Mounting Solar on your boat

There are no good options, but some are better than others.

First: Do No Harm. Well, actually first make sure you use as little energy as possible. The “low hanging fruit” in the energy budget is reduce usage. For example; a typical incandescent anchor light uses 2.5 amps. For 10 hours a day, that would be 25 amp-hours per day (Ah/d). An LED anchor light might use 0.090 amps, or 0.9 Ah/d (0.09 amps times 10 hours).

To estimate the energy a solar panel will make, take the wattage and divide by 3 to get the Ah/d. So, an incandescent anchor light will need 75 watts of solar panels. An LED anchor light will need 3 watts. Solar panels make about 15 watts per square foot. You don’t have enough area for all the panels you need if you are on an inefficient monohull.

Mounting solar

The best place for solar is where there is no shading (good luck!). A little shading can make a big difference. A rigging wire or line shadow not so much, but a pelican poop can reduce output by 50% or more. On a boat, high and aft is usually the best. No arch? Maybe what I call a table top: Basically four legs and a platform, using one inch stainless tube and bimini top hardware. Or using bimini top bows like so:

In conjunction with wind and radar, a “Goalpost” mount can get the solar high enough to avoid shading by the bimini or boom, but of course causing some shade as well.

Got Davits? Great. As long as the boom does not extend over them. My “Triangle Mount” might be a good way to go:

Triangle Mount with adjustable strut. Only a slight increase in energy gathering, unless you are well north of Florida. Makes it easier to use an aft boarding ladder. Three inch Doohickie Clamp shown between cross brace and one inch tube athwartships.

Triangle mount with solar panel tilted.

Hardware for mounting solar panel above bimini. Or, have new bows made that mount to the sides and go over and above the fabric.

Mounting a one inch tube to stanchions. Am good option for center cockpit boats, but will block the view from ports. Doohickie Clamps and adjustable struts using an articulating deck hinge like so: