM   #13
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Re: Solar power for boats

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay_Gatsby
Interesting discussion. I was just curious whether solar power could be harnessed to power a decent-sized boat, rather than having to take on diesel fuel.
Yes, and it's been done on a "small scale", but it's still expensive.
My dream is to go with full electric sailboat, but DW likes propane for cooking (for now a small electric outboard is used for auxiliary propulsion on my sailboat - no diesel or gas onboard)

Quote:
One of the pages I found, but didn't end up posting, had a brief discussion of flexible solar cells that could be woven into a clear, durable fabric for sails. That would be an interesting way to catch some rays to charge the batteries below deck, while using wind power to sail the boat.
The same power might be used to draw hydrogen from seawater for a hydrogen fuel cell, obviating the need for a diesel motor.
I think you are making it too complicated - if you have room in your boat solar cells can just charge traction batteries.
If you are interested in the topic I suggest joining electricboats yahoo newsgroup.
Also having a sailboat you can take advantage of "regenerative" charging, in a nutshell, when you sail, your propeller spins and charges batteries.

sailor

BTW: Solomon Technologies, somebody posted the link are great on marketing but not so good on delivery. If you need an electric propulsion system for a sailboat, several folks recommended Thoosa (like one here: http://www.ngcmarine.com/145.html )
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Re: Solar power for boats
Old 06-01-2006, 01:31 PM   #14
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Re: Solar power for boats

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay_Gatsby
Interesting discussion.* I was just curious whether solar power could be harnessed to power a decent-sized boat, rather than having to take on diesel fuel.
here's a commercial venture...
www.batteriesdigest.com/sailboat.htm

and here's a private guy...
http://groups.msn.com/ASolarboatinthetropics/pictures
interesting though i'm not so sure i'd wanna be at sea on that thing in a storm.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sailor
BTW: Solomon Technologies, somebody posted the link are great on marketing but not so good on delivery. If you need an electric propulsion system for a sailboat, several folks recommended Thoosa (like one here: http://www.ngcmarine.com/145.html )
just to note: the link was no endorsement but, as stated, only a reference to a web page (with a decent diagram on it).
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Re: Solar power for boats
Old 06-01-2006, 01:53 PM   #15
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Re: Solar power for boats

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay_Gatsby
Interesting discussion.* I was just curious whether solar power could be harnessed to power a decent-sized boat, rather than having to take on diesel fuel.* One of the pages I found, but didn't end up posting, had a brief discussion of flexible solar cells that could be woven into a clear, durable fabric for sails.* That would be an interesting way to catch some rays to charge the batteries below deck, while using wind power to sail the boat.* The same power might be used to draw hydrogen from seawater for a hydrogen fuel cell, obviating the need for a diesel motor.
FWIW, I think most of the full time boaters I knew were using something like 50-100 amp-hours per day, mostly for refrigeration. By putting two large panels on a frame that hung off the stern over the water and could be rotated and directed at the sun as the boat turned and the sun moved through the sky, those with typical cruising sized boats could generate 1/3 to 1/2 of their requirements on a good day. Keeping the panels 90 degrees to the sun was important, our friends told us, as the power generated went down dramatically as the angle to the sun changed from perpendicular. So they were only somewhat effective on unattended boats.

Mega-yachts could find more surface area to mount more panels, but those that wanted mega-yachts were more likely to just fire up a generator for an hour and recharge the battery bank that way, as did the samller boats that didn't have space for enough solar panels to be really useful.
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