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Adding Solar Power to a Sailboat

  • By Emily Fagan
  • Updated: October 18, 2019

During our nearly four-year cruise of Mexico, my husband, Mark, and I lived almost exclusively on 555 watts of solar power charging a 640-amp-hour house battery bank. We anchored out virtually every night aboard our 2008 Hunter 44DS, Groovy , and relied on the sun for power. During one 10-week stretch, while we waited for a replacement engine alternator to arrive, our boat’s solar panels were our sole source of power. We had no backup charging system to turn to, and yet we lived and sailed comfortably the entire time. Mounting solar panels on a sailboat was not difficult, but a few key decisions made a huge difference in how effective our panels were.

A solar-power installation on a sailboat is made up of two independent systems: one system to charge the batteries, and another system to provide 120-volt AC power for household appliances. In the charging system, the solar panels convert sunlight into electrical current and deliver it to the batteries via a solar charge controller. Similar to a voltage regulator, the charge controller acts as a gatekeeper to protect the batteries from receiving more current than they need as they are being charged. In the AC power system, an inverter or inverter/charger converts the 12-volt DC power in the battery into 120 volts AC whenever it is turned on.

Panel Positioning and Wiring Considerations

One of the biggest challenges for sailors installing solar power on a sailboat is finding a place on the boat where the panels will be shaded as little as possible. Just a few square inches of shade on one panel can render that panel all but inoperable. Unfortunately, between the mast, radome, spreaders and boom, shadows cross the deck all day long, especially as the boat swings back and forth at anchor.

What’s worse, if the panels are wired in series rather than in parallel, this little bit of shade can shut down the entire solar-panel array. When we installed solar power on Groovy , we had already lived exclusively on solar power in an RV for over two years. Our RV solar panels had been wired in series, and we had witnessed the array shutting down current production when just half of one panel was shaded.

Choosing whether to wire the panels in series or parallel on a boat affects the wire gauge required, which is why many solar-power installers lean toward wiring the panels in series. Panels wired in series can be wired all the way to the solar charge controller with a thinner-gauge wire than those wired in parallel. This is because the voltage of panels wired in series is additive, while the current remains constant, so the current flowing is just that of a single panel. In contrast, the current flowing from panels that are wired in parallel is additive, while the voltage across them is not. This means that in a parallel installation, the current going to the charge controller is several times higher and requires much thicker cable to avoid any voltage loss over the length of the wire.

Not only is thinner-gauge wire less expensive, but it is also more supple and easier to work with, making the job of snaking it in and around various crevices in the boat and connecting it to the solar charge controller much less of a struggle. Thus the choice between series and parallel wiring boils down to a trade-off between system performance, expense and ease of solar system installation.

Luckily, the size of the wire can be reduced if higher-­voltage solar panels are chosen. Since watts are determined by multiplying volts by amps, a higher-voltage panel that generates the same watts as a lower-voltage panel will produce less current. Therefore, selecting nominal 24-volt panels instead of 12-volt panels allows for the use of thinner wire sizes no matter how they are wired.

Our Marine Solar Panel Design Choices

In our installation, we decided to mount three 185-watt, 24-volt (nominal) Kyocera solar panels high above the cockpit, well aft of the boom, as far away as possible from potential shade. Our Hunter came with a big, solid stainless-steel arch, and we turned to Alejandro Ulloa, a brilliant metal fabricator at Baja Naval Boatyard in Ensenada, Mexico, to build a polished stainless-steel solar-panel arch extension onto the existing structure. He designed the arch extension with integrated telescoping davits to hoist our dinghy as well as support the solar panels. These davits were strong enough — and the lines and blocks had enough purchase — that either of us could lift our light Porta-Bote dinghy with its 6-horsepower outboard without a winch.

We spaced the panels about a half-inch apart and wired them in parallel. Using two twin-lead wires, we snaked the three positive leads and one common ground down through the inside of the arch tubes so they wouldn’t be visible, and placed wire loom over the exposed wires under the panels.

The junction points for the three parallel panels were on positive and negative bus bars inside a combiner box, all mounted in a cockpit lazarette. Inside the combiner box, we installed three breakers, one for each panel. This gave us the ability to shut off any or all of the panels if we needed to (we never did).

We mounted a Xantrex solar charge controller (model XW MPPT 60-150) in a hanging locker, as close to the batteries as possible, in a spot where it was easy to monitor and program. We ran twin-lead wire from the combiner box to the charge controller and from there to the batteries.

Our boat came with three new 12-volt Mastervolt 4D AGM house batteries, all wired in parallel, for a total of 480 amp-hours of capacity. We wanted a bigger house battery bank, and because it is best for the age, type and size of the batteries to be matched, we added a fourth new Mastervolt 4D AGM house battery, which brought our total to 640 amp-hours. Our batteries were installed at the lowest point in the hull, below the floorboards, and they ran the length of the saloon, from just forward of the companionway stairs to just aft of the V-berth stateroom door.

The best way to charge a bank of batteries that are wired in parallel is to span the entire battery bank with the leads coming from the charge controller. We did this by connecting the positive lead from the charge controller to the positive terminal of the first battery in the bank, and the negative lead from the charge controller to the negative terminal of the last battery. By spanning the entire bank, the batteries were charged equally rather than having the charging current focused on just the first battery in the bank.

We feel that AGM batteries are superior to wet cell (flooded) batteries because they can be installed in any orientation, don’t require maintenance, can’t spill (even in a capsize), and charge more quickly. Our Mastervolt batteries, like almost all AGM batteries on the market, are dual-purpose, combining the very different characteristics of both deep-cycle and start batteries. Our batteries work well, but if we were doing an installation from scratch today, we would consider the new Trojan Reliant AGM batteries. These batteries are engineered strictly for deep-cycle use and have been optimized to provide consistent current and maximize battery life.

Our boat came with a Xantrex Freedom 2,500-watt inverter/charger wired into the boat’s AC wiring system with a transfer switch. The inverter/charger performed two functions. While the boat was disconnected from shore power, it converted the batteries’ 12-volt DC power into 120-volt AC power, allowing us to operate 120-volt appliances, like our microwave. When the boat was connected to shore power, it charged the batteries.

Because this inverter/charger was a modified-sine-wave inverter, mimicking AC ­current with a stair-stepped square wave, we also had a 600-watt pure-sine-wave inverter to power our potentially more sensitive electronic devices. We chose Exeltech because its inverters produce an electrical signal that is clean enough to power medical equipment, and they are NASA’s choice for both the Russian and American sides of the International Space Station. For simplicity, rather than wiring the inverter into the cabin’s AC wiring, we plugged ordinary household power strips into the AC outlets on the inverter and plugged our appliances into the power strips. Like the charge controller, the inverter must be located as close to the batteries as possible. Ours was under a settee.

Shade’s Impact on Sailboat Solar Panels

Once our solar installation was completed on our sailboat, we closely observed the effects of shade on our solar-panel array. We were often anchored in an orientation that put the panels in full sun. Just as often, however, we were angled in such a way that shade from the mast and boom covered portions of our panels. It was fascinating to monitor the solar charge controller’s LCD display whenever the sun was forward of the beam — the current from the panels to the batteries fluctuated up and down as we swung at anchor.

Taking notes one morning, we noticed that the charging current was repeatedly creeping up and down between 9.5 and 24.5 amps as the boat moved to and fro. When the entire solar-panel array was in full sun, it generated 24.5 amps of current. When we moved so the mast shaded a portion of one panel, the array generated 15 amps. When it shaded portions of two panels and only one was in full sun, the array produced just 9.5 amps. Of course, it would have been preferable to see a steady 24.5 amps all morning, but this sure beat watching the current drop to zero whenever a shadow crossed a panel.

We discovered that shade makes a huge impact while sailing, too. Surprisingly, it is far worse to have the panels shaded by the sails than to have the panels in full sun but tilted away from its direct rays. One afternoon, we noticed that while we were on a tack that tilted the panels away from the sun, they generated 24.5 amps of current, whereas on a tack where the panels were tilted toward the sun but two of the three were partially shaded by the sails, the current dropped to a mere 10 amps.

Reflections On Our Solar Panel Installation

A wonderful and surprising side benefit of our large solar panels and arch system was that the setup created fabulous shade over the jumpseats at the stern end of the cockpit. Our metal fabricator, Alejandro, placed a support strut at hand-holding height, and sitting in those seats feels secure and comfortable while sailing, no matter the conditions.

After living on solar power for eight years of cruising and land-yacht travel, we’ve learned that you can never have too much solar power. Groovy’s 555 watts was enough to run all our household appliances as needed, including our nearly 4-cubic-foot DC refrigerator, two laptops, a TV/DVD player, and lights at night. However, it was not quite enough power to run all that plus our stand-alone 2.5-cubic-foot DC freezer during the short days and low sun angles of the winter months without supplemental charging from the engine alternator every few days. For the 10 weeks that we did not have a functioning alternator, our solution was to turn off the freezer, which enabled our batteries to reach full charge every afternoon.

Solar power made a world of difference in our cruise. Not only did it allow us to live comfortably and with ample electricity for weeks on end when our engine alternator went on the blink, but as a “set-it-and-forget-it” system, it also gave us the freedom to anchor out for as long as we wished without worrying about the batteries. In our eyes, the solar-panel arch enhanced the beauty and lines of our boat, giving her a sleek and clean appearance. It was true icing on the cake to discover that the panels and arch system also provided much-needed shade over the cockpit and helm from the hot tropical sunshine. If you are preparing for a cruise, consider turning to the sun for electricity and outfitting your sailboat with solar power.

The Installation:

Emily and Mark Fagan offer cruising tips and share their stories and photos on their website, roadslesstraveled.us . They are currently enjoying a land cruise across America aboard an RV.

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Gemini Marine Products


Our innovation gives you options

Options and choices

In general we use two basic options for mounting rigid solar panels – one gets you up and over the canvas, and the other is a bit leaner. We then adapt the basic concept to the boat in question.

You can read more about these basic models in our article in Marine Fabricator magazine . This will give you a good idea where to start in planning your solar panel project.

Please also see our page of advice and FAQs on adding solar panels in seven easy steps.

Once you have a basic mounting option in mind, you can choose what Gemini Marine Products you want to use to execute the build.

Option 1: Low and lean

We designed our saddle-type post and fork mounts  with solar panels in mind. They give you easy, secure mounts for a solar panel frame that won’t draw attention to itself.

The saddle fittings bolt onto the top of the frame through the canvas of your bimini top or dodger. Rails running fore and aft create the base, and athwartship rails can augment the frame if needed. The entire installation can be made from off-the-shelf materials on the boat.

This option puts the entire rack up on the roof and largely hidden from view.

Solar panel mounts 1 solar panel

Option 2: Up and over

Alternatively you can use our   sliding or split side mounts  to create exterior side rails between your bimini’s end frames. Paired with a set of side-to-side bent rails, they go up and over the top to create the mounting platform.

This method does not touch the canvas and can be retrofitted without any fabric modifications. It provides good clearance and additional features such as a protective crash bar (think boom).

Solar panel mounts 4 solar panel

DIY Hybrids to meet  your  needs

You can of course mix and match our hardware and methods to create exactly what you need to suit your boat and the solar panels you’ve chosen.

Don’t take our word for it

The good folks at Abroad Reach Travel go through all the pros and cons of solar panel installation on boats, and when it comes to rigid panels, our rail mounts are right there on the shipping list .

Over at Tugnuts you’ll find lots of people using our mounts to install their solar panels . (Just search “Gemini” and see.

Easy enough for DIY. Strong enough for liveaboarders.

“ Easily executed .” – Tonya Ricketts and Captain Dave Pickering North East Canvas Products Association on using Gemini Marine Products for solar panel installation

Need a helping hand?

Use our DrillSteady  for clean, easy drilling every time, even on a rocking boat.

Welcome to Gemini Marine Products

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Yachting Monthly

  • Digital edition

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Sailing with solar power: A practical guide

  • Duncan Kent
  • November 13, 2020

The latest solar technology makes self-sufficient cruising much more achievable. Duncan Kent gives the lowdown on everything you need to get your boat sorted

Solar_Paul Cleaver_Alamy


Solar power is fast becoming the most popular and economic method of keeping the batteries charged on a boat.

Particularly now that the efficiency of photovoltaic (PV) panels, charge controllers and batteries is improving every day.

Furthermore, the latest technology in regulators and charge controllers has brought about a noticeable increase in useable power output, so the problems of shading and non-alignment can be compensated for more easily.

Not only has PV equipment become more efficient and cost-effective, but many of the modern devices we want to use on a boat have become less power hungry.

This means it is now far easier to provide your entire yacht’s electrical needs, both 220Vac and 12/24Vdc, from natural energy resources – particularly solar power, even if you are planning on a fully electric boat .

sailboat solar panel mount

Thinking carefully about how much power you need and how much your boat can accommodate is key to planning a solar array. Credit: Graham Snook


For instance, a boat with two new, good quality, deep-cycle house batteries of 100Ah each would supply 100Ah of energy to consume between charges, if you only use the recommended 50% of available charge between each charge cycle to protect the batteries.

From this you could run:

  • a modern 12Vdc fridge (approx. 1.5Ah, or 36Ah over 24hrs),
  • all LED lighting (say 20Ah per day),
  • various small device chargers (20Ah)
  • and a number of other items such as water pumps, TVs and stereos (25Ah/day)
  • Totalling around 100Ah.
  • For this you’d need 400W of solar capacity.

Of course, if you like to run a lot of AC devices off-grid such as hair dryers, microwaves, toasters and the like, then you’re going to need a DC/ AC inverter, which will take you to another level in power consumption terms.

But even then, with careful planning, solar could provide a large portion of the power you need before resorting to engine charging or a generator.


In practical terms, a modern 40ft monohull would have the space for around 1,200W of PV panels (cockpit arch, sprayhood top, deck), maybe 1,500W with the addition of a few portable panels for use at anchor.

The 1,200W of fixed position solar array could produce around 360Ah on a sunny summer’s day (zero shading) or more likely 250Ah on the average UK summer’s day.

So that’s enough for your 100Ah general DC consumption plus another 150Ah of AC consumption via the inverter.

Of course, to do this you’ll most likely need to increase your battery capacity to around 400-500Ah for maximum flexibility (you’ll need to store as much as possible during daylight hours), a typical figure for a 40-50ft offshore cruising yacht these days.


Get your solar charging right and you may never need to hook up to shore power

Typical daily inverter loads for a cruising yacht off grid might be:

  • induction cooking plate (20min) 60Ah
  • microwave (15min) 30Ah
  • coffee maker (20mins) 25Ah
  • hair dryer (5min) 15Ah
  • laptop charger (2h) 10Ah
  • or around 140Ah in total.

The trick is to monitor the batteries’ state of charge (SOC) at all times and vary your use of the inverter to suit.

For example, you might want to cook supper mid-afternoon, when solar is in abundance, and then reheat it in the evening when you want to eat it.

In some cases, when you’re cruising in warm climates such as the Med, you might end up with excess charge from your solar panels .

In this situation, many long-term cruisers devise a method of ‘dumping’ the extra energy by heating water for showers.

Do bear in mind if you’re planning to live aboard full time , then it’ll be a whole different story on cloudy days and during the winter, when inverter use might need to be knocked on the head entirely.

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There’s often confusion as to how much power you can harvest from a solar installation.

A PV panel is nearly always advertised stating its theoretical peak output power (Pw).

But in reality, on a yacht where there are limited areas in which to mount them, they will more likely produce a maximum of 60% of their peak output if mounted horizontally, increasing to 80% if tilted towards the sun and regularly adjusted.

The latter is rarely achievable on a boat, however, as even at anchor it can swing through an arc of 180° in wind or tidal shifts .


Flexible panels can be mounted on sprayhoods or awnings to add power when it’s needed at anchor or in harbour


Having trawled through hundreds of ‘deals’ to get the best price on the most efficient panels you can afford you now need to know how to install them to best fulfill your energy generation needs.

The output, even from the highest quality photo-voltaic array, will only be as good as the installation itself.

So following our guidelines should ensure you extract every last drop of energy from your investment.


Sailing boats are not the ideal structure on which to mount wide, flat PV panels.

So before you go ahead and purchase what looks like the biggest and best, take a few minutes to decide on exactly where you can mount them, as this will affect what size and type of panels you should buy.

In many cases the first choice would be on an arch, davits or gantry aft, especially if you already have, or plan to fit one.


Dinghy davits, particularly on multihulls, can support a huge solar capacity

These allow a solid metal framework to be constructed that will be strong enough to take the heavier, more productive rigid PV panels.

You can also build in some form of adjuster to the framework that will allow the panels to be orientated towards the sun for the best performance.

With luck (or careful planning) a gantry will also keep them aft of the boom, thereby eliminating loss of output caused by boom shading.

The next most popular position for mounting the panels is on a cockpit sprayhood or bimini, although this will often mean using the flexible or semi-flexible panels, which are generally less efficient than the rigid ones for the same area.


Alternatively, there are kits available for mounting panels onto lifelines, which can allow their elevation to be manually adjusted to a certain degree.


Pole-mounted panels can be used for maximum adjustability

Finally, panels can be fitted directly onto the deck by either gluing them down using mastic or attaching them onto a rigid support frame.

Once again you will probably need to use semi-flexible panels – especially if the deck surface is curved.

Rigid, glass-coated panels will obviously not be suitable for deck mounting in an area that is frequently walked over.

Don’t be tempted to drill through the panels, even along the edges, as this will invalidate the warranty and possibly damage the panel.


With solid panels, the ability to adjust the angle can add significantly to output

It might seem obvious, but the key to an efficient system is to avoid shading wherever possible.

It’s no good fitting expensive, high-efficiency PVs right under the boom as they’ll perform little better than the cheaper types.

Saying that, in good quality panels each cell will be isolated from the next by a series of diodes (one-way electrical valves), so that if one cell is shaded at least it won’t drag down the other cells within the same panel.

Older panels often didn’t have these, so the slightest partial shading caused the output of the entire panel to cease.


Another important factor that is often ignored when installing the panels is that of overheating.

If a PV panel gets too hot, which is quite likely if mounted directly onto a flat surface without an air gap behind, its output will drop quite noticeably.

To allow for some air circulation behind the panels it’s best to apply mastic adhesive in numerous large dabs.

This is best achieved by placing wooden spacer strips between the dabs until the mastic has completely cured, after which the spacers can be removed.

You might need some form of trim around one or more of the outside edges, though, if they are positioned where sheets and other lines might get caught under them.

Raising the panels up will also help water to drain off and thereby helping to avoid possible delamination from sitting in water for too long.


A PV module cannot supply an electrical device directly due to the changeability of the sunlight, which in turns varies the current it can produce.

Therefore, it has to be connected to a battery, which stores and smooths its output.

Whatever the size of your solar array you will need to fit a regulator, or charge controller as they are now more commonly known, to the system in order to control the output and to help extract as much power from the panels as possible.

There are two types of PV charge controller.

The older designs, called Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) types, were fairly basic voltage regulators and simply output volts at just above battery level.

The latest controllers use Multi Power Point Tracking (MPPT) technology and can accept much higher input voltages (up to 240Vdc).

MPPT controllers can be up to 30% more efficient as they use the peak output of the panels to charge the batteries, even compensating for partial shading.


If you buy online do be careful to ensure you’re getting what you pay for.

There are a huge number of fake MPPTs out there, which are simply the much cheaper PWM dressed up with fake labels.

It’s hard to tell which is which, but the old adage of ‘if it looks too good to be true, it usually is’ makes good sense.

MPPT controllers are usually bigger and heavier than PWMs, but if in doubt call or email the supplier to discuss the pros and cons of their kit before buying.

If they’re not happy to chat and advise you then I would steer clear of their gear.

Some good MPPTs are made in China, but unless they have a UK supplier, I wouldn’t bother with them as you’ll have no follow-up advice.

To calculate what size controller you need simply divide the panel’s peak power in Watts (Wp) by the battery voltage, which will give you the maximum current (Amps) they could theoretically supply.

For example 240W/12V = 20A. Although it’s unlikely you’ll ever get near the peak output from any PV panel, it’s best to go for the maximum possible.

Induction cooking

Induction cooking is now a reality on board, even without shore power

PV panels come with a short length of cable, usually around 1m long.

Some are supplied with MC4 connectors already attached but most only provide bare wires.

The latter can be easily extended using proper waterproof connections but thought must be given as to the current rating and voltage drop (usually max 3%) for the size of cable you intend to use.

If in doubt, bigger is better!

Panels can sometimes be ordered with the wiring on the back so that the cable can go straight below deck through a hole under the panel.


You may need to fit extra battery capacity if you want to run an inverter from solar charging


A commonly asked question is ‘should I wire my PV panels in series or in parallel?’

The simple answer is, if there’s any danger of frequent shading to one or more of the panels then install them in parallel.

If wired in series the shading of a single panel will drag down the output from all of the others in the same series.


Most commonly, multiple panels are wired together in parallel to a single charge controller, with diodes protecting each panel from discharging the others should one become partially shaded.

With the advent of MPPT controllers, however, there can sometimes be a benefit to wiring two or more identical panels into a series bank, thereby presenting a higher voltage to the controller.

It’s worth noting that, like batteries, wiring PV panels in series increases the voltage only – the current capacity of the array remains the same as for a single panel.

‘Where’s the benefit of wiring them in series then?’ you might ask.

Well, the higher the voltage fed into the MPPT, the more consistent it will be with its output, which could, in some cases, prove more efficient than a parallel installation with PWM controllers.

It’s also likely to be necessary if you have a 24V domestic system.


Series wiring is usually only done when the cable runs are long, as it helps negate the voltage drop caused by the resistance of the cable.

While a decent controller will have no problem handling the output from four or even five panels wired in series, it is often inappropriate for sailing yachts as shading just one of the panels will reduce the output of the entire series array.

If you need to do so in order to reduce cable runs then it’s best to split the panels between each side of the boat – a series bank on each side.

If you do this, then you would ideally fit a separate controller to each series PV bank and then connect their outputs together in parallel to the battery bank.

Note, however, that panels wired in series must all be the same types with an equal number of cells per panel.

Furthermore, the charge controller needs to be sized for the total of all panel voltages added together and the current rating of one individual panel.

Differently rated panels can be connected together in parallel but only if each panel has its own controller.

The outputs of the individual controllers can then be joined together to go to the battery bank.


Another frequently asked question is ‘Can I connect another charging source to the battery bank while the solar array is charging?’

The answer is yes.

Any decent PV controller will be protected against feedback from other charging sources.


Think carefully about where shade from mast, boom and rigging will fall. Credit: Graham Snook Photography


A frequent cause of reduced output from PV arrays is wiring that is too small.

The resistance of a wire conductor increases in direct proportion to its cross-sectional area, so go as big as is practicable for the least cable loss.

Each panel should be supplied with the correctly sized cables for its own maximum output.

But if you’re combining panels, either in parallel or in series, you will clearly need to rate the single feed cable to suit the maximum current available at theoretical peak solar output and to minimise voltage drop.

Likewise, the cable from the controller to the batteries should be sized to suit the controller’s maximum output current and protected with a fuse.

For outside it’s important to use exterior grade cable, which is double- insulated and UV-proof.


And wherever possible use compatible weatherproof connectors (usually MC4) to those found on the panels rather than cutting off the plugs and hard-wiring them.

Field- assembly MC4 plugs are available, so you don’t have to drill large holes in the decks or bulkheads when feeding the cables through.

When joining more than one panel together try to use the approved multiway connectors; not only do they keep the wiring neat and tidy, but they also offer a greater contact area than budget terminal blocks.

If you have to use screw-type connectors make sure to fit proper ferrules to the wire first to avoid any stray wires in the multistrand shorting across the terminals.

When feeding a cable from above to below deck, try to go through an upright bulkhead where possible to minimise ‘pooling’ of water around the access hole.

Also, use a proper watertight deck seal that matches the cable you’re using.

If drilling through a cored deck you need to drill a larger hole first, fill it with epoxy resin and then drill the required size hole through the epoxy to ensure no water gets into the deck core.

Ideally, the charge controller should be mounted no further than 2m from the battery bank.

If you need to go further, you’ll require larger cabling to reduce the voltage drop.

sailboat solar panel mount

A generous solar array will keep you self- sufficient indefinitely. Credit: Graham Snook Photography


There is often confusion over the ‘load’ output of a charge controller (often depicted by a light bulb) and what can safely be connected to these terminals.

Rarely explained in the manual, the load terminals should be pretty much ignored in a marine installation as the output on these terminals is usually very limited (10A max).

Some attach an LED light to them to indicate the controller is operating, but all your usual electrical loads should remain connected to the batteries with the battery terminals on the controller connected directly to that battery bank via a fuse.

It is possible, though, to control a high-current switching relay in certain conditions.


Parallel installation is more resilient to shading, but a series installation will increase peak charging outputs. A combination of the two offers some of the benefit of both


Unlike most cheap PWMs, the majority of good quality MPPT charge controllers come with an alphanumeric LCD screen to let you know what is going on.

This can either be a remote display or simply one on the front of the box.

It’s obviously a lot better to have a proper numerical display than to rely on a few flashing LEDs to tell you when something’s not right.

So if your chosen controller doesn’t have one be sure to fit a battery monitor (the shunt type) into your solar circuit between the controller and the batteries.

It doesn’t have to be a very ‘smart’ monitor, just one that can display the voltage and current being supplied by the panels.

For smartphone addicts there are several wifi apps that will do the job remotely on your phone or tablet.


All good quality PV panels feature built-in diode protection between each cell to prevent a shaded cell from dragging down the productive ones.

In addition, there will be internal blocking diodes on the final output to protect the panel from polarity reversal and to ensure that the batteries can’t discharge back into the panel during the night.

The latter can be added externally, the former can’t, so check before you buy.

A fuse, rated just above the maximum current available, should be fitted between each panel and the charge controller.

Another fuse should then be installed between the charge controller’s output and the batteries.

In the case of multiple arrays, this second fuse will be rated higher than the individual panel fuses and should match the maximum current rating of the cable.

With this protection installed other charging devices can be connected in parallel at the battery, meaning the solar can be left connected even when you are hooked up to shore power and the battery charger is operating.

In some circumstances, however, this arrangement can affect the sensing of the battery by the charger, causing it to fall back into float mode.

If this becomes apparent it can be overcome by installing a manual/auto switch to disconnect the solar array when on shore power.


Check the flex of the solar panel is sufficient for your deck


A solar charge controller works by disconnecting the supply from the PV panels when the batteries are fully charged.

But for some full-time liveaboards in sunny climates that can be considered a waste, when the excess power could be put to good use – heating water, say.

This is commonly done using an inverter to supply AC power to the heating element.

Alternatively, you can now buy a 12Vdc element for your calorifier (hot water tank) and supply this directly from your battery bank.

Both of these methods would require a voltage sensitive relay (VSR) to disconnect the element should the battery voltage drop below a pre-set level.

Don’t expect boiling hot water, as there will probably only be enough spare power to take the chill off it before your battery bank reaches its lower threshold voltage.

A 600W/12V element will draw some 50A, from the batteries, whereas a 1kW AC element run through an inverter will need close to 100A.


A small, semi-flexible panel will be sufficient for keeping batteries trickle charged, but not for heavy use


Despite massive recent improvements in semi-flexible panels in recent years, the solid glass panels still offer a higher power density.

That said, they are heavier, more awkward to mount and can’t be walked on, so unless you have a dedicated gantry aft, you’re better off choosing the more rugged semi-flexibles.

Modules incorporating monocrystalline cells also have a better output than those with polycrystalline cells (that’s cells made from a single slice of silicon as opposed to layers of smaller pieces).

Output voltage also depends on the number of cells on the panel.

In the past this has commonly been 32, but now some 36 and even 40 cell panels are available.

That said, they’re larger, of course, so an array of interconnected smaller panels might be a better solution.

Module efficiency is now more often around the 20% mark, as opposed to 12-15% for older models and semi- flexible (up to 20° bend) are usually better than flexible (up to 180° bend).


A rigid panel is more efficient, but less robust

There are a huge number of panels on the market, but many use the same cells.

Sunpower Maxeon cells are exceptionally good, as are the Panasonic HIT range and LG, but they are pricey.

If the maker is offering a 25-year guarantee instead of a 3-5 year one, you can be pretty confident they’re good.

When it comes to charge controllers it’s definitely worth paying a little more for a decent MPPT.

A cheap PWM might be okay just to keep a small starter battery charged with a 30W panel, but the MPPT will give you much more when it comes to heavy service.

Victron are probably top of the range, while cheaper brands like MakeSkyBlue and EPever are also good value – but treat imports of unclear origin with care.


Duncan Kent

Duncan Kent has been evaluating and reviewing yachts and marine equipment for the past 30 years

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Captain Curran's sailing blog

~ a collection of sailing adventures from Alaska to Cabo

October 6, 2014

Solar panels for boats: an easy installation guide., marine solar panel installation.

  • I am writing the following instructions for boat people or RV campers. 
  • I describe a basic set up that provides a charge onto your 12 Volt DC battery bank.
  • If you want to use this system to power your home, then you'll also need an inverter to switch the 12 Volt DC electricity to 110 Volt AC.

Ok, here's my simple DIY instructions for solar installation on a boat or an RV camper.

How to install solar panels for boats, step by step guide for installing a solar panel boat system, faq: what size panel should i get, faq: which brand of solar panel is best, faq: do i need a controller, faq: how did you mount your panel on your stern rail, faq: how do you wire up the panels/controller/battery, faq: how much will this whole solar panel project cost, solar power for boats price breakdown, okay - good luck with your marine solar panel installation ,  capt. curran, 59 comments:.

Heany - Don't hesitate, the beauty of this system is that there are no moving parts, which means maintenance is minimal.. turning photons to electrons

Good question - visit your local machine shop They should have barrels of aluminum flat panels You want 12-16 inch long, need to measure panel That's it Then drill holes and strap in on the rail Have fun!

Thanks Douglass - all the best..

Great information, thank you! Where did you purchase the white plastic rail mounts?

Hello Philip Magistro, I bought them at a boating store in Seattle - called Fisheries Supply - they may ship. But I would also check your local west marine - they are standard stern rail mounts - they fit lots of other stuff as well as solar panels. Good luck !

Excellent, glad it was helpful. I'm about to post a couple new photos of the system. Everything is still working great.

Two questions 1. Is a 30w panel large enough to trick charge two 12v batteries? 2. How large an in-line on the positive lead to the battery?

Hello - Yes, a 30watt panel is large enough to trickle charge 2 12 V batteries. That is the set up I have on my boat - it works great - even in mixed sun/cloud conditions. When you ask 'how large' an in-line on the pos. lead - I am assuming you're asking the guage. I can't give the exact guage that is suited for your set-up. But, I know that the reasonable range is between 10-14 awg. Hope that helps.. Cheers

Kevin Thanks. Great info! I was actually trying to ask type and size of fuse on the positive lead to the battery. Fingers! Cheers Bill Pierson

Thanks for a great post! I'll go with the Renogy 200 Watt kit. I know it's not as adventurous, but easier and faster. And time is money :)

Lucas, I hear ya. Time is money - best of luck with that kit. I think you've made a wise decision.... Kevin

Thanks a lot Kavin for your guidance on installing a solar panel on boat. As solar panels are the most effective and the best way of generating electricity these days so everybody wants to install a solar panel of their own. But installing a solar panel in the boat is little challenging. Thanks for sharing the step by step guidelines, it is definitely going to help the readers.

Great article. A few questions: The article explains how to hook it up to one battery. But I have a system with two house banks of two bateries each, as well as a starter battery. How do I ensure that the trickle charge gets to all give batteries? Or do you just hook it up to the starter battery? How does this system interact with my charger?

Mary, I have a similar battery bank - but the two are connected. I connect the leads of the solar panel to my house batteries. However, if they are not connected - then I would connect the leads of your solar panel to the starter battery.

Mary, I would get a MorningStar SunSaver Duo controller which can charge 2 batteries (or banks thereof) and set the 2 house banks in parallel on the controller's Batt1 and the Starter Battery on Batt2. This controller has the option to charge 90/10 or 50/50, 90/10 is best for this setup because the starting battery doesn't need much, just enough to top-it-off.

Hi Kevin, I purchased the Renogy 100w panel with controler. I like your plastic rail mounts. Where can I find those. I plan to mount this on the stern of my 73, 27' Catalina stern rail. Thanks, Chris

Chris, I got mine at a boat store in Seattle called Fishery Supplies. I just looked it up on their website. Here's the page for those rail clamps. https://www.fisheriessupply.com/sea-dog-line-removable-rail-mount-clamps-327199-1 Made by a company called Sea Dog. Good luck - Kevin

I have a 20 volt panel, single marine battery, with a controler working without problem for about 4 years. While motoring out of the marina the controler caught fire. I did not have a fuse installed as you described in your installation guide. Any idea what might have caused this? Barry

Barry Curran, That is an odd and unfortunate situation. I am not an expert on safeguarding circuits, however I can weigh in with my opinion. I do think that the installation of a circuit fuse would help prevent over-charge or over-heating happening within the circuit. I think - assuming the over-charge was happening throughout the circuit - that the fuse would have blown, thereby salvaging your controller. However, there is a chance that a diode or some other internal circuit on the controller was the weak link. In that case, I don't believe a downstream fuse would have helped save your controller. I would install a fuse and get yourself a new controller. Best of luck! Kevin Curran

Just an helpful clarification on the purpose and location of the fuse. The fuse is to protect the wire, and should be placed as close to the origination of the power source as possible which, in this case, is the positive lead near the solar panel. We're all use to hearing about locating the main fuse on a boat as close to the battery as possible; that's because that's where the power comes from. Also, the fuse should be sized based upon the length and gauge of the wire.

Thanks for that additional insight on the location of the fuse! Sorry I didn't see this comment earlier.

Thanks for sharing the helpful guide to install solar panels .

Thanks for sharing article solar installation on boats it is really informative.A Solar panel is typically a panel that absorbs solar energy and uses it as a source of energy to generate electricity. They are basically made up of solar cells or the photovoltaic cells that are arranged as a photovoltaic array making up the photovoltaic system.I know a place one of the best solar installation company provides best solar services and products that are not just economical, but also efficient with customized solutions to offer you the best from our vast range of affordable models...

Greetings, How lucky am I to have happened upon your easily understood blog. Stupid question: can I mount the solar panel flat on the deck of my Nonsuch sailboat? (I know: don’t step on it!). Will it be worthwhile? (It can’t go on the stern rail).

Yes, that can be done. If you have a bimini or any cover in your cockpit, that is probably a better location. But flat on the deck can work, you can create a border around it to prevent falling on it...

Thank you so much for your excellent blog. I am considering a solar system for my 28' Catalina sailboat. Battery question: Any problem using solar systems with AGM batteries? I have two, house and starter battery.

Hmmm, that's a good question. I have never heard of any issue with AGMs on a solar system. Any other readers here have comments?

Selecting the correct charger depends primarily on the design of your deep cycle battery, so the first thing you need to do is determine the construction type of your battery. TrollingBatteryAdvisor.com This is likely to prolong the life of each battery and save you money in the long run.

Great blog! Can I leave my solar panel attached to the battery while I'm drawing from the battery to run my trolling motor?

Anonymous, Yes, you certainly can. There is no issue with drawing from a battery that is being fed energy from a solar panel. Enjoy Captain Curran

Thanks for sharing this article here about the solar panels for boats . Your article is very informative and I will share it with my other friends as the information is really very useful. Keep sharing your excellent work.

Great to hear! Glad the post was helpful..

Thanks a lot, Captain Curran and co-Captain Jessica for a nice and informative article about "Marine solar panel installation". This article will surely help the sailor in the Sea. And using a solar panel in the mid-sea is a very nice idea as an alternative source of power. Best wishes from SolarPandit

Thank you very much, Captain Curran and co-Captain Jessica, for a very interesting and insightful post on "Marine solar panel installation." This article will undoubtedly assist the sailor at sea. Using a solar panel and  in the middle of the sea as an alternate source of electricity is also a great idea.

Hello all, Great to see the article has been helpful for those putting panels on their boat. Don't hesitate to reach out with any questions. I changed the notification, so I should be pinged when someone asks a question. Fair winds!

The Renogy 30 Watt Solar Panel is an excellent choice for light energy users, while the 100 Watt Solar Panel is preferred for moderate energy users. And remember to use a suitable quality controller like the Morningstar SunSaver-10 to control the panel's charge and prevent over-charging the battery.

Their step-by-step guide for installing solar panels on boats is incredibly helpful, and I appreciate the personal touch of sharing their own experiences and the success they've had with their solar panel system. The detailed explanations, recommended products, and estimated costs make it easy for someone like me to envision completing this project over a weekend. I'm definitely inspired to take on this DIY installation and enjoy the freedom of generating my own energy while sailing.

I can’t really help but admire your article your topic is so adorable and nice.

Forbidden love in a mesmerizing supernatural universe. Anime like Devils Line

Captain Curran's guide to installing solar panels on boats is a real lifesaver! After following his easy-to-understand steps, I completed my own installation over a weekend, and now my boat's batteries are always topped off during my fishing trips in the Chesapeake Bay. No more worries about a dead battery spoiling the fun!

Hello Captain, Great article, thank you. Our vessel has (6) 6 volt golf cart batteries, a 2000 Watt inverter, plus a generator. I want to limit the generator recharge time by installing a 100 or 200 watt kit that you recommend. My question is can I just connect the pos. and neg. marine grade wires from the controller directly to my battery bank pos. and neg. Thanks, John

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The Complete Guide to Solar Panel Mounts for Boats (and Where to Position Them)

The Complete Guide to Solar Panel Mounts for Boats (and Where to Position Them)

How many boaters invest hours researching solar panels? They go all wide-eyed at the shiny panels, marveling at their ingenuity, but how many consider the humble mounts those bright panels sit on?

Let's face facts: Solar panels get all the glory, but spare a thought for the mounts? A good mount can help you get the most out of your solar, increasing your capacity by up to 40 percent.

So maybe it's time for mounts to step out of the shadows of solar panels and into the sunlight (bad pun, I know). Seriously, let's give them some glory.

The type of mounts you have depends on what you want the solar to do and the space available. Is it to charge a cell phone or mobile GPS unit? Or is it to power your entire onboard needs when stationary?

The engine does the hard work when you're moving, so you only really need solar when you're moored up, right? To find out what solar mounts are right for you, we first need to discover what type of boater you are.

Are You a Liveaboard Boater?

Being a liveaboard boater  is a different experience to being a leisure boater. You can't just plug-in to a marina or get into an SUV and tow the boat home at the first sign of a rain cloud. The boat is your home.

So power is something you need to manage carefully. And the right solar panel mounts for your boat are essential to optimize the performance of your solar panels.

Are You a Leisure Boater?

As a leisure boater, you'll have different priorities than a liveaboard, and your need to manage power is not so crucial. You'll watch for sunny weather and head out in the boat for a day or weekend excursion . So why do you need solar?

Coolers need power to chill their contents and cell phones need charging. But in the main, the boat engine will power the electrical equipment onboard, because there won't be long periods when you're not moving, unlike a liveaboard boater.

Liveaboard or not, if the sun's power reduces your costs, minimizes the engine's wear and tear and you can afford it, why not?

What Are the Best Boats for Solar Panel Mounts?

sailboat solar panel mount

Pontoon Boats

It depends on the size and shape of your pontoon boat . Smaller vessels are designed to make the most of the available space, which means seating and guests take priority on the deck .

Newer models, like the Cypress Cay Sea breeze SL 250, have virtually no surface to put solar mounts. Some pontoons have living space.

The Canadian manufacturer  South lands  builds hybrid pontoon boats, but the average pontoon vessels are for day trips and fishing. Some pontoons have fixed canopies so solar mounts can fit the available flat surfaces .

If you're in the market for a pontoon boat, solar panels and how to mount them are way down on your list of priorities.

Yachts offer a multitude of opportunities to fit solar mounts. Pole mounts are popular with yacht owners, as are fixed and angled mounts . And because most yachts are seafaring, there's little to obstruct the sun's rays way out in the ocean.

In addition, yachts are designed to travel farther, making extended periods onboard inevitable. This means that choosing the right mount is crucial to achieving maximum input.

Canal Boats

A  canal boat's  design makes them ideal vessels to fit solar mounts. Their robust, steel roofs can withstand the most durable solar panel mounts. This means larger panels can be attached to increase onboard power input.

Because of their long shape, canal boats also allow various panel mount options too. In fact, the only solar panel mount that's unsuitable for a canal boat is the pole mount because of low canal bridge clearances.

Motor Cruisers

Motor cruisers, because of their shape, often have plenty of space for panel mounts to be fitted. With long flat roofs, most motor cruisers (even the mid-range ones) are excellent boats for fixed, angled and even pole mounts .

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The Best Ways to Fix Solar Panel Mounts to Your Boat

Glue adhesives.

There are numerous products available to bond panel mounts to any surface. If you choose this option, it's worth remembering there's some prep work before applying the glue.

Most manufacturers recommend cleaning the surface area before bonding, and some recommend lightly sanding the surface before applying adhesive.

I recommend this  Sikaflex-252 White Polyurethane Adhesive The most significant advantage of this glue is that once dried, it can be sanded and painted. Oh, and when choosing adhesives, there's the small matter of  no holes .

The fixing solution you choose depends on the boat you have and where it's used. Gluing solar mounts on a seafaring yacht may not be the best idea, especially if you're mid-Atlantic in force nine gales.

You want to know that the mounts are going to do their job and hold your solar panels in place. This Temco Z Bracket Stainless Steel Mount Kit (Available on Amazon) can be easily installed on solar panels. The stainless steel material means it'll never leave rust on your boat.

You're gonna need to bolt the mounts to the roof. Just make sure that when you've drilled the holes, you have enough marine-grade  sealant to plug the gaps.

Panel Sizes Versus Types of Mounts for Your Boat

Some solar panel mounts aren't suitable for different-sized panels. The most robust by far is the fixed mount system. If you cruise a lot and don't mind the panels being permanently flat, then these mounts can handle whatever weight you throw at them.

If you want tilt and angled mounts, then you'll need to check with the manufacturer what the maximum load is. The general rule of thumb is: the larger the mount, the bigger the panel it will hold.

Panel weights 100 w or less will fit cheaper mounts. If you want panels over 100 w, check with the bracket manufacturer to see the maximum load weight.

The Best Way to Position Solar Panel Mounts on the Boat

Your first consideration is the obstructions that might hamper the performance of the panels. Get it wrong and all that hard-earned cash you shelled will be for nothing.

Putting a fixed mount for solar on a deck of a motor cruiser isn't any good if you then use a retractable canopy to shield you from the sun and it blocks the panel producing energy. You've just wasted hundreds of dollars.

Another consideration is the mount type, especially if you're stationary for long periods. Tracking the sun by tilting the panels when not moving will increase power input massively.

If you're mostly moving and rarely still, then flat is best. This position optimizes the sun's rays, drawing power in whichever position the boat sits.

Look at your own boat. Does it have large flat areas, preferably high up and unaffected by shadows or obstructions? If the answer is yes, then the next consideration is what type of solar panel mount is best for you.

The Different Types of Solar Panel Mounts for Boats

sailboat solar panel mount

Fixed Mount

The  HQST Z-Bracket is an excellent example of a fixed mount. It's lightweight and inexpensive. And I mean cheap!

It isn't complicated to fit, although it does require you to drill holes in whatever surface you attach it to. This bracket also enables you to mount the panel to many styles of vessels. The manufacturer even recommends them for RVs.

The other advantage of a fixed mount system is its ability to handle panel sizes from the smallest all the way up to 300w. While these look like a good option, it's worth remembering that if you need the flexibility of moving the panels to chase the sun, fixed mounts won't be for you. 

On an ocean-going yacht or a pontoon boat (space permitting) on a lake, the fixed mount system would be worth considering. There'll be minimum obstructions, and while you're always moving, the flat fixed mounts will optimize the charge into the batteries.

There are other types of fixed-mount systems that don't require any drilling.

The  Renogy Solar Panel Drill-Free Corner Bracket is a good choice if you don't want to drill holes in your boat roof. They aren't as cheap as the Z-Brackets, but primarily they do the same job.

If you own a boat with a fiberglass body, drilling into the roof simply isn't an option. So how are they fixed? Good old bonding adhesive like Sikaflex 252 (Available on Amazon) .

Adjustable Mounts

The Renogy Adjustable Tilt Mount Bracket  mount enables the solar panel to be adjusted to directly face the sun, a feature commonly used when the boat is still.

For the liveaboard boater, the adjustable mount is crucial. By adjusting the angle of the panels, you can increase the input of energy by up to 40 percent.

This particular model can only support a maximum panel of 150w, and the adjustment angle does decrease depending on the size of the panels. So it's worth considering that the max 150w panel, while the most powerful, could give less performance with this bracket, because of the angle that it can be mounted.

What makes this mount different is that the brackets that attach to the roof of your boat are independent of each other, rather than on a long aluminum bracket joining them together.

It means the roof doesn't have to be completely flat. Canal boats would benefit from this type of bracket because they have slightly curved roofs.

The Link Solar Adjustable Rack Solar Panel Mount  is another adjustable bracket, enabling the maximum performance of the panels.

It's a rack system, so it has a long strip bracket that attaches to the roof. The beauty of this system is the capacity it can handle.

If you invest in the 41-inch bracket, it'll take the weight of a 300w solar panel. It may cost more, but given that you'll probably only need two brackets if you're mounting 300w solar panels, it could still be a cost-effective choice.

Just remember where you're going to mount it. Because it's a rack system panel mount, it only fits on perfectly flat surfaces.

AM Solar 35mm Tilting Mount Okay, I'm a bit sneaky here. Technically, these mounts are for RVs. But if it attaches to RVs, it'll attach to your boat. They're light, compact and give vital adjustability to maximize the sun's power.

This mounting system's advantage is you'll avoid drilling holes in your roof. Each bracket has a VHB tape strip, which bonds to most surfaces. Fiberglass gives the best bond, but if it works for RVs, then metal surfaces will work too.

A word of caution:  These brackets attach by drilling into the solar panel's side. This is the crucial bit: If you're piercing the side of your panel, there's a strong chance you'll invalidate the warranty.

It's worth checking before you do. AM Solar sells compatible panels with pre-drilled holes, which massively cuts down on your choices and ability to shop around for the best price.

Pole Mounts 

Missouri Pole Mount

Let's start with a positive: This pole mount is 100% American. That's got to be a good thing, right? 

Pole mounts are excellent for panels that can be raised up to avoid obstructions. They're also good for boats with limited solar panel mounting space.

Pole mounts are popular with yacht owners due to their maneuverability and height adjustment properties. This particular pole system can handle two 100w panels, so there's no need to compromise on the energy you create.

What We've Learned

All the solar panel mounts featured are value for money. What to consider is the panel size. Is it better to have two 300w panels, reducing the number of solar mounts? Or do you go for six 100w panels, increasing the mount's overall cost? That'll depend on your boat's available space.

By far, the easiest to use is the fixed flat system . Glue or bolt the brackets on and away you go. No fuss. But again, mounting space may be an issue, so this type of mount won't be for everyone.

The most efficient is the angled, adjustable mount . Liveaboards should consider this when buying solar. Increasing your panel's performance with the ability to angle towards the sun is vital if you're stationary for extended periods.

In winter, when the sun sits lower in the sky, you'll reap the benefits of angled mounting systems for sure.

To clean your solar panels, simply rinse with a boat hose  and nozzle and swipe with a silicone squeegee . This is a quick task to do when you've got out the boat soap  or hull cleaner for the rest of the vessel.

One Final Point

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What happens if my Arch is damaged in shipping? Atlantic Towers wants you to enjoy your boat, not spend the season chasing a freight claim. If your Arch arrives damaged, just refuse the shipment and we will send you a new one at no additional cost to you.

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Many sailors have a dream of a sustainable power production on their boat. It gives you the freedom for long passages and visiting remote destinations without having to worry about electrical power. Most sailors will choose a solution with solar panels which will raise the question; where to place them on the boat.? To get enough capacity, most often the panels will need to be placed on a solar arch on the stern of the boat.

Having a solar arch mounted, will also give you the option to carry and hoist a dinghy from the integrated davits.

As a sailor, you used to have two options, when looking to mount an arch on your sailboat to carry solar panels and  a dinghy on the stern:

Buy a 100% standard product, which you then cut and drill so it fits onto your boat. This can be relatively cheap, but is definitely not pretty, since often the material is aluminium, so "normal people" are able to cut and drill without problems. It does not look great when the other tubes on your boat are most likely polished stainless steel.  

Find a local blacksmith and ask them to make a one-off arch. That gives you maximum freedom to decide design (with the potential to mess it up, if you don't know what you are doing). This is always a VERY costly affair, as most one-off products are.

We have figured out a way to combine the best of both...

We have developed an advanced, yet simple process for our customers to perform the necessary measurements on their own sailboats, which we then use to finish a semi-standard product.

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Top 3 Best Solar Panels For Sailboats

Best Solar Panels For Sailboats | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

June 15, 2022

Choosing whether or not to install solar panels on your sailboat is a big decision. They are not exactly cheap, though they can start to pay themselves off pretty quickly.

This article is going to cover not only why you might want to use solar panels but all the benefits they provide. You will also find a helpful guide on which solar panels would be best for you and your budget. Hopefully, by the end, you will feel confident in your decision to install solar panels on your sailboat and even have an idea of which ones you might like.

Table of contents

Are solar panels on sailboats necessary?

Whether or not you should be installing solar panels on your boat is a matter of choice, not out of necessity. Sailboats get their power from the wind, by harnassing it in their sail. So if you plan to be sailing for the afternoon you probably don’t need solar panels.

You could charge a battery pack from the marina and that will probably see you through several trips. The problems only really start to arise if you are planning to be on your sailboat for longer periods, or even permanently. If you plan to live on your sailboat year-round, even if you spend 80% of it in a marina, you would be better off with some solar panels. Even if it is just as a backup source of power.

Are solar panels on boats safe?

Solar panels are generally pretty safe. They have no moving parts and typically have a very strong protective cover over them so you never come in contact with the electrics themself. So, as a source of power, they are generally pretty safe. The only time they may become unsafe is if they are badly damaged.

Solar panels are often covered by glass plating that keeps them safe. It also helps them absorb sunlight and warmth. This is great, except when the glass breaks. If the glass protective cover on your solar panels should crack and splinter you are at risk of serious injury from sharp shards of glass. Not only is the glass itself dangerous at this point, so are the electronic components inside. They have powerful currents running through them, and if you come in contact with them you may be in for a shock.

Furthermore, if these electronics get wet they can become deadly. Electricity and water do not mix well at all. Being as you are on a sailboat, at sea, the chances of them getting wet is very high. Luckily, the chances of them breaking in the first place are slim to none. The only real way they would break, besides vandalism, is by debris hitting them during a bad storm. There is not often debris at sea, so this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

What are the benefits of having solar panels on a sailboat?

There are so many great benefits of having solar panels on a sailboat. They can be a lifesaver if you find yourself at sea for a long time. There benefits range from trivial comforts to being the difference between life and death. Here are some of the benefits you might not have considered about having solar panels installed on your sailboat.


Solar panels are not cheap, it is far cheaper to just run a generator or charge your batteries from the marina the whole time. At least, it is in the short term. Over time, it can start to become very expensive. With solar panels, you are looking at a big initial cost (the solar panels themself) and then it’s smooth sailing. You don’t need to pay for power again. Solar panels last for about 40 years before they start to become too inefficient at producing power. The cost of a few solar panels upfront compared to 40 years of marina fees and gasoline for a generator is the financially savvy move.

Emergency power

If you find yourself at sea, the wind dies down (or becomes too strong), and you find yourself stuck bobbing around waiting for more favorable conditions you may run into trouble. Depending on how long you are out there, you may find yourself with dead electronics. Be it a satellite phone, radio, or secondary engine (depending on the boat). Having a set of solar panels and a power bank can be a genuine lifesaver in these situations.

Comfort amenities

Whether you are day sailing or making a week-long voyage, having access to the comforts in life can make the whole journey so much more enjoyable. The amenities may not be available to you without having a constant source of power at sea. Having access to a kettle, tv, videogame system, radio or microwave oven may be the only thing keeping you going at rougher times. As exciting as sailing can be, when you aren’t sailing and are just bobbing around it can be quite dull. The sea is beautiful, but there is only so much time you can spend looking at the water before you miss the comforts of land. With solar panels, you can bring those comforts with you.


There are only two alternatives to solar panels. A gasoline generator, and taking power from the grid. Neither of these is good for the environment. Luckily, solar panels are a great third option. Solar panels are completely eco-friendly and are great for the environment. This is not just great for the earth, and your conscience, but for the journey itself. If you are running a gasoline generator at sea you are going to be listening to it thrumming away and smell the burning gasoline. Wouldnt you prefer silence and nothing but the smell of the sea breeze?

How much do solar panels cost?

How much solar panels cost is almost entirely tied into both their voltage/wattage and whether or not they are portable panels. Portable solar panels are great for people who don’t spend a lot of time on their boat or are happy enough living off the marina’s power grid. Permanent solar panels, the kind that may need to professionally installed, can end up costing far more. They are also likely to be far superior and you can pretty much forget about them once they are installed.

Portable solar panels will cost just a few hundred dollars each. You will need a few to be sustainable, but that’s not going to be much of a problem. These portable solar panels can just be rolled out on the deck of your boat, weighed down, and then hooked up to a battery pack. The battery itself here is going to be the most expensive part of the whole set up. A decent-sized battery could set you back a $1000. But, when charged fully it will last days. Even with constant use.

Permanently installed solar panels can cost one or two thousand dollars in some cases. The advantage here though is once they are installed that’s it, you can forget about them. You don’t have to put them up, take them down, and find somewhere to stow them every time they need using. They too will need to be hooked up to a battery, the battery is still only going to cost you $1000. If you are installing permanent solar panels because you plan to be making long voyages, it is ideal to have two or perhaps even three large batteries hooked up to your boat. One to run off, one or two for emergencies.

How do I maintain my solar panels?

Solar panels, unlike gasoline generators, are generally pretty easy to maintain. They have no moving parts and are thus pretty self-sufficient. They don’t need taking apart and they last as long as 40 years. That being said, if they do break they need repairing as soon as possible. The exposed electrics can be deadly when water is thrown into the mix. Which, on a boat, is almost always. The glass cover will need replacing and the electronics inside may need repairing, though not always. Don’t ever attempt to do this yourself unless you are experienced at making these repairs. The cost of hiring someone to do it for you is preferable to being dead. Solar panels have very powerful electric currents, that when in contact with water and yourself can be fatal. As mentioned above, these panels rarely break so you will likely not ever run into this problem. If you do, hire a contractor.

Do my solar panels need cleaning?

Solar panels work by converting the light and heat of the sun into useable power. The process itself is rather complicated but the results are simple to understand. That being said, there are some reasons that your solar panels will stop working as effectively. They all revolve around a lack of sunlight. It could be because it is night time. It could be because it is very cloudy. Or, it could be because they are dirty. If solar panels become too dusty, dirty, and become too covered in grime they stop operating at maximum efficiency. This is not as much of a problem at sea, the sea spray stops dust settling. The biggest thing you will need to clean off your solar panels is salt build-up and slime. This is easy enough to do with some warm soapy water. Freshwater, not seawater. You want to be removing as much salt as possible. Salt is corrosive to electronics, so removing it is important. Never clean your solar panels using pressure washers as they can crack the glass.

Which are the best solar panels for sailing?

There are so many options on the market at various price points. Here are three very different options that will all make good choices, depending on your needs. It is important to consider not just price but power output. Spending a lot of money on solar panels now might not feel ideal, but it is the most cost-effective decision.

1. Renogy Starter Kit

This starter kit is going to be perfect for installing on almost any sized boat. There are four solar panels, each can be fitted permanently to the boat. They can be mounted (and unmounted) easily, for your convenience. They do require a flat surface, but they are small enough that that likely won’t be too much of a problem. This starter kit is very middle of the pack price-wise but should provide enough power for a small to medium-sized vessel easily. It is also possible to buy extra panels individually should you need them.

Wattage: 400/4 (100 per panel)

2. Nature Power Rigid

The nature power rigid is a large, powerful, single solar panel. If you are looking for the right panels to power your entire boat comfortably, these are the ones for you. They are very large so they will need a large flat surface area. alternatively, they can be hung vertically from rails. This is an inefficient way of using them, so you would need to buy more this way. Nature power makes various solar panels so you could find some smaller ones of the same brand to supplement it. This one is not so easy to install, you might need to hire someone to install it for you.

Wattage: 165

3. Nature Power Monocrystalline

Nature power makes a portable solar panel that fits inside a special briefcase. It is perfect for stowing away easily and only taking it out when it is needed. It is decently powerful considering its portable, but there is the inconvenience factor of having to set it up each time. If you planned to buy the nature power rigid, buying one of these portable panels might be ideal for supplementing your power supply when it is especially sunny. Though, it may be cheaper for you to just fit more of the Nature Power Rigids.

Wattage: 120

Hopefully, you now have a good idea about whether solar panels would be right for you and your sailboat. Sailing is great, but the lack of power at sea can be dreadfully boring. Luckily, there are so many great options available on the market. Not just the ones mentioned above. Buying a solar panel is an investment, the initial cost is minor compared to the steady return from all the savings you will make.

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Our Pivoting Solar Davit Mount Kit allows you to mount your solar package to virtually any set of davits. With newly re-designed Clamp-on or Bolt-on options, you can now securely mount your solar panel to the davits, and pivot the panel to follow the sun, or simply to move the panel out of the way.

Our Pivoting Solar Davit Mount Kit allows you to install a single solar panel, commonly in the 100 to 250 watt range, on any set of boat davits. The Pivoting Solar Davit Mount uses a premium 6' stainless steel support tube (8' tube optional) which can be mounted with your choice of hardware - Clamp-on or Bolt-on style, depending on your davit design. The included 26" 2-Bar Solar Rail-Mount Clamp Kit, securely attaches your solar panel to the support tube. Once installed the Solar Rail Mount Clamps provide simple, "tool free" pivoting adjustment of your panel to track the sun, or simply to rotate the panel out of the way. This design also makes seasonal installation and / or solar panel removal, very quick & very simple.

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sailboat solar panel mount

Mounting a solar panel on the stern pulpit rail

  • Thread starter Tom Okey
  • Start date Apr 24, 2023
  • Catalina Owner Forums
  • Catalina 30

Hey'all, I'm aiming to mount my new Renogy 100 w solar panel on my starboard side stern pulpit rail with some SeaDog round rail clamps that I can mount securely on the outer frame of the solar panel. The problem is that my '83 Catalina 30 is currently a 6 hour drive from me and from the drill and other tools I have where I'm at, and Google searches haven't revealed the length of the straight part of that upper rail forward of the bend at the back corner of the pulpit. The solar panel is fully 106 cm (42") long, which I think might be slightly longer than this straight section of rail. Does anyone know the length of the straight part of that rail? If shorter than 106 cm, I could potentially mount a bracket across the panel for an additional place to mount the round rail clamps. Are there any other suggestions? Bonus question: Do you have any suggestions on the best kind of gland to get the two 10AWG wires through the deck, or any other ideas for that? In case you're wondering, I also bought a 3' telescoping pole extension, which I plan to mount to the other side of the panel underneath to adjust the angle of the solar panel. Thank you very much!  


Tom, I don't have measurements, sorry. However, I think I'd take a different approach. The clamps will work, of course, but I would build a frame to mount the panel that would allow you to place the clamps at whatever width you prefer. A simple frame will also allow you to include additional supports for angle support, using the vertical stanchions. I envision a flat metal bar running the length of the panel with cross pieces at each end and perhaps a couple intermediates. The clamps can be fixed to any point on the longitudinal piece, the support brackets on one or two intermediates. There's also the additional benefit that you'll be able to relocate the panel if desired. Good luckl.  


Cable Seals


Joe said: Tom, I don't have measurements, sorry. However, I think I'd take a different approach. The clamps will work, of course, but I would build a frame to mount the panel that would allow you to place the clamps at whatever width you prefer. A simple frame will also allow you to include additional supports for angle support, using the vertical stanchions. I envision a flat metal bar running the length of the panel with cross pieces at each end and perhaps a couple intermediates. The clamps can be fixed to any point on the longitudinal piece, the support brackets on one or two intermediates. There's also the additional benefit that you'll be able to relocate the panel if desired. Good luckl. Click to expand
dmax said: I no longer have my C-30 but I don't think the length of the top pushpit tube from the stern forward is 42" - on my current boat it is 18", I don't think the C-30 could be that much longer if at all. Here's the best picture I have showing my C-30: View attachment 215005 I mounted a 50 watt panel on the pushpit at the stern, I don't have room for a 100 watt panel there. I attached aluminum bar stock to the bottom of the panel so I could attach the mounts where I wanted them. You could use aluminum angle "iron" for more strength. Here's the cable gland I used, plenty of room for two 10 awg wires: Cable Seals The Seaview Cable Seals / Cable Clams provide waterproof cable routing. Made of UV stable ABS plastic, 316 stainless steel and black anodized aluminum. www.seaviewglobal.com Click to expand
Tom Okey said: Thank you for that Joe! I think you may be right....I wonder if a couple of intermediate cross bars would do it (if they were in the right spot and wide enough to help mount the clamps). In any case, you got me thinking, and I am now planning to design something along these lines. -Tom Click to expand
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Contact Kato Marine: 7416 Edgewood Road Annapolis, MD 21403 Phone: 410-269-1218

Call us at the number above - or - Use our quick form - or - Email us

These days we are seeing more and more satellite comunication systems on sail boats.  The newest is the Starlink and similar. The antennas are reasonably light (as are their precursors -the KVH M1 and the Intellian i1/i2), and what better place to put them than the stabilizer on the davits!  This mounting place has a great view of the sky, and the weight is minimal.  We have mounts for both the Slip-On stabilizer and the SS100 stabilizer.

 For heavier Starlink and KVH M3, use only on the SS100

Price $470.00

Solar Panel mounts:

Solar panels can be mounted above the davits provided you accept that the davits will no longer be regularly folded in.  This solar panel mounting system is our tilting mount for the SS100 stabilizer. It raises the panels 12-1/2" above the davits, allowing easy passage down the transom without hitting your head, and avoids the typical Bimini shadow.

This view is the underneath of the solar panel mounting system for davit with the Slip-On stabilizer.  This system does not attach to the stabilizer, it attaches to the davits themselves.  It is slightly higher than the SS100 version, at 14-1/2". (*Shown with optional athwartship braces)

Flag staff sockets:

In many situations the ships flag staff will no longer fit into its socket when the dinghy is raised, for this reason we provide alternative flag sockets.

The Slip-On stabilizer utilizes twin clamps to ensure no movement as the flag vibrates. The SS100 stabilizer flag socket bolts in place. Both units are fabricated from highly polished stainless steel and available in 3/4', 1”, and 1-1/4” ID sockets.

6:1 lift tackle:

Kato�s davits come standard with 4:1 lifting tackle that uses 3/8� diameter Dacron braid and Harken blocks. With today�s heavier RIB inflatables it is usual to upgrade to the 6:1 purchase on at least one of the davits. Bear in mind that one davit normally does most of the work � sometimes as much as 80% of the weight is on one davit. We also have larger sheave systems (57mm) which tend to reduce friction and makes hoisting even easier. Of course the ultimate in ease is the winch davit (see menu above).

Cam Cleats:

These Harken � cleats are mounted on the outside of the davits, and allow one person to pull both lines at once. This idea courtesy of Bob Hauser (Island Packet 38) - thank you, Bob.

Home » Solar Turbine » Maryland » Moscow

Moscow Solar Power Information & Peak Sun Hours

Solar green energy summary for moscow, maryland, lattitude: 39.5409, fixed tilt sunlight hours: 4.8 hours per day, 1-axis tilt sunlight hours: 5.7 hours per day, 2-axis tilt sunlight hours: 6.4 hours per day.

The average peak sun hours of Moscow is a crucial measurable component needed to efficiently implement a solar power system in a home or business. Put simply, peak sun hours are the hours of sunlight a day that are strong enough to be efficiently absorbed by solar panels and eventually turned into usable electricity. Not every minute of sunlight during a day is strong enough to be useful to a solar power system. Think about just minutes after the sunrises, which officially counts towards total hours of sunlight, but is usually too weak to be counted in peak sun hours because the strength of the solar insolation is not strong enough near the horizon to be absorbed and turned into electricity at an efficient rate. Times during the day like this, where the sun is out but not strong enough, are not counted as peak sun hours. In other words, the amount of peak sun hours in a location will theoretically always be less than total sunlight hours for a given day.

Sunlight hits the earth directly at the equator. This is why the equator has a latitude of zero degrees. The latitude of Moscow is 39.5. Knowing the latitude of Moscow can help you plan for your solar panel setup, as the larger the latitude the more variance you will see throughout the year for total daily sunlight hours.

You will notice that the average peak sun hours for Moscow change based on the type of panel being used. The reason for this is quite simple. A fixed panel does exactly what it sounds like, remains fixed in one position at all times. A 1-axis and 2-axis panels have axis that allow them to rotate. The 1-axis rotates with the sun's daily east to west movement while a 2-axis also adjusts for seasonal changes.

Weather is a big determinate of average peak sun hours each day. There are many aspects of weather that can increase or lessen the peak sun hours in a day in a particular location. For example cloud coverage is a crucial variable. And more importantly, what type of cloud coverage; thin scattered clouds will have less diminishing power on the solar insolation than thick rainy storm clouds. Sometimes long periods of sunny days are rare in certain locations, this would increase average peak sun hours for that time-frame

Since we know the latitude of Moscow we can take the average amount of total sunlight hours and estimate that with a fixed solar panel there would be an average of 4.8 peak sun hours per day. 5.7 hours per day with a 1-axis tracking mount that tracks the sun from sunrise to sunset, and 6.4 hours with a 2-axis tracking mount that tracks the sun everywhere in the sky.

Solar Businesses in Moscow, Maryland

Information for other cities in maryland, severna park, hillcrest heights, maryland all cities, middle river, cottage city, carrollton manor, westernport, princess anne, morningside, martins additions, burkittsville, kennedyville, colmar manor, white plains, sudlersville, seef all cities in maryland, information for the state of maryland, leave a reply cancel reply.

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