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Solar Boat - General principles in selecting equipment

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  • Solar Boat - General principles in selecting equipment

    Hello all,

    I apologise if this question is very basic. Whilst not working in the industry, I have designed and built several boats often for river adventures etc. I am now starting to get interested in the concept of boats with sufficient solar panel capacity to keep it's electric motors charged allowing it (all things being equal) to run continuously day after day without charging from shore (or petrol generator etc).

    I'm initially thinking of putting a trial setup on a 16ft motor canoe that I have for a couple of days trip down a river, and then (potentially) building a more serious setup (such as a small houseboat) in a few years time.

    To start with, I envisage that the trial setup would utilise off the shelf products, such as a trolling motor, battery, panels, and any other ancillary items that are required.

    With basically zero electrical knowledge, could anybody share some general principles that I should follow? Such as what specs I should look for on the motor, battery, panels (or any suitably ratios of panel wattage to engine wattage). Also, any guidance of ancillary items would be appreciated as well.

    Kind Regards

  • #2
    Hello JrFrancis and welcome to Solar Panel Talk

    There are a couple of forum members that have built boats of various sizes the include a solar / battery system.

    Here is the link to one of those threads

    https://www.solarpaneltalk.com/forum...d-boat-project

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Jrfrancis View Post
      I am now starting to get interested in the concept of boats with sufficient solar panel capacity to keep it's electric motors charged allowing it (all things being equal) to run continuously day after day without charging from shore (or petrol generator etc).
      Impossible. There is a very good reason you do not see solar powered Boats, planes, auto's, and trains.

      With basically zero electrical knowledge, could anybody share some general principles that I should follow?
      some simple physics and basci electrical power is what you are missing.

      Let's say you have a 12 volt Trolling motor. Say a very small motor that generates 30 pounds of thrust. FWIW at 12 volts 1 amp = 1 pound of thrust. You want to run it 5 hours at half power or 15 amps. 15 amps x 5 hours = 75 Amp Hours. At 12 volts is 12 volts x 75 AH = 900 watt ours.

      Now here is where it gets bad. You will need a battery, no way around it. Assuming you discharge that battery 80% means you need a 12 volt 125 AH battery. That battery weighs around 70 to 90 pounds in the canoe with you.

      Now to charge that battery with Solar panels you have to be able to find a spot where you can point the panels at the Sun and no shade from sun rise to sunset. It would take a 500 to 600 watts of solar panels. 500 watts of the most efficient solar panels out there would be about 11 ft x 2 ft x 2 inches and weigh around 70 pounds raising the center of gravity way up. It is going to be larger than the canoe.

      Here is the fun part. 15 pounds of thrust ain't going to push you very fast if at all. You could get out and push faster. You would be better off with a sail. Eitherway would require outriggers to keep you upright.

      Need real power. Would take at least 1 Hp to generate 75 to 90 pounds of thrust on a 12 volt motor is 70 amps or 5 times more power. So multiply everything by 5. It wil be as big as a house and weigh some 800 to 900 pounds on your canoe. Not possible.

      Just simple physics.
      Last edited by Sunking; 05-30-2016, 09:51 PM.
      MSEE, PE

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