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Maximising solar panel performance

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What is the issue?
Solar panels perform well when they are free of shade, or even in partial shadow, and the sun is directly above. However on a sailing vessel this is far from always being the case. The typical flat panel arrangement is particularly poor in northern latitudes such as northern Europe. Here the morning and late evening sun is low and although it provides plenty of charging light, a panel that is laid flat will capture very little of this and perform poorly.

Why address this?
Power is a scarce resource aboard a vessel and every available means of power generation needs to be absolutely maximised. This is particularly the case with solar panels which are a highly expensive investment and a return on the investment is important.

How to address this?
Swivel mount the solar panel in an area that is unlikely to be subject to shade. See figures 1 – 2.

Once swivel mounted the solar panel can be tuned into the sun so that they are largely perpendicular throughout the day. Irrespective of the vessels course or mooring position, as in figure 3, the panels may be optimised by a helpful nudge from a passing member of the crew. Heat also affects the panels performance so having it raised above the deck to allow for free ventilation underneath assists performance.

Swivel mounting and tuning the panels will make a dramatic difference to charging performance.

With thanks to:
Michael Harpur, Yacht Obsession.

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