Now very efficient flexible solar panels can be installed - even flying - as they weigh very little. You can read a test by clicking here. After carefully choosing the type of photovoltaic panel that is right for us, we must finally proceed with its installation.

But how to do it? And above all, where to install it? When, a couple of years ago, I found myself having to decide, I won't deny that I got stuck and thought for some time about the ideal arrangement before making a decision.

I started with the idea of having the classic stainless steel tube rollbar built and installed on the stern. But I needed more convincing: apart from the expense (if you have it done and installed, it costs you a small fortune, and in any case, much more than the cost of the panel), what puzzled me was the final aesthetic effect.

A rollbar, in fact, in my opinion, can make sense on boats from 12-13 meters up. It would have been too bulky and imposing on a 10-meter boat like mine.

Having rejected the rollbar hypothesis, I thought for some time of installing it on a pole, still mounted on the stern. I've seen solar panels mounted like this, but they were all smaller than my 85W one. The ones I saw were 40-50 Watt panels at best.

And then, after all, the use I would have made of it would have been limited to one month a year: just the month of the summer holidays, because when it comes to being out at anchor only on weekends, the 140 Ah 12 volt battery is sufficient (my refrigerator consumes around 35-40 Ah per day). Ultimately, I concentrated on finding a solution that would allow me to assemble and disassemble the panel in a minute.

I have found a way that seems practical and functional to me and which, among other things, is also very cheap. Here's how I fixed the problem.

Solar Panel Installation

The solar panel is "hung" on the lifelines, outside them, near the maximum beam. The correct inclination on the horizontal plane is controlled by two telescopic arms whose ends are fixed to the toe and the panel's sides. All with the possibility, as I said before, of being able to be assembled and disassembled in seconds.

Required material:

The solar panel
  • A U-shaped aluminum profile
  • Two telescopic arms of the type used to open the windows of campers and caravans (I bought them in a camper accessories store)
  • A drilled stainless steel pin
  • Two brisè rings and two clips
  • I bought two handles for Laughing pots at Brico
  • A plug + watertight socket with two non-reversible poles: of the type for 12V direct current
  • A little bit of two-part epoxy glue
  • Aluminum rivets, riveter, and a few other tools, some stainless steel bolts with relative nuts
  • Testers (you never know!)
Start by cutting the U-shaped aluminum profile of the length equal to the dimension of the longer side of the panel.

Then attach it to the panel frame with 4 or 5 rivets, taking care to drill a hole in the external part of the U-shaped profile to allow access to the riveter (see photo alongside)

Adapt the two telescopic arms, eliminating the attachment from one of the two ends and thus leaving only the aluminum bar, and then drill a hole at the end of the bar itself, as shown in the photo of the detail of the attachment on the toe plate (photos 2 and 3).

The photos I posted are pretty eloquent. In my case, the telescopic arms were fixed to the toe using an aluminum plate on which a piece of the U-shaped profile was glued (with two-component epoxy glue) on which a through hole was drilled in the photo below side and below. A drilled stainless steel pin (purchased in a nautical shop, alas!), secured by a split ring, holds everything together.

The arm was fixed to the panel using a piece of "L" shaped aluminum profile which acts as a support (but then it depends on how the frame of the board you will buy is made)

Another small, significant detail should be noted: two clips (purchased from Castorama) are inserted in the U-shaped profile to prevent the panel from slipping off the lifeline. (see the first photo above)

Panel installation is complete. The inclination adjustment must be made, so the panel is perpendicular to the sun.

Optionally, two handles can be mounted on the panel frame (see figure 1 above). I put them on later, and they are very comfortable when moving the panel (with wind and slightly rough seas, this is always a delicate phase. I remember that the panel weighs almost 10 kg).

This installation has the drawback that the panel must be dismantled before entering the port to prevent it from being damaged by nearby boats. But it also has the advantage of being easily removable (after a bit of practice, I assemble or disassemble it in less than a minute) and can therefore be exposed to starboard or port depending on where the sun is, thus always guaranteeing 'more or less optimal exposure (the only handicap is when the sun is at the bow or stern&hellip

I have also used it in navigation, even in rough seas, and it holds well. I only take it off when sailing upwind, with the boat leaning towards the panel to prevent a wave from tearing it away.

However, I usually put it vertically in navigation with a mighty wind and secure it to the rail with a line. It doesn't make it 100% in this case, but it always generates 2-3 amps.

Connection To the Electrical System

The connection to the electrical system is quite simple. The most tedious thing is to get the electric cable from the panel to the voltage regulator and from this to the batteries.

I preferred installing a 12 Volt watertight socket in the cockpit to do a job well. From this, I brought the electric cable to the voltage regulator, passing the two wires inside a corrugated tube of those, especially for electrical systems ( purchasable in any Brico). The tricky job was running this corrugated hose from the cockpit intake down to under the chart table, where I installed the voltage regulator. All right, here I can give you little help because you'll have to find out how to get it independently since each boat differs from the others. Once the corrugated pipe has been laid, you only need an electrician's probe to pass the two wires.

I've discussed the voltage regulator previously, so you don't have to save too much on this component. I am delighted with my Steca, for which I paid around 120 euros. This regulator also has a function that, when necessary, automatically activates a desulfation cycle, which serves to regenerate the battery (the batteries are subject to a chemical degradation process called sulphation, which progressively decreases their capacity to accumulate electrical energy), thus always ensuring optimal charging.

The voltage regulator has an input, to which the two cables arriving from the photovoltaic panel must be secured, and an output carries the current directly to the battery. Virtually all regulators are equipped with a protection circuit, which avoids damage in the event of accidental connection with reversed polarity (remember that direct current has a contradiction!). A diode circuit prevents the current flow from the marine batteries to the solar panel without sunlight.

For safety, I also mounted two switches: one that opens the circuit from the battery to the regulator (so that when it's not needed, I don't power it) and the other on the course from the panel to the regulator. The latter does not help, but I prefer to interrupt this circuit every time I attach/detach the output plug from the board. Well, now that you know everything about efficient solar panels, all you have to do is try to mount one.