Let the Sunshine in

The big project this year was to install solar panels on Furthur and should have done it years ago. My goal was to cut the gen run time in half, the half that is used only to charge batteries. We must run the gen daily to make water, fill dive tanks or bask under the air conditioning but i found that half the time was just charging batteries. We often sit at the same anchorage for a week or two and with long stays the batteries were not keeping up. They need a more consistent charge.

i began the learning process as soon as i got to Phuket, Solar Panels 101 as it were. First i got a bid from the local electrical vender, one i trust. Imported parts are spendy here, with shipping and duty so his high price for Dutch made panels was not surprising. He told me to look elsewhere he would do the installation, i thought that noble. I went to the local department store, a mystical place full of electrical wonders. i found huge, 44″x 160″ 300 amp panels very cheap, under $300. but the size and dubious quality turned me off. So now i had the top and bottom of pricing, i usually go for the middle. i contacted a vender in Malaysia who gave me quote in the middle but i had to get them there, possible but not what i want.

My neighbor, a Dutch guy who is one of those techy guys who investigate things to the nats ass, just what i wanted in a neighbor right now. He spewed numbers at me like a Tommy Gun and i got that what he got is what i want, and a bit cheaper than the middle, and best of all delivered right to the boat! Get me three!

i had also contacted a local stainless steel fabricator, knowing the frame would be the most expensive part. He took the drawings of the panels, a deposit and on exactly the day he said he would, installed the frame with panels inserted. The frame goes right over my existing bimini, and a bit hard to see from sea level, just what i wanted.

The electrical vender came the next day and did the wiring, the control box and installed a battery monitoring system. I am getting top notch skilled technicians here for about $30 an hour.

So let the sunshine in! but alas it is the rainy season here so rarely does a day go of pure blue sky. Yet i am getting almost all the charge i need to keep the batteries up. The system should hit about 24 amps 24v at peak performance, on a partially cloudy day i am getting 10-14 amps. i shut the battery charger off simulating being at anchor and watched the monitor, for the first 24 hours the batteries held well, the second day was a bit more cloudy so not so good, on the second night i turned the charger back on, off in the morning and again it held fine even under a misty sky. Bim bam boom i have surpassed my goal, ready for the next fully charged adventure.

I want to thank the good folks at Octopus Marine for a job well done.