flexible solar panels sailboat

9 Best Solar Panels for Sailboats

flexible solar panels sailboat

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Solar panels have become game changers when it comes to supplying power while off the grid. Marine solar panels can charge anything from batteries to computers to bigger electronic appliances. What are the best solar panels for sailboats? 

The 9 best solar panels for sailboats are: 

  • Renogy Flexible Solar Panel
  • Newpowa Solar Panel
  • SunPower Flexible Sol ar Panel
  • Eco-Worthy Off-Grid Solar Panel
  • Rich Solar Polycrystalline
  • Topsolar Flexible Solar Panel
  • HQST Monocrystalline Solar Panel
  • WindyNation Solar Panel Complete Off-Grid
  • DOKIO Solar Panel Kit

This article will explore everything you need to know about the best marine solar panels. 

Table of Contents

Solar Panels on Sailboats: An Overview

Before exploring the best solar panels, it is helpful to consider how solar panels on sailboats work and how many you need. Solar panels sit on different parts of a sailboat’s surface and absorb the sun’s rays, converting them into energy. This energy is used to power chargers, fridges, cooking stoves, and other electronics you need for self-sufficient sailing. 

Worth noting is that today we will only discuss solar panels and not the batteries, which of course is an essential part of a complete system; we will also not discuss charges or charge controllers.

The products in this post will get you started in the right direction, but if you’re looking for a high-output system, then I suggest you contact someone that can help you calculate your energy requirements.

How Many Solar Panels Do I Need for My Sailboat?

flexible solar panels sailboat

You will need between 2-8 solar panels for your sailboat. The exact amount depends on your sailboat’s space and how many electronics you need to power. Most solar panels can absorb between 100-300 watts per hour. On average, you will need approximately 1500 watts of power each day. 

If your solar panels absorb 1500 watts daily, here’s what they can power on your sailboat: 

  • A laptop charger
  • A microwave 
  • A coffee maker 
  • An induction cooker 

If you want to power more heavy-duty electronics like a washing machine or a television, look for solar panels that absorb 400 watts. For heavy-duty electronics, try installing 5-8 solar panels. 

Flexible vs. Rigid Solar Panels

flexible solar panels sailboat

The three main types of solar panels are rigid panels, flexible panels, and semi-flexible panels.

Rigid panels are surrounded by aluminum and made with sturdy tempered glass. They are resilient against various weather conditions but require flat space to install. 

Semi-flexible panels can be slightly bent to fit the shape of the installation surface. However, they can’t absorb a lot of power. 

One very common type of solar panel used on boats is the flexible panel . Flexible panels are thin and lightweight, and, as their name suggests, they can be added to a wide variety of surfaces. 

Here are the pros of flexible panels: 

  • They are thin and light. Flexible panels are approximately one-eighth the weight and size of rigid and semi-flexible panels. This allows you to add them to various sailboat sizes and surfaces. It also reduces the load on your sailboat. 
  • They are easy to install. Flexible panels are easy to work with and can be self-installed by following the instructions that come with the panels. Meanwhile, rigid and semi-flexible panels may require expert installations. 
  • They’re sturdy. Despite being light, flexible panels can bear a lot of pressure – you can easily walk over them. 

However, there are also some drawbacks to using flexible solar panels: 

  • May fly away . As flexible panels are fragile, they can easily be dislodged and fly away, especially in strong winds. 
  • Vulnerable to scratches . While flexible panels can bear much weight, they may get scratched more easily. Over time this may affect their functionality. 
  • Not easy to reposition. Flexible panels are generally adhered to the surface of a sailboat using a specially prepared adhesive. Because of this, it is challenging to reposition the solar panels when there is a change of season.
  • Less efficient. Flexible solar panels don’t convert energy to electricity or rigid panels. It may be harder to power heavy-duty appliances from a flexible solar panel. 

How Many Panels Can I Fit on a Sailboat (Catamaran and Monohull)?

The amount of panels you can fit on your sailboat depends on the size of the panels and the surface space you have available. 

You can fit at least two 400W panels on a Monohull and at least four on a Catamaran around 35ft in length. You will be able to fit 4-8 more solar panels if you add a solar panel bracket at the stern. 

Renogy Flexible Solar Panel 100W

Renogy is a popular solar panel producer that designs high-quality solar panels. The Renogy Flexible Solar Panel is specially designed for marine vehicles, including sailboats. 

Here are the best features of this solar panel: 

  • Flexibility . These solar panels are fragile, making them flexible and easy to mount on served surfaces. 
  • Easy to install. These are made with high-quality Monocrystalline, allowing them to be easily bent and easy to install. 
  • Lightweight. One solar panel weighs only 4 pounds, ensuring that no extra pressure or weight is displaced on your boat. 
  • Durability . User reviews have noted that these panels are highly durable and can last you a few years. 
  • Users have noted that these panels do not have the best outputs. They also can’t be stacked, which impacts their accessibility. To ensure that these panels can be connected, you may purchase extra extension cords. 

Newpowa Rigid 160W Solar Panel

The Newpowa Right Solar Panel is a new design with a maximum power of 160W. It is weather-resistant and can be used on various surfaces and vehicles. 

Here are the pros of the Newpowa Solar Panel: 

  • Weatherproof . The design features of this solar panel ensure that it survives under a range of different weather conditions. It has a heavy-duty frame preventing it from strong wind and waves. Its mainframe has a further layer of protection for the Junction box. 
  • Long warranty . Newpowa offers a 25-year transferrable output power warranty. 
  • Easy to install . These solar panels are made with mono cells and bypass diodes. Consequently, the solar panels can be immediately unpacked and are ready to install. 
  • High wattage. As these solar panels have 160 Watts of power, you need less of them to power all the devices on your boat. 
  • If you are planning on buying the Newpowa Solar Panel, you should note that they only make rigid panels. As a result, you may find it to be difficult to install them on curved spaces.

SunPower 110W Flexible Solar Panel

SunPower’s Flexible Solar Panels are made with high-quality materials ensuring durability. They are especially ideal for sailboats as their warranty also covers saltwater damage. 

Here are the standout features of the SunPower 110W Flexible Solar Panel: 

  • Flexibility . This solar panel can be bent up to 30 degrees, making it easy to install on various surfaces. 
  • Easily portable. These solar panels are incredibly lightweight (4.4 pounds or 2 kilograms) and can be easily uninstalled and transported. 
  • Extended warranty . SunPower offers a five-year warranty on power and a two-year warranty on the product. The warranty includes damage caused by saltwater which many other solar panel warranties do not. 
  • Some users have noted that the output quality of these solar panels deteriorates over time. However, you can use the extended warranty to address any quality deterioration. 

ECO-WORTHY Rigid 25W Off-Grid Solar Panel

This is a rigid, 25-watt solar panel that is waterproof, making it ideal for your boat. It is highly durable and has inbuilt indicators that highlight the battery’s status. Its low output makes it only suitable for charging phones or smaller electronics.

Here are some notable features of the Eco-Worthy Solar Panel: 

  • Ease of use. This solar panel is easy to install and requires no maintenance. 
  • Warranty. Eco-Worthy offers one year of warranty on all of its products and free maintenance if needed. 
  • USB control. This solar panel is attached to a USB control panel, preventing it from overcharging and getting damaged. 
  • Waterproof. All solar panel parts are entirely waterproof and can handle exposure to both saltwater and freshwater. 

Some of the drawbacks to this solar panel include: 

  • Low watt absorption. Unlike many of the other solar panels on this list, this one can only absorb up to 25 watts of power at a time. So, it can only power smaller devices like batteries. 
  • Instruction manual. Some users have noted that the instructions to set up the Eco-worth solar panel are confusing for beginners. If you have never installed solar panels before, it’s best to call in an expert to help. 

RICH SOLAR 100W Rigid 12V Polycrystalline

This 100W rigid solar panel is designed to absorb energy even in low light conditions. It is easy to install and ideal for marine environments. 

Here’s why you should consider buying Rich Solar Panels: 

  • Works well in low light. This solar panel has been tested in various low light conditions, including cloudiness and during sunrise and sunset. It is certified to be able to harvest energy in low light conditions. 
  • Extended warranty. Rich Solar Panels offers a 25-year warranty on limited power output and a five-year warranty on quality. 
  • Water and weatherproof . The Rich Solar panels have used selective design elements to ensure they are water-resistant. They have high transparency and are made with tempered glass to withstand high winds and water pressure. 
  • Cost-effective . These are significantly cost-effective, making it easy to equip your sailboat fully. 
  • While solar panels can easily resist strong winds and water, they can be vulnerable to hail. Hail storms can cause dents on the solar panels, which can eventually cause damage. 

Topsolar Flexible 100W Solar Panel

Topsolar provides premium flexible solar panels that are easy to move and install. They are ideal for installing on water vessels like sailboats with waterproof materials. 

Here are some of the pros of choosing the Topsolar Flexible Solar Panel: 

  • Flexibility . The arc radius of this solar panel is 16 inches (40 centimeters) and can be bent to fit several curved surfaces allowing your solar panel to harvest the most sun. 
  • Efficiency . These solar panels are made with ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) materials. They are extremely energy efficient and can rapidly convert energy. 
  • Some users have noted that these solar panels don’t have as long a life as other panels. In addition, some panels may only be able to absorb up to 75 watts of power at a time. 

HQST Rigid 100w Monocrystalline Solar Panel

This is a 100-watt solar panel that has been specially designed to perform well in low light. It is made with high-quality materials and is ideal for sailing boats as it is durable even in unfavorable weather conditions. 

Here are the pros of installing the HQST Solar Panel: 

  • Durability . These solar panels are designed to withstand strong winds and snowfall. They’re made with tempered glass and aluminum and are resistant to corrosion, ensuring longevity. 
  • Testing and warranty. Each solar panel is quality tested before it is distributed. It also comes with a three-year warranty. 
  • Easy to install . While these are rigid solar panels, they have pre-drilled holes, making them easier to install. 

WindyNation 100W Solar Panel Complete Off-Grid

As its name suggests, this solar panel is designed for off-the-grid living and is helpful if you need to access power when you’re in the middle of the sea. 

Here is why you should consider the WindyNation Solar Panel: 

  • Includes a charge controller. This controller lets you quickly see the amount of power the solar panel has absorbed. 
  • High power. Several positive user reviews have indicated that this solar panel is highly efficient in absorbing and converting power. 
  • This solar panel is more expensive than many others on the market.

DOKIO 300W 18V Portable Solar Panel Kit

If you are looking for a heavy-duty solar panel, the Dokio Solar Panel Kit is excellent. It can absorb a lot of energy and power a wide range of appliances on your sailboat. 

Here’s why you should consider this solar panel: 

  • Versatile and flexible. While this is a rigid solar panel, it can be folded, making it easy to transport and install. 
  • High efficiency. This solar panel is highly efficient at converting energy into power. As it absorbs up to 300 watts, you can install just two of these panels to get significant energy. 
  • Some users have noted that this solar panel does not work well in low-light conditions. You may want to have a backup solar panel for days when it’s rainy and windy. 

Here are Some of My Favorite Catamaran Cruising Resources

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you found it helpful as you hopefully start your sailing adventures. Here are some resources that I use as a sailor that I hope you’ll also find helpful. These are affiliate links, so if you do decide to use any of them, I’ll earn a commission. But in all honesty, these are the exact things that I use and recommend to everyone, even my own family. Sailboats: If you’re looking for the best boat to suit your needs, I would recommend a catamaran. If you’re interested, I can show you the differences between catamarans and other types of sailboats .

Books:  For getting started, I really like  Cruising catamarans made easy . It is actually a textbook from the American sailing association; it is used to get a cruising catamaran certification. There are some other great books, and I have compiled a list of books about cruising catamarans that you will find useful.

Communication:  Being out on adventures, whether it be sailing or climbing mountains, good communications are essential to being safe. I recommend two things Google fi (incredibly simple cellular data all over the world) and Garmin inreach mini (for text and voice in remote areas without cell coverage)

Sailing courses: Online sailing courses are great for beginners starting out their sailing career; it’s an efficient way of learning the basics of navigation, throttle controls, and maritime safety. I suggest starting with two free courses from NauticEd .

To see all my most up-to-date recommendations,  check out this resource  that I made for you!

Owner of CatamaranFreedom.com. A minimalist that has lived in a caravan in Sweden, 35ft Monohull in the Bahamas, and right now in his self-built Van. He just started the next adventure, to circumnavigate the world on a Catamaran!

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Sailboat Solar Systems and How-To

Sunshine on a Sailboat - Solar Energy Solar Panels

Solar on a sailboat goes together like hands and gloves, but sailboat solar systems can be installed in a variety of ways. The solar components themselves create an infinite combination of possibilities for off-grid sailing. Victron Energy chargers, Renogy Panels, Sunpower Yachts, BlueSea Systems, and many more brands have entered the marketplace, and that’s not including the lithium battery companies.

To simplify things, we’ve compiled three sailboat solar systems videos to give you an overview of what’s possible. And to help you decide on your own simple solar panel setup for sailing.

How-To Install Solar Panels on Your Sailboat

This system from Zingaro shows flexible panels summing 300w of power on a 38′ catamaran.

300W Solar System:

  • Three 100w solar flexible panels
  • 1 MPPT Solar charger controller

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100w Flexible Solar Panel

Simple Sunpower Solar System

This simple solar system from The Fosters shows a quick and easy setup with limited space on top of a bimini.

Sunpower Solar Panels are considered by most in the industry as the gold standard. They use the highest-efficiency solar cells and have top-notch build quality. In this simple installation, three 50w panels are just enough to get you started. Plus, it’s the most affordable installation!

150w Starter Solar System

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Victron Energy Smart Solar Charge Controller

Off-Grid on a DIY Solar Powered Sailboat

Here’s a special installation that turned a derelict sailboat into an off-grid sailing machine!

Simon has transformed this derelict sailboat into an epic off-grid solar-powered and fossil-fuel-free cruising catamaran. He’s been living aboard and renovating the boat for the past 3.5 years We’re excited to show you the transformation as well as how he plans to propel the boat without the use of diesel or fossil fuels!

5280w Solar System for Electric Powered Catamaran

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SOLAR POWER ON BOARD

Solar power is fast becoming the most popular and economic method of keeping the batteries charged on a boat.

Particularly now that the efficiency of photovoltaic (PV) panels, charge controllers and batteries is improving every day.

Furthermore, the latest technology in regulators and charge controllers has brought about a noticeable increase in useable power output, so the problems of shading and non-alignment can be compensated for more easily.

Not only has PV equipment become more efficient and cost-effective, but many of the modern devices we want to use on a boat have become less power hungry.

This means it is now far easier to provide your entire yacht’s electrical needs, both 220Vac and 12/24Vdc, from natural energy resources – particularly solar power, even if you are planning on a fully electric boat .

flexible solar panels sailboat

Thinking carefully about how much power you need and how much your boat can accommodate is key to planning a solar array. Credit: Graham Snook

WHAT DO YOU NEED?

For instance, a boat with two new, good quality, deep-cycle house batteries of 100Ah each would supply 100Ah of energy to consume between charges, if you only use the recommended 50% of available charge between each charge cycle to protect the batteries.

From this you could run:

  • a modern 12Vdc fridge (approx. 1.5Ah, or 36Ah over 24hrs),
  • all LED lighting (say 20Ah per day),
  • various small device chargers (20Ah)
  • and a number of other items such as water pumps, TVs and stereos (25Ah/day)
  • Totalling around 100Ah.
  • For this you’d need 400W of solar capacity.

Of course, if you like to run a lot of AC devices off-grid such as hair dryers, microwaves, toasters and the like, then you’re going to need a DC/ AC inverter, which will take you to another level in power consumption terms.

But even then, with careful planning, solar could provide a large portion of the power you need before resorting to engine charging or a generator.

THE AVAILABLE SPACE

In practical terms, a modern 40ft monohull would have the space for around 1,200W of PV panels (cockpit arch, sprayhood top, deck), maybe 1,500W with the addition of a few portable panels for use at anchor.

The 1,200W of fixed position solar array could produce around 360Ah on a sunny summer’s day (zero shading) or more likely 250Ah on the average UK summer’s day.

So that’s enough for your 100Ah general DC consumption plus another 150Ah of AC consumption via the inverter.

Of course, to do this you’ll most likely need to increase your battery capacity to around 400-500Ah for maximum flexibility (you’ll need to store as much as possible during daylight hours), a typical figure for a 40-50ft offshore cruising yacht these days.

001_Solar-power__GS1

Get your solar charging right and you may never need to hook up to shore power

Typical daily inverter loads for a cruising yacht off grid might be:

  • induction cooking plate (20min) 60Ah
  • microwave (15min) 30Ah
  • coffee maker (20mins) 25Ah
  • hair dryer (5min) 15Ah
  • laptop charger (2h) 10Ah
  • or around 140Ah in total.

The trick is to monitor the batteries’ state of charge (SOC) at all times and vary your use of the inverter to suit.

For example, you might want to cook supper mid-afternoon, when solar is in abundance, and then reheat it in the evening when you want to eat it.

In some cases, when you’re cruising in warm climates such as the Med, you might end up with excess charge from your solar panels .

In this situation, many long-term cruisers devise a method of ‘dumping’ the extra energy by heating water for showers.

Do bear in mind if you’re planning to live aboard full time , then it’ll be a whole different story on cloudy days and during the winter, when inverter use might need to be knocked on the head entirely.

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POWER DISCREPANCIES

There’s often confusion as to how much power you can harvest from a solar installation.

A PV panel is nearly always advertised stating its theoretical peak output power (Pw).

But in reality, on a yacht where there are limited areas in which to mount them, they will more likely produce a maximum of 60% of their peak output if mounted horizontally, increasing to 80% if tilted towards the sun and regularly adjusted.

The latter is rarely achievable on a boat, however, as even at anchor it can swing through an arc of 180° in wind or tidal shifts .

Solar-power_SunWare-Textile-Bimmi-Mo

Flexible panels can be mounted on sprayhoods or awnings to add power when it’s needed at anchor or in harbour

INSTALLATION

Having trawled through hundreds of ‘deals’ to get the best price on the most efficient panels you can afford you now need to know how to install them to best fulfill your energy generation needs.

The output, even from the highest quality photo-voltaic array, will only be as good as the installation itself.

So following our guidelines should ensure you extract every last drop of energy from your investment.

PANEL MOUNTING

Sailing boats are not the ideal structure on which to mount wide, flat PV panels.

So before you go ahead and purchase what looks like the biggest and best, take a few minutes to decide on exactly where you can mount them, as this will affect what size and type of panels you should buy.

In many cases the first choice would be on an arch, davits or gantry aft, especially if you already have, or plan to fit one.

Solar-power_Solar-on-gantry

Dinghy davits, particularly on multihulls, can support a huge solar capacity

These allow a solid metal framework to be constructed that will be strong enough to take the heavier, more productive rigid PV panels.

You can also build in some form of adjuster to the framework that will allow the panels to be orientated towards the sun for the best performance.

With luck (or careful planning) a gantry will also keep them aft of the boom, thereby eliminating loss of output caused by boom shading.

The next most popular position for mounting the panels is on a cockpit sprayhood or bimini, although this will often mean using the flexible or semi-flexible panels, which are generally less efficient than the rigid ones for the same area.

ELEVATED MOUNTING

Alternatively, there are kits available for mounting panels onto lifelines, which can allow their elevation to be manually adjusted to a certain degree.

Solar-power_Adjustable-on-a-pole

Pole-mounted panels can be used for maximum adjustability

Finally, panels can be fitted directly onto the deck by either gluing them down using mastic or attaching them onto a rigid support frame.

Once again you will probably need to use semi-flexible panels – especially if the deck surface is curved.

Rigid, glass-coated panels will obviously not be suitable for deck mounting in an area that is frequently walked over.

Don’t be tempted to drill through the panels, even along the edges, as this will invalidate the warranty and possibly damage the panel.

Solar-power_Adjustable-PV-panel-mount

With solid panels, the ability to adjust the angle can add significantly to output

It might seem obvious, but the key to an efficient system is to avoid shading wherever possible.

It’s no good fitting expensive, high-efficiency PVs right under the boom as they’ll perform little better than the cheaper types.

Saying that, in good quality panels each cell will be isolated from the next by a series of diodes (one-way electrical valves), so that if one cell is shaded at least it won’t drag down the other cells within the same panel.

Older panels often didn’t have these, so the slightest partial shading caused the output of the entire panel to cease.

OVERHEATING

Another important factor that is often ignored when installing the panels is that of overheating.

If a PV panel gets too hot, which is quite likely if mounted directly onto a flat surface without an air gap behind, its output will drop quite noticeably.

To allow for some air circulation behind the panels it’s best to apply mastic adhesive in numerous large dabs.

This is best achieved by placing wooden spacer strips between the dabs until the mastic has completely cured, after which the spacers can be removed.

You might need some form of trim around one or more of the outside edges, though, if they are positioned where sheets and other lines might get caught under them.

Raising the panels up will also help water to drain off and thereby helping to avoid possible delamination from sitting in water for too long.

CHARGE CONTROL

A PV module cannot supply an electrical device directly due to the changeability of the sunlight, which in turns varies the current it can produce.

Therefore, it has to be connected to a battery, which stores and smooths its output.

Whatever the size of your solar array you will need to fit a regulator, or charge controller as they are now more commonly known, to the system in order to control the output and to help extract as much power from the panels as possible.

There are two types of PV charge controller.

The older designs, called Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) types, were fairly basic voltage regulators and simply output volts at just above battery level.

The latest controllers use Multi Power Point Tracking (MPPT) technology and can accept much higher input voltages (up to 240Vdc).

MPPT controllers can be up to 30% more efficient as they use the peak output of the panels to charge the batteries, even compensating for partial shading.

BEWARE FAKE GEAR

If you buy online do be careful to ensure you’re getting what you pay for.

There are a huge number of fake MPPTs out there, which are simply the much cheaper PWM dressed up with fake labels.

It’s hard to tell which is which, but the old adage of ‘if it looks too good to be true, it usually is’ makes good sense.

MPPT controllers are usually bigger and heavier than PWMs, but if in doubt call or email the supplier to discuss the pros and cons of their kit before buying.

If they’re not happy to chat and advise you then I would steer clear of their gear.

Some good MPPTs are made in China, but unless they have a UK supplier, I wouldn’t bother with them as you’ll have no follow-up advice.

To calculate what size controller you need simply divide the panel’s peak power in Watts (Wp) by the battery voltage, which will give you the maximum current (Amps) they could theoretically supply.

For example 240W/12V = 20A. Although it’s unlikely you’ll ever get near the peak output from any PV panel, it’s best to go for the maximum possible.

Induction cooking

Induction cooking is now a reality on board, even without shore power

PV panels come with a short length of cable, usually around 1m long.

Some are supplied with MC4 connectors already attached but most only provide bare wires.

The latter can be easily extended using proper waterproof connections but thought must be given as to the current rating and voltage drop (usually max 3%) for the size of cable you intend to use.

If in doubt, bigger is better!

Panels can sometimes be ordered with the wiring on the back so that the cable can go straight below deck through a hole under the panel.

031_Solar-power

You may need to fit extra battery capacity if you want to run an inverter from solar charging

SERIES OR PARALLEL?

A commonly asked question is ‘should I wire my PV panels in series or in parallel?’

The simple answer is, if there’s any danger of frequent shading to one or more of the panels then install them in parallel.

If wired in series the shading of a single panel will drag down the output from all of the others in the same series.

PARALLEL IS PREFERRED

Most commonly, multiple panels are wired together in parallel to a single charge controller, with diodes protecting each panel from discharging the others should one become partially shaded.

With the advent of MPPT controllers, however, there can sometimes be a benefit to wiring two or more identical panels into a series bank, thereby presenting a higher voltage to the controller.

It’s worth noting that, like batteries, wiring PV panels in series increases the voltage only – the current capacity of the array remains the same as for a single panel.

‘Where’s the benefit of wiring them in series then?’ you might ask.

Well, the higher the voltage fed into the MPPT, the more consistent it will be with its output, which could, in some cases, prove more efficient than a parallel installation with PWM controllers.

It’s also likely to be necessary if you have a 24V domestic system.

SERIES WIRING

Series wiring is usually only done when the cable runs are long, as it helps negate the voltage drop caused by the resistance of the cable.

While a decent controller will have no problem handling the output from four or even five panels wired in series, it is often inappropriate for sailing yachts as shading just one of the panels will reduce the output of the entire series array.

If you need to do so in order to reduce cable runs then it’s best to split the panels between each side of the boat – a series bank on each side.

If you do this, then you would ideally fit a separate controller to each series PV bank and then connect their outputs together in parallel to the battery bank.

Note, however, that panels wired in series must all be the same types with an equal number of cells per panel.

Furthermore, the charge controller needs to be sized for the total of all panel voltages added together and the current rating of one individual panel.

Differently rated panels can be connected together in parallel but only if each panel has its own controller.

The outputs of the individual controllers can then be joined together to go to the battery bank.

BATTERY BANK QUESTION

Another frequently asked question is ‘Can I connect another charging source to the battery bank while the solar array is charging?’

The answer is yes.

Any decent PV controller will be protected against feedback from other charging sources.

Solar-power_8366-Regina

Think carefully about where shade from mast, boom and rigging will fall. Credit: Graham Snook Photography

CABLE SIZE AND CONNECTORS

A frequent cause of reduced output from PV arrays is wiring that is too small.

The resistance of a wire conductor increases in direct proportion to its cross-sectional area, so go as big as is practicable for the least cable loss.

Each panel should be supplied with the correctly sized cables for its own maximum output.

But if you’re combining panels, either in parallel or in series, you will clearly need to rate the single feed cable to suit the maximum current available at theoretical peak solar output and to minimise voltage drop.

Likewise, the cable from the controller to the batteries should be sized to suit the controller’s maximum output current and protected with a fuse.

For outside it’s important to use exterior grade cable, which is double- insulated and UV-proof.

WEATHERPROOF CONNECTORS

And wherever possible use compatible weatherproof connectors (usually MC4) to those found on the panels rather than cutting off the plugs and hard-wiring them.

Field- assembly MC4 plugs are available, so you don’t have to drill large holes in the decks or bulkheads when feeding the cables through.

When joining more than one panel together try to use the approved multiway connectors; not only do they keep the wiring neat and tidy, but they also offer a greater contact area than budget terminal blocks.

If you have to use screw-type connectors make sure to fit proper ferrules to the wire first to avoid any stray wires in the multistrand shorting across the terminals.

When feeding a cable from above to below deck, try to go through an upright bulkhead where possible to minimise ‘pooling’ of water around the access hole.

Also, use a proper watertight deck seal that matches the cable you’re using.

If drilling through a cored deck you need to drill a larger hole first, fill it with epoxy resin and then drill the required size hole through the epoxy to ensure no water gets into the deck core.

Ideally, the charge controller should be mounted no further than 2m from the battery bank.

If you need to go further, you’ll require larger cabling to reduce the voltage drop.

flexible solar panels sailboat

A generous solar array will keep you self- sufficient indefinitely. Credit: Graham Snook Photography

CONTROLLER LOAD TERMINALS

There is often confusion over the ‘load’ output of a charge controller (often depicted by a light bulb) and what can safely be connected to these terminals.

Rarely explained in the manual, the load terminals should be pretty much ignored in a marine installation as the output on these terminals is usually very limited (10A max).

Some attach an LED light to them to indicate the controller is operating, but all your usual electrical loads should remain connected to the batteries with the battery terminals on the controller connected directly to that battery bank via a fuse.

It is possible, though, to control a high-current switching relay in certain conditions.

Installation

Parallel installation is more resilient to shading, but a series installation will increase peak charging outputs. A combination of the two offers some of the benefit of both

CIRCUIT MONITORING

Unlike most cheap PWMs, the majority of good quality MPPT charge controllers come with an alphanumeric LCD screen to let you know what is going on.

This can either be a remote display or simply one on the front of the box.

It’s obviously a lot better to have a proper numerical display than to rely on a few flashing LEDs to tell you when something’s not right.

So if your chosen controller doesn’t have one be sure to fit a battery monitor (the shunt type) into your solar circuit between the controller and the batteries.

It doesn’t have to be a very ‘smart’ monitor, just one that can display the voltage and current being supplied by the panels.

For smartphone addicts there are several wifi apps that will do the job remotely on your phone or tablet.

DEVICE PROTECTION

All good quality PV panels feature built-in diode protection between each cell to prevent a shaded cell from dragging down the productive ones.

In addition, there will be internal blocking diodes on the final output to protect the panel from polarity reversal and to ensure that the batteries can’t discharge back into the panel during the night.

The latter can be added externally, the former can’t, so check before you buy.

A fuse, rated just above the maximum current available, should be fitted between each panel and the charge controller.

Another fuse should then be installed between the charge controller’s output and the batteries.

In the case of multiple arrays, this second fuse will be rated higher than the individual panel fuses and should match the maximum current rating of the cable.

With this protection installed other charging devices can be connected in parallel at the battery, meaning the solar can be left connected even when you are hooked up to shore power and the battery charger is operating.

In some circumstances, however, this arrangement can affect the sensing of the battery by the charger, causing it to fall back into float mode.

If this becomes apparent it can be overcome by installing a manual/auto switch to disconnect the solar array when on shore power.

041_Solar-power_SF

Check the flex of the solar panel is sufficient for your deck

EXCESS POWER DUMPING

A solar charge controller works by disconnecting the supply from the PV panels when the batteries are fully charged.

But for some full-time liveaboards in sunny climates that can be considered a waste, when the excess power could be put to good use – heating water, say.

This is commonly done using an inverter to supply AC power to the heating element.

Alternatively, you can now buy a 12Vdc element for your calorifier (hot water tank) and supply this directly from your battery bank.

Both of these methods would require a voltage sensitive relay (VSR) to disconnect the element should the battery voltage drop below a pre-set level.

Don’t expect boiling hot water, as there will probably only be enough spare power to take the chill off it before your battery bank reaches its lower threshold voltage.

A 600W/12V element will draw some 50A, from the batteries, whereas a 1kW AC element run through an inverter will need close to 100A.

Solar-power_Solara-68W-PV

A small, semi-flexible panel will be sufficient for keeping batteries trickle charged, but not for heavy use

RIGID, FLEXIBLE, OR SEMI FLEXIBLE?

Despite massive recent improvements in semi-flexible panels in recent years, the solid glass panels still offer a higher power density.

That said, they are heavier, more awkward to mount and can’t be walked on, so unless you have a dedicated gantry aft, you’re better off choosing the more rugged semi-flexibles.

Modules incorporating monocrystalline cells also have a better output than those with polycrystalline cells (that’s cells made from a single slice of silicon as opposed to layers of smaller pieces).

Output voltage also depends on the number of cells on the panel.

In the past this has commonly been 32, but now some 36 and even 40 cell panels are available.

That said, they’re larger, of course, so an array of interconnected smaller panels might be a better solution.

Module efficiency is now more often around the 20% mark, as opposed to 12-15% for older models and semi- flexible (up to 20° bend) are usually better than flexible (up to 180° bend).

039_Solar-power_Yingli-Panda

A rigid panel is more efficient, but less robust

There are a huge number of panels on the market, but many use the same cells.

Sunpower Maxeon cells are exceptionally good, as are the Panasonic HIT range and LG, but they are pricey.

If the maker is offering a 25-year guarantee instead of a 3-5 year one, you can be pretty confident they’re good.

When it comes to charge controllers it’s definitely worth paying a little more for a decent MPPT.

A cheap PWM might be okay just to keep a small starter battery charged with a 30W panel, but the MPPT will give you much more when it comes to heavy service.

Victron are probably top of the range, while cheaper brands like MakeSkyBlue and EPever are also good value – but treat imports of unclear origin with care.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Duncan Kent

Duncan Kent has been evaluating and reviewing yachts and marine equipment for the past 30 years

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The Different Types of Solar Panels for Boats

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  • 1 Monocrystalline Solar Panels
  • 2 Polycrystalline Solar Panels
  • 3 Thin-Film Solar Panels
  • 4 Amorphous Solar Panels
  • 5 Semi-Flexible Solar Panels
  • 6 Rigid Solar Panels
  • 7 Conclusion

Related Posts

As the world’s focus on sustainability intensifies, the allure of harnessing solar power for various applications, including marine settings, has grown significantly. For boat owners and enthusiasts, embracing solar panels offers a gateway to a greener and more self-sufficient way of navigating the open waters. The sun’s natural energy can power boats, reducing reliance on conventional energy sources and minimizing environmental impact.

In this blog, we delve into the diverse world of solar panels for boats , exploring the advantages and characteristics of each type. Whether you sail the vast ocean or cruise along tranquil rivers, understanding the array of solar panel options available will empower you to make informed decisions in embracing renewable energy and charting a course toward a more sustainable future on the waves.

Monocrystalline Solar Panels

Monocrystalline solar panels are known for their efficiency and sleek design, making them popular for boat owners seeking maximum power output in limited spaces. These panels are made from a single crystal structure, allowing them to convert sunlight into electricity efficiently. Monocrystalline panels boast an excellent power-to-size ratio, making them perfect for boats with limited roof or deck space. While they tend to be more expensive than other types, their durability and efficiency make them a wise long-term investment.

Polycrystalline Solar Panels

Polycrystalline solar panels are another prevalent option for marine applications. Unlike monocrystalline panels, polycrystalline panels have multiple crystal structures, slightly reducing their efficiency. However, they are more cost-effective to manufacture, making them a budget-friendly choice for boat owners. Polycrystalline panels are bulkier than monocrystalline panels, so they may require more space for installation. If you have ample deck or roof area on your boat and are looking for an economical solar solution, polycrystalline panels can be an excellent choice.

Thin-Film Solar Panels

Thin-film solar panels are highly versatile and lightweight, making them an attractive option for boats. They are created by depositing thin layers of photovoltaic material on various substrates, such as glass, metal, or plastic. Thin-film panels have lower efficiency than crystalline panels but perform better in low-light conditions, making them suitable for overcast or shaded areas on the boat. The flexibility of thin-film panels allows for easy installation on curved or irregular surfaces, making them an ideal choice for boat owners who value adaptability and space efficiency.

Amorphous Solar Panels

Amorphous solar panels, a subset of thin-film technology, are created by depositing non-crystalline silicon on a substrate. They are highly durable, lightweight, and flexible, making them a perfect fit for marine applications. Amorphous panels perform well in low-light conditions and have a better temperature coefficient than crystalline panels, meaning their efficiency drops less in hot environments. While they may have a lower efficiency overall, their ability to generate power in diverse conditions can be advantageous for long journeys or unpredictable weather conditions.

Semi-Flexible Solar Panels

Semi-flexible solar panels offer a middle ground between traditional rigid and thin-film options. These panels feature a thin layer of solar cells embedded in a flexible plastic or polymer material. Semi-flexible panels can conform to curved surfaces, making them suitable for mounting on boat decks, cabins, or sails. They are lightweight and easy to install, often requiring adhesive rather than bolts. While their efficiency might not match rigid crystalline panels, their versatility and ease of integration make them popular among boat owners.

Rigid Solar Panels

Rigid solar panels, typically monocrystalline or polycrystalline materials, are the most common type in various applications. While they are less flexible than other options, they remain a reliable and efficient choice for boats with ample deck or rooftop space. Rigid panels are durable, weather-resistant, and can deliver higher power outputs. They are ideal for boats with higher energy demands, such as those with multiple electronic devices or appliances.

Solar power is revolutionizing how we generate energy, and boats are no exception to this transformation. As boat owners seek eco-friendly and cost-effective solutions to power their vessels, solar panels offer a reliable and sustainable answer. Understanding the different types of solar panels available for boats is crucial in selecting the right solution for your needs, considering factors like space availability, budget, and desired efficiency. Whether you opt for monocrystalline, polycrystalline, thin-film, amorphous, semi-flexible, or rigid solar panels, embracing solar energy will propel your boat toward a greener and more independent future on the water.

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SAIL Magazine Review Team reports on best-selling products in sailing and boating. SAIL Magazine is reader-supported: When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Artificial Intelligence (large language models) may have been used in the research and creation of the content.

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Based on our time and experience sailing, on short trips and living at sea, we have created a Power Usage Chart below.  You can see more details on what each system could power on your weekend or live aboard sailing adventure.  Create your own power usage table and see what your power needs are aboard your own yacht then choose the number of solar panels accordingly.

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Top 5 Best Solar Panels for Boats (2024 Marine Buyer’s Guide)

Top 5 Best Solar Panels for Boats (2024 Marine Buyer’s Guide)

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • Why photovoltaic (PV) equipment is great to have on your boat
  • Which panels are best suited for use on the water
  • What qualities make for a great boat solar panel

Each product and or company featured here has been independently selected by the writer. You can learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.

Why Should You Install Solar Panels On Your Boat?

Before we dive into the best panels to bring your boat into the world of clean energy, it’s worth discussing why you’d want a solar panel system on your boat in the first place.

There are a few use cases that are important to consider. These not only dictate whether or not you need panels on your boat, but they can also help you decide which system is the best and most cost-effective for you. We’ll discuss the different reasons to go solar on your boat below.

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Charging Emergency Equipment

For anyone who has run into issues out at sea, the need for reliable emergency equipment is well understood. Whether you run out of gas, your boat breaks down or you have some other issue that precludes you from getting back to shore, having a way to reach out for help will keep your mind at ease.

Depending on the type of boat you have and how well it’s equipped, you may have a radio system, a satellite phone, a regular phone or some other communication device for emergencies. All of these require power, and having a solar system on your boat ensures that you’ll always have access to these devices.

Charging Recreational Equipment

Even if you’re not running into problems at sea, you might want the ability to charge recreational equipment. It’s always nice to have the ability to charge smartphones, e-readers, speakers and other devices you might use for entertainment.

This is especially important if you plan on spending a few days at sea and don’t want to rely on your boat’s batteries. Keeping those well charged for lighting, navigation tools and starting your boat’s engine is more important than getting your phone up to a full charge.

Quality of Life at Sea

For a lot of people, there’s a lot of joy in upgrading life at sea and making things just a little more comfortable. One of the perks of installing a solar system on your vessel is that you don’t have to worry about using your boat’s batteries for non-necessities.

For example, many recreational boaters connect their solar array to an electric cooler. Others use their solar modules to power electric water heaters for hot showers and constant hot water.

The possibilities for improving your at-sea experience with solar are really up to you, which is part of what makes bringing renewable energy to your boat so exciting.

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What Are the Top 5 Best Solar Panels for Boats?

If you’re convinced you want to install solar on your boat, but you don’t know much about the available options, you might be overwhelmed by the choices. You’ll have access to seemingly countless brands and models.

To help you narrow down your options and choose panels that will meet your needs, we’ve done extensive research and chosen just a few product lines that we recommend. We’ll provide a quick breakdown of the different options below, and we’ll dive deeper into the specifications in later sections.

SunPower 170W Solar Panel

SunPower is a leader in the residential solar industry, so it’s no surprise that we found that the company also makes the best solar panels for use on boats.

This panel is pricey, but it’s significantly more powerful than most other options. At 170 watts, you can use these panels to charge your boat’s main battery, provide backup power for emergencies, or live large on the water by powering coolers, hot water heaters and much more.

This panel doesn’t come with a solar charge controller like many other options do, so not only is it expensive, but you’ll have to lay out more money for a controller, inverter and battery. However, we believe the efficiency and power output are well worth the investment.

These panels are also rated with a waterproof rating of IP67, which means they can withstand immersion in water up to about three feet for around half an hour. If you need more protection than that, you have bigger problems on your hands than losing a panel.

  • High-efficiency panel for maximum power
  • High-quality, durable materials
  • Trusted and reliable brand
  • Waterproof up to a meter for 30 minutes
  • Doesn’t include any equipment other than the panel

Renogy 100W Flexible Marine Solar Panel

The Renogy Flexible solar panel designed specifically for use on the water is our pick for the best bang for your buck. It’s about half the price of the SunPower panel, although it does have a little more than just half the power capacity.

At 100 watts, this panel is great for middle-of-the-road power. It can serve as a reliable backup source of energy, or you can use it to recharge phones, GPS devices, e-readers, laptops and other electronics. It’s possible to use it for the quality-of-life items mentioned above as well.

This panel also has an IP67 waterproof rating, which is ideal for maintaining peace of mind on the water. Although it’s less expensive than our top pick, it includes a controller and wiring to connect your panels. You’ll just need an inverter and a battery to complete your setup.

  • Excellent power output
  • IP67 waterproof rating
  • Includes controller and wiring
  • Reliable brand name
  • More expensive than many other options
  • Doesn’t include a battery or inverter

EcoWorthy 25W Solar Panel Kit

The EcoWorthy solar panel kit is one of the easiest photovoltaic (PV) systems to install, so it’s our top pick for those looking to get started with clean energy. You can purchase this kit with a 10 amp-hour (AH), 12-volt battery, and the MC4 connectors are plug-and-play for a quick and painless installation.

This panel has a much smaller output than our top two picks, so it’s best reserved for backup power or for charging cell phones and other small electronics.

This kit has a waterproof rating of IP65, which means it can withstand being submerged in around five feet of water for up to a half hour, and it will also be protected from sprays of water. This is a great option for maintaining peace of mind when you’re on the water, especially if conditions are rough.

Lastly, the kit includes a panel, a controller and wiring, so you’ll just need to add a battery and an inverter to complete your kit.

  • IP65 waterproof rating
  • Includes a controller and wiring
  • Very affordable
  • Significantly less power than our top picks – Only ideal for light-duty use

NewPowa 30W Solar Panel Kit

This 30 watt solar panel kit from NewPowa includes a panel, a controller and wiring. If you add a backup battery and an inverter, you can create a complete off-grid solar kit for less than $150 without leaving your home (thanks to Amazon).

With an output of 30 watts, this is the best marine solar panel for light-duty use, although you could use it for non-essential electronics like an electric cooler or a small solar water heater. Those more demanding devices should be low-use, though.

The panels and controller are IP67-rated, so they’re suitable for use on just about any boat.

Best of all, the partial solar kit is just $60, so this makes our list as our top budget pick for going solar without breaking the bank.

The kit has pre-drilled mounting holes and is compatible with a wide variety of mounting brackets. As such, your installation process should be relatively straightforward.

  • Includes a controller and plug-and-play wiring
  • Relatively low wattage

TopSolar Monocrystalline Solar Panel Kit

The off-grid solar kit from TopSolar is a great affordable option, and it’s what we’d recommend as a starter kit for backup energy for beginners. It only puts out 20 watts, so this is not the best option if you’re looking for something to charge your recreational devices or quality-of-life equipment. However, it’s an affordable and easy-to-install kit for emergency power.

Unfortunately, this kit doesn’t include a specific ingress protection (IP) rating, but the manufacturer does note that the product is waterproof. Based on customer reviews, it appears that this product is safe for use on the water.

solar panels for boats battery

The kit includes a small PV panel, a controller and wiring, so you’ll need to buy an inverter and battery separately if you want AC power or backup power.

Best of all, the kit is super easy to install. It has pre-drilled holes and is compatible with most mounting brackets and clips.

  • Great option for backup power
  • Easy to install
  • No official IP rating
  • Low wattage

What Should Boat Owners Look for When Buying Solar Panels?

Solar panels can be a great option for marine use, but not all panels and solar kits are suitable for use around water. Additionally, the panel you choose needs to be selected based on how you want to use your solar power system.

In the sections below, we’ll include a few key things you’ll want to consider when choosing a solar module for your boat.

Energy Needs

One of the first things we recommend thinking about is how much energy you need your panels to generate. This will help guide you to what size panel and how much energy output you need.

If you’re just looking for reliable backup power for your boat’s internal 12-volt battery, or you want your panels to provide power for emergencies only, you’ll probably only need a panel of around 20 watts.

If you use your boat frequently for entertaining guests, or you spend days at a time on your boat, you might want something above 100 watts to provide backup power plus electricity for electric coolers, water heaters and more. Consider everything you’ll use your solar array for and size your system accordingly.

The chart below provides a quick breakdown of what size solar panels you need for different purposes on a boat.

If you plan on using your panels to replace an on-board generator, you can calculate how much electricity your boat uses and then size your system accordingly. It’s always advisable to go a little bigger than you think you need, as cloud coverage and the angle of the sunlight hitting your panels can cause fluctuations in solar power production.

If you have high energy needs, we also recommend considering a Maximum Power Point Tracker (MPPT) controller, which is more efficient than a Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) controller, which is more common.

Space Available for Installation

Just like residential solar systems are limited by available roof square footage, marine solar systems are limited by the available space for installation. This is an important consideration to make to ensure you don’t buy a panel that you won’t be able to mount or use in your vessel.

Before you buy any equipment, we recommend checking the measurements of the panel and deciding where on your boat you can install it. Some portable, foldable panels come with kickstands for temporary setups, but the smaller of our top picks can be set up just about anywhere without mounting brackets as well.

Type of Solar Panel

You’ll have a few choices for the type of panel you purchase for your boat as well.

First, you’ll need to decide between thin-film solar panels, polycrystalline solar panels and monocrystalline solar panels.

  • Monocrystalline panels are the most efficient, so they’re the best suited for use on boats. The higher efficiency ratings will let you produce more energy per square foot, which is essential on a boat where space is limited. All of our recommendations above are monocrystalline.
  • Polycrystalline solar panels can also work, but they won’t provide as much solar power.
  • Thin-film panels are the most affordable, but they generate even less electricity and aren’t ideal for use where available space is minimal.

Second, you should think about whether you want a rigid solar panel with an aluminum frame or a semi-flexible one. Flexible panels contain special solar cells that can be a bit pricier, but they’re easier to install and are a bit more versatile. They can be mounted on curved surfaces, giving you more placement options.

Waterproof Rating

Since you’ll be using your panels on the water, it’s essential that you choose one with a good waterproof rating. Some of the best options are IP67 and IP65. These will ensure your panels and charge controllers or regulators remain safe and at low risk of fire even when exposed to moisture and direct water contact.

Accessories

Finally, you should consider what your kit comes with. Some come with only panels, so you’ll need to buy a controller, an inverter and a battery to complete your setup. Some come with a combination of these parts, although batteries and inverters aren’t commonly included. Some panels also include mounting brackets, although this is also uncommon.

Thinking about the additional equipment you’ll need to purchase after buying your panels will help you budget more effectively for your entire system.

How Do Solar Panels Work With Boats?

PV panels for boats work just like panels for residential use — they collect sunlight and route the energy either to a storage or use system.

Since boat solar systems are entirely off-grid, most require the following:

  • Solar panels
  • A charge controller
  • An inverter
  • Mounting brackets or other mounting hardware
  • A backup battery for energy storage

We’ll explain what each of these components does in the section below, and then we’ll get into how to set up and maintain your system.

Equipment for a Marine Solar System

best regulators for marine solar systems

The main components you’ll absolutely need for your boat solar system are PV panels and a controller. If you plan to store energy or use it to charge common electronics, you’ll also need a battery and an inverter.

The panels are the pieces of the system that collect energy from the sun. The electricity generated is then passed to your controller, which limits the amount of power that flows through the wires to your battery or device.

The charge controller helps prevent overcharging batteries or electronics when production is high, and it also prevents battery drainage when production is low. Some panels are equipped with bypass diodes to provide the same safety features.

The solar energy that’s collected is direct current (DC), while most electronics, including standard light fixtures, use alternating current (AC) power. An inverter is used to convert DC current to AC so that you can use your solar power to power devices directly. If you don’t have DC lights in your boat, for example, an inverter might be necessary to provide lighting.

A battery storage system is exactly what it sounds like: it’s a battery bank that stores solar energy for later use.

Solar batteries are useful for two main reasons on boats.

  • First, if you ever experience cloudy days, your solar production might very well drop below what you need to provide power to your devices. In that case, having a battery to pull stored energy from can be helpful in maintaining charging capability or electricity.
  • Additionally, a battery on board can be useful for maintaining backup power for emergencies. If your boat’s built-in battery ever fails or you need to charge emergency communication or navigation devices, a battery will come in handy.

Installation

Since you want your solar panels to be exposed to as much sun as possible, it’s best to install them at or near the highest point on your boat — often the bimini. This will prevent them from getting shade from other parts of your boat during the day, regardless of which direction your vessel is moving.

It’s also typically best to install your panels as close to parallel with the surface of the earth as possible. Since your boat will be moving around a lot, it’s not realistic to install them facing the path of the sun in the sky as you would on a home. Laying them flat gives you the best chance of always collecting at least some sunlight.

You, of course, need to consider available space as well, so remember to take measurements of your installation site and compare them to your panels before beginning the process.

Finally, you should consider where your batteries will be — if applicable — and where your wiring will run once your installation is complete. Keeping these things in mind will help ensure that the installation process goes as smoothly as possible.

Below, we’ll include a brief step-by-step guide on how to install a solar system on your boat.

  • First, take measurements of where your panels will be installed, the path the wiring will take to all components and where your battery, inverter and controller will be placed. Making sure you have enough room for all of your components will help avoid headaches once you get started.
  • We recommend mounting your batteries, inverter and controller first. These are generally the easier components to mount, so they’re the easiest to move once installed.
  • Next, mount your panels. The process for this will depend on the panels you choose and where you plan to install them. You should follow the installation instructions for the mounting brackets or hardware you purchase.
  • Finally, you can wire your system, beginning with the connection between the panels and the controller and then the connections to the inverter and battery.
  • You can test your system by using a voltmeter or by checking to see if your powered devices function as intended. Some controllers will also show you if your panels are providing energy and how much they’re producing.

For more guidance and information on how to set up your boat solar system, you can check out the video below:

Maintenance

Thankfully, solar systems are relatively maintenance-free once installed, although you should carry out routine system checks and cleaning to ensure you continue to enjoy maximum safety and energy production.

You should spray down your panels with water about once every six months to get any accumulation of dirt or salt off of them. This will help maximize energy generation. Around the same time, you should also check the wires and connectors for corrosion, which is more likely to occur if you use your boat in saltwater.

After major storms, it’s a good idea to ensure that none of the connections between components were lost. A simple disconnect could lead to your battery charging issues, which could be an issue if you ever need backup power.

Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that solar systems on boats are generally considered safe. There is a small risk of fire but provided you carry out the proper maintenance, you should avoid any serious issues.

Are Marine Solar Panels Worth It?

The answer to this question really depends on who you ask. For some boat owners, PV panels are essential. Not only can they provide backup power for emergencies, but they can also improve your quality of life at sea and the enjoyment of your boat.

For many people, these things are indispensable, so solar systems are well worth the investment. For certain types of boats — like small fishing boats and sailboats — solar panels will be the only source of electricity.

Other boat owners feel comfortable relying on generators if they have them, and some use their boats only for short durations, which makes having an on-board solar array less valuable.

For most people, though, having at least a small solar system to provide backup power for emergencies is worthwhile. From there, opting to up the size of your system to improve your time at sea isn’t hard to get behind.

FAQ: Marine Solar Panels

Below, we’ll answer a few of the most common questions we get about solar panel systems made for boats.

What are the best marine solar panels?

In our opinion, the best solar panels for boat use are the SunPower 170W solar panels. These are flexible panels that allow for easy and versatile installation.

They are some of the most efficient panels suitable for boat use, and they provide an incredible 170 watts each. This is enough power for just about anything you need electricity for on your boat and for emergency equipment in low-light conditions.

These panels are a bit expensive, and they don’t come with any additional equipment. However, the junction boxes have a waterproof rating of IP67, come with a five-year warranty for equipment and high efficiency and are made from high-quality, durable materials for years of use.

Will solar panels keep my boat battery charged?

Yes, solar panels can be hooked up to keep your boat’s 12 volt battery charged. However, you need to make sure you install a system that is sized appropriately for your boat’s needs.

You can check how much power your boat draws from its battery system by looking at the loads (in amps or watts) of each device. You can also use your battery monitor if you have one to check the energy demand of each individual component pulling power. Then, choose solar panels that produce a bit more energy than your system needs.

If you live in an area that experiences a lot of cloudy weather, you might want to size up your system even more to ensure your system generates enough electricity.

How much does it cost to put solar panels on a boat?

The cost to install a solar array on your boat can range from around $150 up to well over $1,000. Where in this range your total falls depends primarily on how much energy you need to produce.

If you’re looking for portable solar panels to take on and off a small boat with you for emergency use only — which is typical for sailboats and smaller boats that don’t normally have electricity — you’ll likely be looking at the $150 end of the spectrum.

If you have a much larger boat and want to be able to maintain power for your essential equipment and some non-essentials, then you’ll likely push your all-in cost closer to the higher end of the range.

What are the benefits of solar panels on boats?

Installing solar panels on your boat can provide quite a few key benefits, although the perks you’ll actually experience depend on your situation and your specific boat.

Perhaps most importantly, solar panels can charge your boat’s battery and maintain electricity for emergencies. Most systems — even small ones — can serve to charge your phone, GPS or other emergency devices in case you run into problems out on the water.

Larger systems can also provide power for recreational use, like charging phones, powering speaker systems, keeping beer cold and more.

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Yacht Solar: Exploring the Advantages of Flexible Solar Panels for Boats

When it comes to sailing the open waters, boat owners are constantly seeking innovative ways to enhance their boating experience while being mindful of the environment. One such breakthrough in marine technology is the utilization of flexible solar panels for boats. In this article, we will delve into the world of marine solar panels, discussing their benefits, applications, and the various options available in the market.

Sailing enthusiasts are increasingly turning to flexible solar panels as a viable solution to power their boats sustainably. These innovative panels offer significant advantages over traditional rigid solar panels, making them a popular choice among boat owners worldwide.

1. Understanding Flexible Solar Panels for Boats

1.1 what are flexible solar panels.

Flexible solar panels, also known as thin-film solar panels, are made of lightweight and flexible materials such as amorphous silicon. This flexibility allows them to conform to various curved surfaces on boats, making them an excellent choice for marine applications.

1.2 How Do Flexible Solar Panels Differ from Conventional Panels?

Unlike conventional solar panels that use rigid crystalline silicon cells, flexible solar panels use thin-film technology, which makes them more versatile. Traditional panels are bulkier and heavier, while flexible panels are lightweight and easy to install.

1.3 The Advantages of Using Flexible Solar Panels on Boats

The benefits of flexible solar panels on boats are manifold. They are lightweight, durable, and resistant to impacts, making them ideal for marine environments. Additionally, their flexibility allows them to fit on curved surfaces, maximizing the use of available space on boats.

2. Addressing Rust Concerns in Marine Solar Panels

2.1 the impact of rust on traditional solar panels.

Traditional solar panels are often mounted using metal brackets or frames. In marine environments, these metal components are susceptible to rust due to exposure to saltwater and humidity. Rust can compromise the structural integrity and efficiency of the panels.

2.2 Why Flexible Solar Panels are Rust-Resistant

Flexible solar panels do not require metal brackets for installation. As a result, they are not as vulnerable to rust as their rigid counterparts. This advantage extends the lifespan of flexible panels and ensures optimal performance even in corrosive marine conditions.

3. Empowering Boats with Solar Panels and Batteries

3.1 combining solar panels with battery systems.

Integrating solar panels with boat batteries creates an independent and sustainable energy system. Solar panels generate electricity during the day, which can be stored in batteries to power various onboard appliances and equipment, even during cloudy or nighttime conditions.

3.2 Advantages of Using Solar Panels for Boat Batteries

Using solar panels for boat batteries reduces the reliance on traditional power sources, such as generators or shore power. This not only cuts down operational costs but also reduces noise pollution and emissions, promoting eco-friendly boating practices.

4. Exploring Flex Solar Panels for Marine Applications

4.1 the versatility of flex solar panels.

Flexible solar panels can be installed on various boat surfaces, including the deck, hull, and bimini tops. Their lightweight and pliable nature allow them to adapt to the unique contours of different boat designs.

4.2 Installing Flex Solar Panels on Different Boat Surfaces

Boat owners can install flexible solar panels using adhesives or by sewing them into canvas materials. This installation flexibility offers convenience and ensures a seamless integration with the boat's aesthetics.

5. The Rise of Flexible Solar Panels in the UK

5.1 marine flexible solar panels in the uk.

The UK, with its extensive coastline and thriving boating community, has seen a surge in the adoption of flexible solar panels. Boat owners are increasingly recognizing the long-term benefits of harnessing solar power for their marine activities.

5.2 Embracing Sustainable Boating Solutions

The popularity of flexible solar panels in the UK reflects the growing awareness and commitment to sustainable boating practices. As environmental concerns mount, the marine industry is actively seeking eco-friendly solutions to minimize its carbon footprint.

6. The Convenience of Boat Solar Panel Kits in the UK

6.1 all-in-one boat solar panel kits.

Boat solar panel kits offer a convenient solution for boat owners looking to embrace solar power. These kits come with all the necessary components, including panels, mounting hardware, charge controllers, and connectors, making installation hassle-free.

6.2 Harnessing Solar Energy Effortlessly

Boat solar panel kits provide boat owners with a simple and effective way to harness solar energy. By generating electricity from the sun, boaters can extend their time on the water without worrying about depleting conventional power sources.

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Traditional sailor tattoos: meaning of the swallow, the most popular catamarans of 2023, fishing and sailing: where to sail for the best catches, skippered boats: how to pack for a cruise, boat rental with skipper: everyone can go to sea, skippered boats: myths about sailing, sail from lefkada for 14 days. where to, what not to miss when visiting lefkada, skippered boats: step by step boat rental, where and why to sail from lefkas marina, don’t panic: handling maritime emergencies, skippered boats: which boat to choose, the best sailing routes from biograd na moru, yachting away from ourselves: a voyage to inner peace, sail to the 7 most beautiful sights in greece, skippered boats: how to build a crew, skippered boats: the most popular cruise destinations, what skipper's licence do i need, skippered boats: what else to experience on a cruise, from lefkada or corfu to paxos and antipaxos, discover the paradise of paxos and antipaxoss, skippered boats: a typical day on a boat, skippered boats: what it looks like on a boat, discover corfu: sailing adventure in the ionian, sextant and navigation: survival without gps, 5 best sailing routes in the bahamas, skippered boats: how much does a boat holiday cost, yachting guide to the bahamas, the ultimate yacht cleaning kit, introduction to chartering with a skipper.

A regular solar panel on a boat

7. Understanding the Issue of Panel Rust

7.1 common causes of panel rust.

Panel rust in traditional solar panels is primarily caused by exposure to moisture and salty air. It can lead to corrosion and decrease the efficiency of the panels over time.

7.2 Preventive Measures and Solutions

Flexible solar panels, being less prone to rust, require less maintenance. However, boat owners can further protect their panels by choosing anti-corrosive mounting options and performing regular inspections.

8. Harnessing the Power of 12V Solar Panels for Boats

8.1 the advantages of 12v solar panels.

12V solar panels are a popular choice for boats due to their compatibility with standard marine battery systems. They are easy to install and can efficiently charge 12V batteries.

8.2 Enhancing On-Board Energy Efficiency

By installing 12V solar panels, boat owners can optimize their onboard energy consumption and reduce the reliance on engine-driven charging methods, saving both fuel and money.

9. The Best Solar Panel Kits for Boats in the UK

9.1 top picks for boat solar panel kits.

Several reputable manufacturers offer high-quality solar panel kits designed specifically for marine applications. Researching and comparing different kits can help boaters find the best fit for their needs.

9.2 Factors to Consider When Choosing Solar Panel Kits

When selecting a solar panel kit, factors such as wattage, efficiency, and durability should be taken into account to ensure a reliable and long-lasting solution.

10. Enjoying the Sun with Boat Sun Power

10.1 embracing solar energy for recreational use.

Solar power enables boaters to enjoy recreational activities without the noise and fumes associated with traditional power sources. It opens up new possibilities for leisurely and environmentally-conscious boating.

10.2 The Pleasures of Environmentally-Friendly Boating

Boat sun power offers a cleaner and greener way to explore the waters, preserving the marine ecosystem and contributing to sustainable tourism.

11. Exploring Marine Solar Panel Kits

11.1 preparing your boat with solar panel kits.

Installing marine solar panel kits requires careful planning and consideration of the boat's layout and energy needs. Consulting with experts can ensure a well-designed and effective solar power system.

11.2 Advantages of Customizable Marine Solar Panel Kits

Customizable marine solar panel kits allow boat owners to tailor the system according to their energy requirements and space limitations. This customization maximizes energy output and overall efficiency.

12. Sailing the Future: Solar Sailboats

12.1 the concept of solar sailboats.

Solar sailboats take sustainability to new heights, utilizing large solar panels to power electric propulsion systems. These futuristic vessels offer emissions-free and silent sailing.

12.2 Eco-Friendly Sailing with Solar Power

Solar sailboats pave the way for eco-friendly yachting, promoting renewable energy use and reducing the environmental impact of maritime travel.

13. Optimizing Sailboat Solar Panel Mounts

13.1 choosing the right solar panel mounts for sailboats.

Selecting the appropriate solar panel mounts is crucial for maximizing energy production. Properly positioned panels receive the maximum sunlight exposure throughout the day.

13.2 Ensuring Optimal Sunlight Exposure

By strategically installing sailboat solar panels, boat owners can capture more sunlight, ensuring a steady flow of clean energy for their sailing adventures.

14. Sailing with Solar Power: Harnessing the Sun

14.1 how solar panels enhance boat efficiency.

Solar panels offer boat owners a reliable and renewable power source, reducing the reliance on traditional fossil fuels and enhancing overall energy efficiency.

14.2 The Future of Solar-Powered Sailing

As technology advances and renewable energy becomes more accessible, the future of solar-powered sailing looks promising, with boats becoming even more eco-friendly and sustainable.

15. Finding the Best PV Panels for Boats

15.1 understanding photovoltaic panels.

Photovoltaic (PV) panels are the heart of any solar power system. Understanding their efficiency and construction is essential for selecting the best PV panels for boats.

15.2 Selecting High-Quality PV Panels for Boats

High-quality PV panels offer better performance, durability, and longevity. Investing in top-tier panels ensures a higher return on investment and a more eco-friendly boating experience.

Embracing solar technology in the form of flexible solar panels offers boat owners a clean, sustainable, and cost-effective way to power their vessels. The advantages of flexible solar panels, such as their rust-resistance, installation flexibility, and efficiency, make them an ideal choice for marine applications. As the world seeks greener alternatives, the future of boating lies in harnessing the power of the sun, enabling sailors to embark on eco-friendly adventures on their solar-powered yachts.

So what are you waiting for? Take a look at our range of charter boats and head to some of our favourite  sailing destinations.

FAQs: Flexible Solar Panels for Boats

Yes, flexible solar panels are designed to withstand the harsh marine environment. Their durability, impact resistance, and rust-resistance make them ideal for boat applications.

While flexible solar panels can power several appliances, it's essential to assess your energy needs and consider battery storage capacity for consistent power supply.

No, solar sailboats rely solely on the power generated from their solar panels to operate their electric propulsion systems, making them completely emissions-free.

Yes, the flexibility of these panels allows them to conform to various boat surfaces, including curved ones, providing multiple installation options.

I am ready to help you with booking a boat for your dream vacation. Contact me.

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SunPower Flexible Solar Panel

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The SunPower Flexible Solar Panel is the perfect combination of power and portability. Designed for life at sea, featuring second-generation back contact cells and top-grade polymer materials, this panel can flex up to 30 degrees for easy installation, while still providing maximum power output and charge capacity. 

The SunPower Flexible Solar Panel offers optimal performance for customers requiring reliable and durable energy. Built with SunPower Maxeon Solar Cells, which provide structural support with a solid copper foundation, the panel offers exceptional resistance to cracking and corrosion. Benefit from the world-leading performance at peak efficiencies of up to 23%, delivering more power and longer-lasting cell ruggedness.

SunPower's Flexible Solar Panel is designed to hold up in harsh marine environments and is the perfect choice for installing solar energy systems on boat cabin tops and other surfaces. Other flexible solar panels may appear equivalent, yet their performance and durability can vary widely. That's why it's important to look for the SunPower logo. SunPower-branded panels are constructed with SunPower® prime cells, crafted in SunPower facilities with SunPower resources, and covered by SunPower's assurance.

USA-designed and assembled in the Philippines, this panel features quick-connect cables and the ability to be easily attached with adhesives or grommets. Enjoy maximum efficiency with a 5-year limited power warranty of 80% minimum specified power rating.

Federal Tax Credit:  Did you know you can receive up to a 30% federal tax credit on new solar systems? See our Marine Solar Tax Incentive page for details.

No Salt Water Exclusion & Backed by SunPower

5-Year Power Warranty  - SunPower warrants that the E-Flex PV Modules will maintain a power output of at least 80% of the Minimum Peak Power rating for 5 years.

2-Year Product Warranty  - SunPower warrants that its E-Flex PV Modules will be free from defects in materials and workmanship under normal conditions for two years from the Warranty Start Date.

If you need to make a warranty claim with SunPower, contact them directly at [email protected]. Be sure to include your panel serial number, which can be found on the back of the panel.

Customer Reviews

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Just put two 100w panels on my FWC Hawk. Only 4lbs each which is great because I have to lift the roof when I set up the camper. On a sunny March day in OH I'm seeing 170 peak watts/12+ amps from the 2 panels in series, happy with that.

I ordered 3 100 watt flexible panels and 2 were damaged in shipping. Knowing this happens sometimes I opened them right away and saw the damage. I took pictures and emailed customer service and forgot about it. Within 3 hours of sending my email I got a confirmation that they had shipped 2 new panels. Amazing customer service. Thanks

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I’ve been using it daily for about two weeks. Perfect motor for my needs.Very lite weight. I carry it back and forth from car to dingy.

Couldn't be happier with my purchase from Blue Marine, as well as the inverter!

Product was delivered quickly, price was fair. This is a good option that trumped Amazon’s pricing, and delivery time was comparable. We were happy with our purchase from BlueMarine.

This is crazy that my order has taken over 4 weeks almost to get here. Very disappointed! I guess I am faulted for living in Hawaii because the wait time for your order not take this long. Where is my equipment? Where is my order? If it's not here in the next couple days I am canceling and expecting a refund

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Top 3 Best Solar Panels For Sailboats

Best Solar Panels For Sailboats | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

June 15, 2022

Choosing whether or not to install solar panels on your sailboat is a big decision. They are not exactly cheap, though they can start to pay themselves off pretty quickly.

This article is going to cover not only why you might want to use solar panels but all the benefits they provide. You will also find a helpful guide on which solar panels would be best for you and your budget. Hopefully, by the end, you will feel confident in your decision to install solar panels on your sailboat and even have an idea of which ones you might like.

Table of contents

Are solar panels on sailboats necessary?

Whether or not you should be installing solar panels on your boat is a matter of choice, not out of necessity. Sailboats get their power from the wind, by harnassing it in their sail. So if you plan to be sailing for the afternoon you probably don’t need solar panels.

You could charge a battery pack from the marina and that will probably see you through several trips. The problems only really start to arise if you are planning to be on your sailboat for longer periods, or even permanently. If you plan to live on your sailboat year-round, even if you spend 80% of it in a marina, you would be better off with some solar panels. Even if it is just as a backup source of power.

Are solar panels on boats safe?

Solar panels are generally pretty safe. They have no moving parts and typically have a very strong protective cover over them so you never come in contact with the electrics themself. So, as a source of power, they are generally pretty safe. The only time they may become unsafe is if they are badly damaged.

Solar panels are often covered by glass plating that keeps them safe. It also helps them absorb sunlight and warmth. This is great, except when the glass breaks. If the glass protective cover on your solar panels should crack and splinter you are at risk of serious injury from sharp shards of glass. Not only is the glass itself dangerous at this point, so are the electronic components inside. They have powerful currents running through them, and if you come in contact with them you may be in for a shock.

Furthermore, if these electronics get wet they can become deadly. Electricity and water do not mix well at all. Being as you are on a sailboat, at sea, the chances of them getting wet is very high. Luckily, the chances of them breaking in the first place are slim to none. The only real way they would break, besides vandalism, is by debris hitting them during a bad storm. There is not often debris at sea, so this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

What are the benefits of having solar panels on a sailboat?

There are so many great benefits of having solar panels on a sailboat. They can be a lifesaver if you find yourself at sea for a long time. There benefits range from trivial comforts to being the difference between life and death. Here are some of the benefits you might not have considered about having solar panels installed on your sailboat.

Money-saving

Solar panels are not cheap, it is far cheaper to just run a generator or charge your batteries from the marina the whole time. At least, it is in the short term. Over time, it can start to become very expensive. With solar panels, you are looking at a big initial cost (the solar panels themself) and then it’s smooth sailing. You don’t need to pay for power again. Solar panels last for about 40 years before they start to become too inefficient at producing power. The cost of a few solar panels upfront compared to 40 years of marina fees and gasoline for a generator is the financially savvy move.

Emergency power

If you find yourself at sea, the wind dies down (or becomes too strong), and you find yourself stuck bobbing around waiting for more favorable conditions you may run into trouble. Depending on how long you are out there, you may find yourself with dead electronics. Be it a satellite phone, radio, or secondary engine (depending on the boat). Having a set of solar panels and a power bank can be a genuine lifesaver in these situations.

Comfort amenities

Whether you are day sailing or making a week-long voyage, having access to the comforts in life can make the whole journey so much more enjoyable. The amenities may not be available to you without having a constant source of power at sea. Having access to a kettle, tv, videogame system, radio or microwave oven may be the only thing keeping you going at rougher times. As exciting as sailing can be, when you aren’t sailing and are just bobbing around it can be quite dull. The sea is beautiful, but there is only so much time you can spend looking at the water before you miss the comforts of land. With solar panels, you can bring those comforts with you.

Eco-friendly

There are only two alternatives to solar panels. A gasoline generator, and taking power from the grid. Neither of these is good for the environment. Luckily, solar panels are a great third option. Solar panels are completely eco-friendly and are great for the environment. This is not just great for the earth, and your conscience, but for the journey itself. If you are running a gasoline generator at sea you are going to be listening to it thrumming away and smell the burning gasoline. Wouldnt you prefer silence and nothing but the smell of the sea breeze?

How much do solar panels cost?

How much solar panels cost is almost entirely tied into both their voltage/wattage and whether or not they are portable panels. Portable solar panels are great for people who don’t spend a lot of time on their boat or are happy enough living off the marina’s power grid. Permanent solar panels, the kind that may need to professionally installed, can end up costing far more. They are also likely to be far superior and you can pretty much forget about them once they are installed.

Portable solar panels will cost just a few hundred dollars each. You will need a few to be sustainable, but that’s not going to be much of a problem. These portable solar panels can just be rolled out on the deck of your boat, weighed down, and then hooked up to a battery pack. The battery itself here is going to be the most expensive part of the whole set up. A decent-sized battery could set you back a $1000. But, when charged fully it will last days. Even with constant use.

Permanently installed solar panels can cost one or two thousand dollars in some cases. The advantage here though is once they are installed that’s it, you can forget about them. You don’t have to put them up, take them down, and find somewhere to stow them every time they need using. They too will need to be hooked up to a battery, the battery is still only going to cost you $1000. If you are installing permanent solar panels because you plan to be making long voyages, it is ideal to have two or perhaps even three large batteries hooked up to your boat. One to run off, one or two for emergencies.

How do I maintain my solar panels?

Solar panels, unlike gasoline generators, are generally pretty easy to maintain. They have no moving parts and are thus pretty self-sufficient. They don’t need taking apart and they last as long as 40 years. That being said, if they do break they need repairing as soon as possible. The exposed electrics can be deadly when water is thrown into the mix. Which, on a boat, is almost always. The glass cover will need replacing and the electronics inside may need repairing, though not always. Don’t ever attempt to do this yourself unless you are experienced at making these repairs. The cost of hiring someone to do it for you is preferable to being dead. Solar panels have very powerful electric currents, that when in contact with water and yourself can be fatal. As mentioned above, these panels rarely break so you will likely not ever run into this problem. If you do, hire a contractor.

Do my solar panels need cleaning?

Solar panels work by converting the light and heat of the sun into useable power. The process itself is rather complicated but the results are simple to understand. That being said, there are some reasons that your solar panels will stop working as effectively. They all revolve around a lack of sunlight. It could be because it is night time. It could be because it is very cloudy. Or, it could be because they are dirty. If solar panels become too dusty, dirty, and become too covered in grime they stop operating at maximum efficiency. This is not as much of a problem at sea, the sea spray stops dust settling. The biggest thing you will need to clean off your solar panels is salt build-up and slime. This is easy enough to do with some warm soapy water. Freshwater, not seawater. You want to be removing as much salt as possible. Salt is corrosive to electronics, so removing it is important. Never clean your solar panels using pressure washers as they can crack the glass.

Which are the best solar panels for sailing?

There are so many options on the market at various price points. Here are three very different options that will all make good choices, depending on your needs. It is important to consider not just price but power output. Spending a lot of money on solar panels now might not feel ideal, but it is the most cost-effective decision.

1. Renogy Starter Kit

This starter kit is going to be perfect for installing on almost any sized boat. There are four solar panels, each can be fitted permanently to the boat. They can be mounted (and unmounted) easily, for your convenience. They do require a flat surface, but they are small enough that that likely won’t be too much of a problem. This starter kit is very middle of the pack price-wise but should provide enough power for a small to medium-sized vessel easily. It is also possible to buy extra panels individually should you need them.

Wattage: 400/4 (100 per panel)

2. Nature Power Rigid

The nature power rigid is a large, powerful, single solar panel. If you are looking for the right panels to power your entire boat comfortably, these are the ones for you. They are very large so they will need a large flat surface area. alternatively, they can be hung vertically from rails. This is an inefficient way of using them, so you would need to buy more this way. Nature power makes various solar panels so you could find some smaller ones of the same brand to supplement it. This one is not so easy to install, you might need to hire someone to install it for you.

Wattage: 165

3. Nature Power Monocrystalline

Nature power makes a portable solar panel that fits inside a special briefcase. It is perfect for stowing away easily and only taking it out when it is needed. It is decently powerful considering its portable, but there is the inconvenience factor of having to set it up each time. If you planned to buy the nature power rigid, buying one of these portable panels might be ideal for supplementing your power supply when it is especially sunny. Though, it may be cheaper for you to just fit more of the Nature Power Rigids.

Wattage: 120

Hopefully, you now have a good idea about whether solar panels would be right for you and your sailboat. Sailing is great, but the lack of power at sea can be dreadfully boring. Luckily, there are so many great options available on the market. Not just the ones mentioned above. Buying a solar panel is an investment, the initial cost is minor compared to the steady return from all the savings you will make.

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I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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4 Best Flexible Solar Panels for RVs, Boats & Curved Surfaces

best flexible solar-panels

One of the best things about solar panels is that you can set them up anywhere you want. The only trouble is when you’re eyeing irregular and uneven surfaces. Straight, rigid solar panels will topple over these. So for convex surfaces and roofs, flexible, bendable solar panels are the way to go.

Of course, the best flexible solar panels have to be up to a certain standard. Keep an eye out for the following things to see whether you’re getting top-quality, high efficiency flexible solar panels:

  • Flexibility: The main point of buying flexible solar panels is ensuring that they’ll be snug when mounted on curved surfaces, unlike conventional solar panels that are stiff and rigid. Flexible panels usually bend upwards of 30 degrees. If you go for one that is extremely durable and innovative in design, you can bend it at 248-degree angles.
  • Lightweight: Flexible solar panels should be portable and easy to bring around, especially if your vehicle is small. Try looking for ultra-light panels that go from 3-5 lbs. You could also opt for slim ones, as thin flexible solar panels are likely to bend more. Plus, when your panels are light and easy to carry, the installation will be a breeze.
  • Emits a good amount of solar power: While the design of your flexible solar panels is important, you can’t forget that its primary purpose is to provide solar power. Look for a flexible panel that gives off at least 100 watts of energy at a time.

There are numerous other factors you need to consider when choosing flexible solar panels for car roof mounts or the top of your RV, which are usually curved to a certain degree. You can check them out in the buying guide later in this review.

For now, here are the top-rated flexible solar panels for RV roofs, boats, and other curved surfaces people might want to set up their renewable energy source on:

best-flexible-solar-panels-for-van

Best Overall

flexible solar panels sailboat

Renogy Flexible Solar Panel

Premium Choice

flexible solar panels sailboat

Topsolar Flexible Solar Panel

Editor’s Choice

flexible solar panels sailboat

SunPower Flexible Solar Panel

Table of Contents

1. Renogy 175W 12V Flexible Solar Panel

2. topsolar 100w flexible solar panel, 3. sunpower 110w flexible solar panel, 4. xinpuguang 200-watt flexible solar panel, what to look for when buying flexible solar panels, how to install flexible solar panels, are cheap flexible solar panels any good, do flexible solar panels get hot, top 4 flexible solar panel reviews.

  • Wattage: 175W
  • Panel Type: Monocrystalline
  • Curve Radius: 248 degrees
  • Warranty:  5 years

In my opinion, this is one of the most flexible monocrystalline solar panels on the market. It’s designed to bend by 248 degrees, which is a far cry from other flexible panels that can only go as far back as 30 degrees.

This flexible panel is built to last. The sheets are laminated in multiple layers, allowing for extra protection of your monocrystalline solar cells. It’s also encased in a corrosion-free aluminum framing for even more sturdiness.

It boasts a back sheet that helps dissipate excess heat to avoid issues with overheating, which can render your solar panel useless.

I don’t have to worry about losing power in low-light areas with this solar panel. Because it’s made with bypass diodes, I can rest assured that there won’t be power drops even when my solar panel is in a shaded area.

Installation of this Renogy flexible solar panel is also a breeze, thanks to the pre-drilled holes on the back.

  • Bends to 248 degrees, unlike other flexible panels
  • The panel sheet is laminated in multiple layers
  • Its frame is made of corrosion-resistant aluminum
  • Has a back sheet that diminishes heat
  • Built with bypass diodes so I can still use energy in shaded areas like low light solar panels
  • Has pre-drilled holes at the back for easy installation
  • Slow customer service
  • Wattage:  100W
  • Curve Radius: 30 degrees
  • Warranty:  1 year

This flexible panel by Topsolar is built with efficient monocrystalline solar cells. They amp up your system’s energy conversion rate by 50%, better than a standard solar panel.

The panel itself is made with ETFE material, which is durable and known to increase light transmittance. It’s also self-cleaning and dirt-resistant, so it’s excellent for lazy users.

To avoid overheating, the backplate is designed with TPT technology. This allows it to dissipate heat and prevent dreaded malfunction while in use.

What’s awesome about this flexible solar panel is that it’s ultra-thin and super lightweight. It stands at just 0.1 of an inch tall and 3.97 lbs in weight. That makes it easy to transport and set up when you’re on the road.

It’s also waterproof and resists high temperatures, so it’s well-suited for extreme weather. It would go great in marine settings, like boats.

  • High-efficiency monocrystalline cells increase energy conversion by 50%
  • Made with durable ETFE material that is self-cleaning and dirt-resistant
  • Backplate is made with TPT technology to dissipate heat
  • Thin and lightweight at 0.1 inch in height and less than 4 lbs in weight
  • Waterproof and resistant to high temperatures, so it’s great for marine use
  • Some of the solar cells burn out faster than others

flexible solar panels sailboat

  • Wattage:  110W
  • Panel Type:  Monocrystalline
  • Warranty:  2 years

SunPower’s flexible panel has solar cells uniquely fashioned with a solid copper foundation. This allows your panel to resist corrosion and impact, extending its lifespan significantly.

This solar panel bends up to 30 degrees. While it’s not one of the most flexible solar panels out there, it’s perfect for spaces and surfaces that are only slightly curved.

It weighs a mere 4.4 lbs, making it a good portable solar panel. Because of that, this SunPower flexible panel isn’t a hassle to bring around and doesn’t add extra weight to your travels.

Semi flexible solar panels like this one come with quick-connect cables that make them easy to set up, even for newbies without experience in solar panels.

For those buying flexible panels for the first time and who want to avoid getting a bogus item, don’t fret. SunPower offers a product warranty for up to two years. Plus, their warranty doesn’t have a saltwater exclusion, so the brand will always assist users no matter the issue with their flexible solar panel.

  • The solar panel’s cells are made with a copper foundation
  • Can bend up to 30 degrees for slightly curved surfaces
  • Weighs only 4.4 lbs, so it’s a portable panel that’s easy to carry around
  • The quick-connect cables aren’t complicated to set up even for newbies
  • The brand offers a warranty for two years without a saltwater exclusion
  • Lower power output if the sun is not directly hitting the solar panel
  • Curve Radius: 30-40 degrees

This solar panel kit by XINPUGUANG is excellent because I don’t have to buy separate tools and parts to set up my flexible panel and power station. It comes complete with a charge controller, connectors, alligator clips, and other accessories to get me started right away.

The flexible solar panel is designed with five layers to enhance performance and extend its lifespan. These include a TPT backing, which protects your panel from overheating.

In the middle of the layers is the solar panel’s monocrystalline solar cells. These cells allow for a higher-than-usual conversion rate of 19.5%. The monocrystalline cells also work hard to perform well even in shaded and low-light settings.

The connectors and junction box are made with IP67 technology, making them waterproof. It’s fantastic since I often worry about water damage destroying my solar panel kit.

  • Complete kit comes with a charge controller, connectors, clips, and more
  • Panel has five layers, including TPT backing to protect against overheating
  • Monocrystalline solar cells that convert 19.5% of solar energy into power
  • Performs effectively even in shaded settings
  • Connectors and junction box are made with IP67 waterproof technology
  • Sometimes puts out a bit less than 200 watts

ECO-WORTHY 130W Flexible Solar Panel (Outdated)

flexible solar panels sailboat

This 130-watt flexible solar panel by ECO-WORTHY can generate up to 520 watt-hours each day, provided that the flexible panel is charged for four hours under bright, direct sunlight.

It’s built with advanced polymer, which is very sturdy but is more lightweight than a traditional solar panel or glass solar panels.

The flexible solar panel is easy to manage and install because it’s very lightweight and thin. It weighs only 4.62 lbs, so it’s not a hassle to lug around as you set it up. Its thickness is just 0.1 inch, so it’s never bulky.

There are four installation holes that are metal-reinforced on the frame of this solar panel. They’re perfect for screwing the panel into a more permanent area if you’re sure of where you want to set it up for the long term.

Because it’s designed with IP65 technology, your flexible solar panel can surely withstand tough weather conditions, be it harsh rains or intense snow.

  • Generates up to 520 watt-hours per day in just four hours under sunlight
  • Built with polymer, which is more lightweight than traditional glass panels
  • Weighs only 4.62 lbs and is thin at 0.1 inches, so it’s easy to bring around
  • Has four installation holes with metal for screwing onto any surface
  • Designed with IP65 waterproof technology to resist damage from weather
  • Protective film on top of the panel deteriorates quite fast

HQST 100-Watt Flexible Solar Panel (Outdated)

flexible solar panels sailboat

Like most flexible solar panels, this one from HQST can bend 30 degrees. It allows for a snug fit that doesn’t move around or topple over on curved surfaces, like vehicle roofs and boat decks.

Since the flexible solar panel is made only with high-grade and top-quality materials, it’s able to withstand harsh weather. The solar panel is made with ETFE, a durable material that isn’t that heavy. ETFE also paves the way for more light energy transmittance in your solar panel.

You also have efficient monocrystalline solar cells to thank for the high energy absorption rate. This type of solar cell converts 50% more solar energy than other solar panels, assuring you of excellent power output levels.

This solar panel’s junction box is waterproof because it’s designed with IP65 technology. It’s one of the most important components of a solar panel system, so it’s terrific that it gets this extra protection.

  • Can flex up to 30 degrees to accommodate curved surfaces and roofs
  • High-grade materials let the solar panel withstand inclement weather
  • Made with ETFE, a material that allows for more light transmittance
  • Monocrystalline solar cells convert energy 50% more than other panels
  • The panel’s junction box is waterproof, thanks to IP65 technology
  • Comes with a protective film that is difficult to peel off

TopSolar 50-Watt 12-Volt Flexible Solar Panel (Outdated)

flexible solar panels sailboat

This flexible solar panel by TopSolar can be bent into an arc to fit curved and irregularly shaped surfaces, like those on boats, RVs, trailers, and more. The arc can go up to a maximum of 30 degrees.

It’s extremely light at around 2.4 lbs, which is easy to hold and carry while you’re installing it. It’s also very thin at 0.1 of an inch. Because the design is slim and featherlight, set-up is very easy and relatively faster than with a conventional, rigid solar panel.

The panel is made with a special back contact technology that works to remove the electrodes blocking your solar panel from absorbing light energy efficiently.

You can charge the standard 12-volt batteries with this panel, since that’s what it was created for in the first place. But when you chain up multiple of these solar panels together, you can charge 24-volt and even 48-volt batteries with no problem.

These solar panels are resistant to water and high temperatures, lessening their chances of incurring damage.

  • Can be bent into a 30-degree arc to fit on irregular surfaces
  • Extremely light and thin, making it quick and easy to mount
  • Back contact technology eliminates electrodes that block sunlight
  • Charges 12V batteries, 24V, and 48V batteries
  • Resistant to water damage and high heat levels
  • The connectors have plastic retainers that break off easily

Lensun 20-Watt ETFE Flexible Solar Panel (Outdated)

flexible solar panels sailboat

These flexible solar panels by Lensun are made with grade A monocrystalline solar cells, an advanced version of the usual mono cells. These cells increase the efficiency of your solar panel’s energy absorption by up to 22%.

This option’s also built with premium ETFE material, which is resistant to damage from harmful UV rays and corrosion. It also aids in light transmittance, giving you a shot at better power output.

There’s a unique fiberglass backboard in each of these solar panels. It works to dissipate excess heat on an extremely hot day, preventing issues with overheating.

This solar panel is also ultra-thin and super light by design. That way, it won’t add unnecessary weight and gravity to the roof of your car or boat deck.

Its junction box is resistant to weather damage because it’s built with advanced IP68 technology, keeping it waterproof.

I’ll never have to worry about malfunctions with my flexible solar panels because Lensun offers a 24-month warranty for their products.

  • Has grade A monocrystalline solar cells that increase power absorption
  • Made with ETFE material that is resistant to UV damage and corrosion
  • The panel has a unique fiberglass board at the back for heat dissipation
  • Ultra-thin and light, so it won’t add extra pressure or weight to your roof
  • The junction box is waterproof because it has advanced IP68 technology
  • Lensun provides a 24-month warranty for our purchase
  • The panels cannot be bent more than 20 degrees

POWOXI 100-Watt Flexible Solar Panel (Outdated)

flexible solar panels sailboat

These solar panels by POWOXI have cells made of monocrystalline silicon. This material allows for a higher light transmittance rate, pushing it up to about 95%.

Because this solar panel flexes and bends in an arc when positioned, it has multiple refractions of light. This allows for a faster charge of your batteries since you’re getting solar energy from different angles.

The panel is built with durable yet featherlight ETFE material, which is known to have a lifespan of up to 15 years. That means your flexible solar panels will last you quite a while without needing to be replaced.

It’s made with IP67 waterproof technology, so the solar panel will be sturdy enough to survive the toughest weather conditions.

Installation via screwing is very easy with this flexible solar panel. It has four holes on the corners of the frame so I can do it quickly, no drilling needed.

  • Cells are made of monocrystalline silicon for a 95% light transmittance
  • Multiple refractions when bent in an arc allow for a faster charge
  • Durable ETFE material gives the solar panel a lifespan of up to 15 years
  • Created with IP67 technology, making the solar panels waterproof
  • Has four pre-drilled holes on the corners of the frame for easy installation
  • The MC4 connector it comes with isn’t too durable

Newpowa 100W 12V Semi-Flex Solar Panel (Outdated)

flexible solar panels sailboat

Unlike other flexible solar panels, this one by Newpowa bends more than just 30 degrees. It goes to a maximum of 248 degrees, so it’s beneficial for roofs and surfaces that are extremely convex.

This solar panel is slim and featherlight. It weighs 4.2 lbs and is a mere 0.08 inch in thickness. That makes it fit on any surface, like a second skin. It’s never bulky and is easy to transport.

It’s designed with a high-efficiency combo of monocrystalline cells and top-notch ETFE material. Both work to give our solar panels a higher energy conversion rate to maximize solar power.

This solar panel is also made with IP68 technology, one of the most advanced waterproof grades. This allows it to survive even the heaviest rain and snowfall.

The solar panel has six holes in its frame that are reinforced with metal rings. This makes mounting with grommets or screws quick and complication-free.

  • Bends up to 248 degrees, making it one of the top-tier flexible solar panels
  • 0.8 inch thin and weighs less than 5 lbs, so it fits easily onto surfaces
  • Monocrystalline and ETFE materials for a high energy conversion rate
  • Made with IP68 technology, so it’s resistant to heavy rains and snow
  • Has six holes with metal rings for uncomplicated mounting
  • None so far

Framy 200-Watt PET Flexible Solar Panel (Outdated)

flexible solar panels sailboat

This Framy solar panel is semi-flexible, meaning it can bend only to the usual 30 degrees. That said, it’s perfect for irregular yet smooth surfaces on your boats, cars, or motorhomes.

It’s designed with ETFE material on the top layer, as well as four EVA layers throughout the panel. This gives your solar panels added durability so they aren’t too fragile.

These solar panels charge 16-volt batteries. That’s a bit more powerful than other solar panels that can only charge 12-volt batteries.

Plus, this option is designed with a Schottky diode—a device that prevents the panel from experiencing reverse currents, which can render it useless or unhelpful.

Users also get a waterproof junction box. That way, it won’t be susceptible to moisture damage from the harsh weather or when we’re traveling near bodies of water.

  • Semi-flexible panel bends to 30 degrees for irregular yet smooth surfaces
  • Designed with multiple EVA and ETFE layers for durability
  • The panel charges 16-volt batteries, higher than the usual 12-volt charge
  • Has a Schottky diode installed to prevent your current going in reverse
  • Comes with a waterproof junction box that isn’t prone to weather damage
  • The solar panels may emit lower than 200 watts

Suner Power 30-Watt Flexible Solar Panel (Outdated)

flexible solar panels sailboat

This flexible solar panel by Suner Power is made with polymer instead of glass. This makes it 30% more lightweight than traditional rigid panels.

It has an ETFE lamination to make it extra sturdy. There are also unique Suner Power cells that increase light energy absorption by up to 24% compared to other solar cells in the market.

The panel comes with a smart charge controller with a unique algorithm designed to generate up to 20% more power than regular ones. This controller also protects your batteries from overcharging, short-circuiting, and other disasters.

An LED monitor visually displays all the pertinent information about your battery. It tells you its condition and current charging levels.

The solar panel is IP65 waterproof, preventing damage from rain, snow, and other bad weather conditions. It’s perfect for traveling to places where the weather is unpredictable.

  • Built with polymer instead of heavy glass, allowing it to weigh 30% less
  • ETFE lamination and solar cells increase energy absorption by 24%
  • Smart charge controller gives 20% more power than regular ones
  • Protects your batteries from overcharging or short-circuiting
  • LED monitor displays your battery’s condition and charging levels
  • IP65 waterproof to withstand bad weather
  • Only gives off 30 watts of power, lower compared to other solar panels

Winnewsun 100-Watt Flexible Solar Panel (Outdated)

flexible solar panels sailboat

This solar panel by Winnewsun is unique because it’s bifacial, which means both sides of the panel (front and back) can absorb solar energy and store it.

It weighs just 4 lbs, so it’s super light and easy to carry around when you’re traveling. It also doesn’t add unnecessary weight to your load as you drive around.

It has solar cells that convert up to 22% of the light energy it absorbs into stored energy for your use. That’s pretty high compared to flimsy solar cells.

Unlike other solar panels that drop 10% in power over time, this one loses less than 3% of its power in ten years.

Another great thing about this panel is that it works well in shaded and low-light areas because it’s sensitive even to dim sunlight.

  • Bifacial design allows both sides of panel to absorb and store light energy
  • Weighs only 4 lbs, so it’s easy to bring around and transport during travel
  • Solar cells can convert 22% of the solar power it absorbs into stored energy
  • Power loss is just less than 3% in 10 years
  • Works well in shaded areas because the panel is sensitive even to dim light
  • Difficult to set up because of its bifacial design

DOKIO Semi-Flexible 12-Volt Solar Panels (Outdated)

flexible solar panels sailboat

These DOKIO panels have a protective ETFE layer. This allows for greater light transmittance when exposed to sunlight. It also adds extra sturdiness to my panels so they can have a longer lifespan.

Each panel has eight holes evenly spaced throughout the frame. These little rings make screwing the panel with grommets during installation much easier.

It also comes with a junction box and a few connectors—all of which are IP65 waterproof. I don’t have to worry about damaging these accessories even when the weather is undesirable.

The panel weighs only 4.9 lbs, so it’s never a hassle to carry around and install. It’s also extremely flexible; I know that it will fit snugly on any curved surface.

  • There’s an ETFE layer for sturdiness and higher light transmittance
  • Has 8 holes on the framing that are perfect for grommets and screws
  • Junction box and connectors are waterproof, so weather can’t ruin them
  • Weighs 4.9 lbs, so users can carry them around with minimal effort
  • Extremely flexible, so it’ll fit snugly on any curvy surface
  • Emits less power if there’s even just a little bit of shade covering the sun

ExpertPower 110-Watt Flexible Solar Panel (Outdated)

flexible solar panels sailboat

This solar panel is made with top-quality Maxeon solar cells made of monocrystalline. These cells boast a high energy conversion rate, ranging between 22% and 25%.

The panel is built with high-grade yet lightweight polymer, which is easier to work with than the traditional glass used to fashion solar panels.

It can be flexed and bent up to 30 degrees. That isn’t as flexible as the other panels on this list, but it’s enough for slightly curved areas.

There’s a copper foundation under this panel. The copper allows the panel to resist corrosion and other signs of damage, such as cracking.

What’s more, this panel will come with pre-drilled holes to make mounting much faster and easier. There are also MC4 cables included in the set so that connecting the panel to our controllers or batteries is a walk in the park.

  • Top-quality Maxeon monocrystalline cells give up to 25% conversion rate
  • Built with a high-grade polymer that is lighter than glass
  • Can be flexed up to 30 degrees, so it’s suitable for slightly curved areas
  • The panel is built upon a copper foundation, resists cracks and corrosion
  • Comes with pre-drilled holes and additional connectors for quick set-up
  • Can’t go beyond 30 degrees of bending

most-efficient-flexible-solar-panels

Made from durable material that withstands tough weather conditions

Look for the best flexible solar panels that are made from sturdy, top-quality materials like ETFE, aluminum frames, and monocrystalline solar cells. Because these materials are durable, they’ll increase the longevity of your solar panels.

Conventional panels are usually made of thicker, heavier materials, like glass. But for thin film solar panels, you need lightweight materials.

You should also keep your eyes peeled for waterproof solar panels designed with IP65-IP67 technology. This prevents water damage to your flexible solar panels when it’s raining. It also keeps it resistant to impact from heavy storms or snow. This is vital if your travels require you to pass through areas with unpredictable climates.

Contains bypass diodes to keep your energy from dropping in low-light areas

Bypass diodes allow you to keep using your photovoltaic cells even when your solar panels are exposed to areas without direct sunlight. Most conventional solar panels will experience power drops when sunlight isn’t available to them, but with bypass diodes, that won’t be an issue.

If you’re looking to use your flexible solar panels for home energy but live in a cloudy city, getting panels that operate efficiently even in the shade is extremely important.

Can provide an adequate amount of power for your needs

Solo or small group travelers who need flexible solar panels for boats, trailers, or cars will probably consume less energy than an entire household. Purchase a flexible solar panel with a power output appropriate for your need.

For example, 100 watt flexible solar panels  might be suitable for quick camping trips with one or two people. However, for a family living at home, a collection of 200W or 300W flexible solar panels might be more apt.

If you want something more intense, go for 400W flexible solar panels.

Manufactured by a top-notch brand based in countries known for quality products

Don’t go for just any flexible solar panel kit. Make sure the new solar panels you purchase are from a renowned brand known to make excellent flexible solar panels that last a long time. Go for those of top brands, such as the Renogy or Sunyee flexible solar panels.

One easy way to tell that your solar panels are high in quality is to check which country they were designed and manufactured in. Some of the most efficient flexible solar panels are created in countries known for quality tech and renewable energy products, like Canada, Australia, and the UK.

flexible-solar-panel-review

Installing flexible solar panels is very simple. It’s quite similar to traditional solar panels. All you have to do is lay them down on the surface you want to mount them on. Then, you must screw on the grommets or use an adhesive to stick the clean flexible solar panels down properly.

If you go with the latter, make sure your solar panel is stuck tight to your surface, so it won’t wobble or come loose. You also need to keep an eye on your adhesive placement. It should never cover your panel’s flexible solar cells, or the blockage might not allow any light absorption.

It’s easier to install flexible solar panels vs rigid ones because they’re so versatile.

Most solar panels that are extremely cheap might not perform up to standard. However, flexible solar panels need not be expensive to be effective.

There are many solar panel brands out there that come up with excellent, durable panels for an economical price tag. So yes, there are many flexible panels that come at a reasonable price.

That said, if you want the most affordable flexible solar panel available in the market, you’ll need to invest more than a couple of bucks. Bigger, more expensive name brands utilize innovative technologies and extra sturdy materials to create top-class solar panels.

Unlike typical panels that aren’t as bendable, flexible panels don’t often get hot to the touch. That’s why they don’t require extra air space to cool down. If they do get too hot, they face the risk of overheating, so that’s something you must watch out for regularly.

Several solar panels in this review have TPT backing, which helps dissipate heat and prevents overheating. This solar technology is beneficial if you travel to hot, tropical areas.

If you’re planning to set up your solar projects on a curved area—say, a roof or on your RV—don’t settle for those rigid, traditional panels. Go instead for those in this flexible solar panels review that will have a snug placement, so they won’t come loose easily.

Plus, because the best flexible solar panels absorb solar energy from multiple angles, you’re likely to get more power than you would with traditional panels. Who can say no to that? Buyers should check out any of the above flexible solar panels for camping, traveling, or even just at home.

Kathleen-Miller

I am Kathleen Miller, staff writer and reviewer of the Avasolar team. Working with the team has been a pleasure for me so far, I hope to bring readers useful information by creating detailed and easy-to-follow contents.

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Flexible Solar Panel on Bimini - Backing?

  • Thread starter Monterey385
  • Start date Apr 3, 2021
  • Forums for All Owners
  • Ask All Sailors

Monterey385

I am planning to install two Renogy 175 watt flexible solar panels on my bimini this summer. After numerous detailed conversations with several local canvas professionals and marine electronic professionals, the consensus is that I should keep it simple for the first few months if not the first entire season. By simple, they are suggesting that I stick with bungee cords to make it simple to remove the panels for various reasons (high wind events, extended periods at dock, etc.). My question, what are the group's recommendations to mitigate chafe under the panels? I have seen references to a variety of fabrics and liners but am uncertain right now about the best options ... thoughts?  

Joe23455

Sailrite has a decent how - to video on attaching a flexible solar panel. Backing matl. for chafe ,matl. list and details. I am planning on the install myself in the near future.  

Joe23455 said: Sailrite has a decent how - to video on attaching a flexible solar panel. Backing matl. for chafe ,matl. list and details. I am planning on the install myself in the near future. Click to expand

marinehowto.com

Installing Semi-Flexible Solar Panels - Marine How To

dlochner, thank you for posting the Solbian how to. I saw that a while back and could not locate where I had seen it ! I like the velco details. Sailrite does not use that detail and I am a little leary of snaps only. Adhesive I think.. would cause heat buildup and ruin the bimini surface forever if the adhesive was also used on that. Just my thoughts in researching the install. Doing the same homework.... The bungee would work for a while but not UV tolerant, might last a season ?.  

dlochner said: Here's another option. Installing Semi-Flexible Solar Panels - Marine How To Panel Layout In this article we used a Solbian panel that is no longer in production. Solbian solar panels are a unique product that fill a great niche for the marine market. They are really the absolute top tier semi-flexible panel marinehowto.com Click to expand

dLj

Joe23455 said: The bungee would work for a while but not UV tolerant, might last a season ?. Click to expand

www.mcmaster.com

McMaster-Carr

www.mcmaster.com

We used 3M dual lock on our panels the last couple of years. My wife sewed the non stick dual lock to the bimini fabric and we used the self adhesive type on the panels. It worked well. We're having all new canvas installed on the boat this year, and our canvas guy is using zippers for the new canvas (like was pictured a few posts above).  

DArcy

THECUSCUS said: [URL="https://forums.sailboatowners.com/media/northernstarsolar1.26195/"] [/URL] Have had a Solbian panel held on to my bimini with zippers for the past 4 years with no problems. It doesn't go over any of the framework. Zippers on two long sides only, allows air to flow in on the short sides. Super easy to install and remove when needed. Have never felt excessive heat underneath. Click to expand
DArcy said: How is the zipper attached to the panel? Click to expand

I attach1/4" thick clear twin-wall polycarbonate panels to the back of the flexible panels. You can get these at Home Depot. These are used for green house windows. They are extremely light and are almost invisible under the panel. I attached the panel to the polycarbonate using 1" bits of 3M VHB tape. The polycarbonate is flexible enough to follow the curve of the bimini but stiff enough to protect the flexible panel from flexing too much. This also insulates the bimini fabric from the hot panel. With the polycarbonate you can also run the panels across the bimini bows. I sewed little sunbrella loops to the bimini and then simply tie the panel to the loops with thin dyneema cord. I've had no problem with the panels lifting in the wind. They just lie there even in 40knot winds. Also no visible chafe in three years on the sunbrella - which makes sense as the polycarbonate is very smooth (I did wrap chafe tape along the edges). If I need to take the bimini off for a storm, I just cut the cord, store the panels, and then retie with new cord after the storm (BTW, install some form of wire connector so you can put your panels below during a storm). Be extremely careful handing the flexible panels. Don't let them "flop" around when installing. Bending one just a little too much will break a solder joint inside rendering it useless. Also, be sure you have a good warranty for your panels (Renogy does well) and that you have an easy way to take a panel off to send back for a warranty replacement. About half of these panels fail in two years - especially in Florida and southern areas.  

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What Types Of Solar Panels Are Best When Creating A Charging System For Your Boat?

S olar systems can be a great way to harness the sun's energy to create electricity that you're able to use when sailing on your boat, whether that's to power all the appliances onboard or to keep the boat's battery charged so you're able to get to the shore safely. In the absence of a solar system, you'd have to rely on shore power or a noisy generator that increases your carbon footprint. But the good news is that thanks to how solar energy has evolved over the years , there are now multiple types of marine-grade solar panels that are available for boats of all sizes.

These solar panels work similarly to those used in residential settings; however, they're marine-grade, which means they're built to withstand the harsher climate of the open waters. If you're considering installing solar panels on your boat, here's a look at the types of solar systems available on the market. This article also covers the pros and cons of installing these solar panels .

Read more: 12 Smart Gadgets You Didn't Know Existed

Rigid Solar Panels

Rigid solar panels, as the name suggests, act as a permanent energy source for a boat. They're usually more durable and efficient than other types of solar panels; however, the installation is more complex and is best left to professionals. They're also fairly heavy — a standard 100W panel can weigh about 20 pounds, making it harder to uninstall and transport as you see fit.

Rigid panels are usually made of two materials — monocrystalline and polycrystalline silicon. Monocrystalline panels are made from the highest grade of silicon, which results in higher efficiency, more durability, and a sleek design that requires less space. Although these panels have a favorable size-to-power ratio, keep in mind that they're often more expensive than other types of solar panels. That said, though, given the quality and how long these panels tend to last, they're a solid choice if you intend to own your boat for an extended period of time. 

Polycrystalline solar panels, on the other hand, are made from fragments of silicon. Because they have multiple crystal structures, as opposed to monocrystalline panels that have a single crystal structure, they're more bulky and less efficient. The benefit, however, is that they're more economical. If space is not a constraint and you're on a budget, polycrystalline panels might be the way to go.

Flexible Solar Panels

Flexible solar panels — usually made with thin-film photovoltaic cells — are an alternative to traditional rigid panels. They're lightweight and flexible, which allows them to bend for installation on curved surfaces, and inexpensive when compared to rigid solar systems. Another big positive is that although they're pretty flexible, they're usually durable and can hold up well against adverse weather conditions. The downside, however, is that they're less efficient than rigid solar panels, which means you'll need to install more of these panels to meet your energy needs on the boat. Another thing you'll want to consider is that flexible solar panels usually have a more limited warranty than rigid panels.

While it's not uncommon for these panels to last a number of years, the warranty itself might last only up to five years. Any repairs after the warranty period has come to a close will, thus, have to be covered by you out of pocket. Despite these drawbacks, they're popular for boats, given that they can be installed on most surfaces, even if they're low-load-bearing, and are easy to uninstall. They're also a good choice if your boat already has a solar system but you want to supplement the power generation in an affordable way.

Semi-Flexible Solar Panels

Semi-flexible solar panels offer many of the advantages of rigid solar panels, with the flexibility and lightweight construction of flexible panels. These panels are usually made of polymer or flexible plastic material that contains a thin layer of solar cells — usually monocrystalline cells. Because the body of the panels is flexible, they can be installed on curved surfaces like flexible panels, making them well-suited to being installed on boats. Also, because they're fairly lightweight, you can do without bolts when installing them and, instead, use a quality adhesive to hold them in place. They're also more aesthetically pleasing than rigid solar panels that have to be installed flat on surfaces.

Keep in mind, though, that they're not as efficient as rigid solar panels; yet, their thin and moldable construction makes them a viable option when rigid panels are not feasible. This makes them a popular option among boat owners, especially those who were looking to install traditional panels but were unable to.

Portable Solar Panels

If space is limited and you want to avoid having to install and possibly uninstall the solar panels in the future,  portable panels are an option worth considering . They're pretty affordable and versatile, given that you can use them to power your boat but also, say, take them to a campsite to power your appliances there. Also, because they're not fixed to a surface, you can manually move the panels around to face the sunlight so they capture maximum energy.

While this type of solar panel has its benefits, there are also a few pertinent downsides to consider. For one, while many portable solar panels are foldable, you're likely going to need more than a few to power up your boat, which increases your cost and reduces the convenience factor slightly. What's more, keeping them free of damage during transport can be challenging. If you decide to purchase portable solar panels for your boat, keep in mind that not all have the same quality or waterproof rating. Make sure you're picking ones that have an IP68 rating to avoid damage due to water splashes.

How Many Solar Panels Will You Need?

The size of the solar system you install will depend primarily on your location and energy consumption. To determine how many solar panels you will need, take a few minutes to calculate your power consumption. Be sure to account for all your appliances and energy needs to arrive at an accurate estimate. You can then determine how much solar power and how many solar panels you'll need.

When shopping for solar panels, you're likely to come across the wattage of the panel in the title or as a key specification. This is the amount of power the panel can generate. If you purchase a 200-watt solar panel and are sailing at a location where you're likely to get five hours of sunlight, your panels should, in ideal conditions, provide you with 1,000-watt hours of power. That said, remember that solar panels don't usually operate at their peak efficiency, given that factors like panel orientation, weather conditions, and dust can affect their functioning.

So, if you need 1,000-watt hours of power, it's best to opt for a 300-watt or 500-watt solar panel that is capable of generating more power than you need. Excess energy can be stored in a battery for you to use during the night or on rainy/cloudy days. If you estimate a significant gap between your energy needs and the amount of power the panels can generate, you can install more panels or get rigid panels that are more efficient.

Cost And Other Considerations

The cost of marine solar panels can vary significantly from $100 to a few thousand dollars based on the type of panel you purchase, its wattage and efficiency, and the brand you pick. Monocrystalline rigid panels offer the highest efficiency, and installing them can be tricky, so they often command a high price — these panels can cost upwards of $500. Other types of panels, especially flexible and portable options, are usually more affordable, but be sure to check the efficiency and the IPX waterproof rating before you make a purchase. If you'd like to save money, look for off-grid solar panel kits available on sites like Home Depot and Amazon.

Apart from the upfront expense, you'll also want to consider the maintenance and installation costs. Heavier solar panels that require mounting brackets will likely cost more in time and money to install, as opposed to, say, portable panels that you can carry on to the boat with you.

The space available on your boat is also something you'll want to account for when choosing panels. While flexible panels might be less efficient than rigid panels, the fact that you can install them pretty much anywhere, even on curved surfaces, means you can maximize your power generation with these more affordable panels.

Read the original article on SlashGear

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2000 Watt Solar Panel Kit, with 40A Charge Controller 2 × 1000 Watt Flexible Monocrystalline Solar Panel for 12-24V Battery Charging Car Battery Camper RV Yacht Battery Boat

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2000 Watt Solar Panel Kit, with 40A Charge Controller 2 × 1000 Watt Flexible Monocrystalline Solar Panel for 12-24V Battery Charging Car Battery Camper RV Yacht Battery Boat

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  • 1.[Excellent performance] 2023 NEW Using high-quality monocrystalline silicon cells, high-efficiency monocrystalline silicon solar cells provide good performance even in low light conditions
  • 2.[Flexible] This flexible solar panel is a good choice for curved surfaces of RV, boat,sailboat, yacht,truck, car, coach, cabin, camper , tent , trailer, golf cart or any other irregular surface.
  • 3.[Practicality] Light energy converts electrical energy and has strong practicability. It is a good supplement for power shortages and places where the city power cannot reach, such as mountains, marine, deserts, etc.
  • 4.[Nice Details] The water resistant flexible solar panel is far more durable than traditional glass and aluminum models; The junction box is sealed and waterproof.
  • 5.[Easy Installation]The solar panel has 6 grommet mounting holes are available to attach fasteners,and can also be installed with silicone and adhesive tape.

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ALLPOWERS SF200 Flexible Solar Panel 200W 32V IP68 Monocrystalline Solar Modules Bendable Semi-Flexible Mono Solar Panel 200 Watt for RV Roof Boat Cabin Van Uneven Surfaces 200W Flexible Solar Panel

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Photovoltaic solar modules for autonomous heat and power supply

V Panchenko 1,2

Published under licence by IOP Publishing Ltd IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science , Volume 317 , International Conference on Sustainability and Climate Change 17 May 2019, Moscow, Russian Federation Citation V Panchenko 2019 IOP Conf. Ser.: Earth Environ. Sci. 317 012002 DOI 10.1088/1755-1315/317/1/012002

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1 Department of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics, Russian University of transport, Moscow, Russia

2 Laboratory of Solar Energy, Federal Scientific Agroengineering Center Vim, Moscow, Russia

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The article presents solar modules of various types and designs, in the development and study of which the author took part. Along with planar photovoltaic solar modules with an extended term of nominal power, high-voltage matrix solar modules with an extended term of nominal power and electrical efficiency up to 28% are considered. Such modules are made with the help of encapsulation technology with a polysiloxane compound, which improves the performance of solar modules and increases their service life. For autonomous power supply of mobile and compact electrical devices in the field, folding and sectional solar modules are proposed, which, when parallel-sequential switching, allow to gain the necessary power. For architectural solutions, solar roofing panels are presented, which along with electrogeneration make it possible to generate heat energy, and the base can be made of recycled plastic, which has a positive effect on the environment. To reduce the number of solar cells used, a concentrating solar roofing panel has been proposed, which allows the use of thermal energy. For the cogeneration of electric energy and thermal energy, a concentrator solar photovoltaic thermal module with a paraboloid type concentrator is also proposed. Each type of solar modules is used in a stationary heat and electric power supply and mobile power generation.

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Watch CBS News

How much does solar cost?

By Tom Horton

Edited By Leslie Gornstein

Updated on: May 29, 2024 / 2:43 PM EDT / Essentials

CBS Essentials is created independently of the CBS News editorial staff. We may receive commissions from some links to products on this page. Promotions are subject to availability and retailer terms.

Electrician engineer working at a photovoltaic farm, checking and maintenance equipment at industry solar power

Investing in quality solar panels for your home can be a great idea, especially if you like saving money in the long term. While every home and solar energy system is different, most households in the US earn back their solar investment within  six to 10 years thanks to efficient solar panel systems and financial incentives like the federal tax break that your solar plan can net you and your family. 

Long-term savings are great, but what about the immediate costs? Even with declining prices in recent years, solar panels can cost a pretty penny -- and in this case, a "pretty penny" could equal thousands of dollars. But with installation prices that could change depending on a number of factors, you might be wondering: "How much do solar panels actually cost?"

We break down the estimated solar power costs below to give you the best possible idea of how much solar panels could set you back, plus information on the federal tax credit and other incentives that could bring that final price down.

How much do solar panels cost?

When you reach out to a solar energy company like Palmetto -- one of the leading solar companies for high-quality and efficient solar panels -- for an estimate, the number you'll get can be based on a number of factors.

These factors may include:

  • The size and location of your home.
  • Whether you're leasing or buying your solar panels outright.
  • The amount of sunlight your solar panels are likely to receive.
  • The price per watt for your solar panels.
  • State and federal incentives that can cut down your final costs -- check the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) to see what discounts or rebates your state offers.

So just how much are solar panels? Installation costs start at the price per watt, with solar panels typically costing between $2.50 and $4 per watt. Larger homes may require higher wattage, so keep this in mind when discussing solar energy costs with a solar company. 

That being said, the average costs for installing a solar system on a one-story, 2,000 square foot home can fall anywhere from $10,000 to more than $20,000 in total. Your quote may be higher or lower than the range provided, so make sure to get quotes from more than one solar company to find the best deal for you in your area. 

One great online resource is  EnergySage , which connects homeowners with local solar panel companies and can make it easy to compare quotes. EnergySage offers an  online solar calculator  for quick solar estimates based on your address and average monthly electricity bill.

You may also cover your solar installation costs through a power purchase agreement (PPA). This eliminates upfront costs in exchange for monthly payments that are determined by how much solar energy your panels produce. The downside to a PPA is you won't be eligible for incentives like the federal solar tax credit since you do not own the panels outright.

How does the solar tax credit work?

You might find savings at both the state and federal level. Some states have better incentive programs than others -- if you live in Massachusetts, your panels can turn a profit in as few as five years , for example. Always check state websites and resources to learn about possible savings or rebates to offset solar panel installation costs.

But what about the federal solar tax credit ? This is a rebate that comes into play during your tax returns and pays eligible homeowners a 30% tax credit for solar panels purchased after 2022. For anyone wondering when to install solar panels, this credit is set to expire in 2035, but homeowners can count on this tax credit for partial reimbursement on solar energy costs up until then -- although the tax credit will decrease to 26% in 2033 and 22% in 2034. For many, this solar tax credit could save thousands on the final cost of solar panels.

So who qualifies for this federal tax credit? Homeowners that invested or plan to invest in a solar PV, or photovoltaic, system with an installation date between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2034 may be eligible. A solar PV system converts sunlight directly into electricity; most solar panel systems these days are solar PV. Other qualifications for the solar tax credit include:

  • Your solar PV system must be located at a US residential home.
  • You own the solar PV system outright and are not leasing your solar panels.
  • Your solar PV system is new; the solar tax credit can only be claimed for the original installation of your equipment.

Are solar panels worth it?

Do you feel like you're paying too much for electricity right now? Solar panels can lead to big savings on your utility bill, as well as other benefits like energy independence, a lower carbon footprint and an increased property value -- up to $20 for every dollar saved on an annual basis.

The typical solar panel can last upwards of 25 years, though some have lifespans that go as high as 40 years. Thanks to common manufacturer warranties that cover those first 25 years, plus additional coverage options from solar companies like SunPower, which offers an impressive 25-year workmanship warranty for your entire solar PV system (instead of just individual panels), solar panels can be a worthwhile investment that lasts.

Tom Horton is a resident health expert for CBS Essentials, with deep experience in topics ranging from chronic conditions to health-care devices to diet options. He lives in upstate New York, and draws his power from local bookstores, long hikes on a sunny day, and his cat Sammy.

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Space and astronomy news

flexible solar panels sailboat

NASA’s Next Solar Sail is About to Go to Space

Everyone knows that solar energy is free and almost limitless here on Earth. The same is true for spacecraft operating in the inner Solar System. But in space, the Sun can do more than provide electrical energy; it also emits an unending stream of solar wind.

Solar sails can harness that wind and provide propulsion for spacecraft. NASA is about to test a new solar sail design that can make solar sails even more effective.

Solar pressure pervades the entire Solar System. It weakens with distance, but it’s present. It affects all spacecraft, including satellites. It affects longer-duration spaceflights dramatically. A spacecraft on a mission to Mars can be forced off course by thousands of kilometres during its voyage by solar pressure. The pressure also affects a spacecraft’s orientation, and they’re designed to deal with it.

Though it’s a hindrance, solar pressure can be used to our advantage.

A few solar sail spacecraft have been launched and tested, beginning with Japan’s Ikaros spacecraft in 2010. Ikaros proved that radiation pressure from the Sun in the form of photons can be used to control a spacecraft. The most recent solar sail spacecraft is the Planetary Society’s LightSail 2 , launched in 2019. LightSail 2 was a successful mission that lasted over three years.

The Red Sea and the Nile River, from the LightSail 2 spacecraft. LightSail 2 was a successful demonstration mission that lasted more than two years. Image Credit: The Planetary Society.

Solar sail spacecraft have some advantages over other spacecraft. Their propulsion systems are extremely lightweight and never run out of fuel. Solar sail spacecraft can perform missions more cheaply than other spacecraft and can last longer, though they have limitations.

The solar sail concept is now proven to work, but the technology needs to advance for it to be truly effective. A critical part of a solar sail spacecraft is its booms. Booms support the sail material; the lighter and stronger they are, the more effective the spacecraft will be. Though solar sails are much lighter than other spacecraft, the weight of the booms is still a hindrance.

“Booms have tended to be either heavy and metallic or made of lightweight composite with a bulky design – neither of which work well for today’s small spacecraft.” Keats Wilkie, ACS3 principal investigator, NASA

NASA is about to launch a new solar sail design with a better support structure. Called the Advanced Composite Solar Sail System (ACS3), it’s stiffer and lighter than previous boom designs. It’s made of carbon fibre and flexible polymers.

Though solar sails have many advantages, they also have a critical drawback. They’re launched as small packages that must be unfurled before they start working. This operation can be fraught with difficulties and induces stress in the poor ground crew, who have to wait and watch to see if it’s successful.

This image shows the ACS3 being unfurled at NASA's Langley Research Center. The solar wind is reliable but not very powerful. It requires a large sail area to power a spacecraft effectively. The ACS2 is about 9 meters (30 ft) per side, requiring a strong, lightweight boom system. Image Credit: NASA

ACS3 will launch with a twelve-unit (12U) CubeSat built by NanoAvionics. The primary goal is to demonstrate boom deployment, but the ACS3 team also hopes the mission will prove that their solar sail spacecraft works.

To change direction, the spacecraft angles its sails. If boom deployment is successful, the ACS3 team hopes to perform some maneuvers with the spacecraft, angling the sails and changing the spacecraft’s orbit. The goal is to build larger sails that can generate more thrust.

“The hope is that the new technologies verified on this spacecraft will inspire others to use them in ways we haven’t even considered.” Alan Rhodes, ACS3 lead systems engineer, NASA’s Ames Research Center

The ACS3 boom design is made to overcome a problem with booms: they’re either heavy and slim or light and bulky.

“Booms have tended to be either heavy and metallic or made of lightweight composite with a bulky design – neither of which work well for today’s small spacecraft,” said NASA’s Keats Wilkie. Wilke is the ACS3 principal investigator at Langley Research Center. “Solar sails need very large, stable, and lightweight booms that can fold down compactly. This sail’s booms are tube-shaped and can be squashed flat and rolled like a tape measure into a small package while offering all the advantages of composite materials, like less bending and flexing during temperature changes.”

flexible solar panels sailboat

ACS3 will be launched on an Electron rocket from Rocket Lab’s launch complex in New Zealand. It’ll head for a Sun-synchronous orbit 1,000 km (600 miles) above Earth. Once it arrives, the spacecraft will unroll its booms and deploy its sail. It’ll take about 25 minutes to deploy the sail, with a photon-gathering area of 80 square meters, or about 860 square feet. That’s much larger than Light Sail 2, which had a sail area of 32 square meters or about 340 square feet.

As it deploys itself, cameras on the spacecraft will watch and monitor the shape and symmetry. The data from the maneuvers will feed into future sail designs.

“Seven meters of the deployable booms can roll up into a shape that fits in your hand,” said Alan Rhodes, the mission’s lead systems engineer at NASA’s Ames Research Center. “The hope is that the new technologies verified on this spacecraft will inspire others to use them in ways we haven’t even considered.”

ACS3 is part of NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology program. The program aims to deploy small missions that demonstrate unique capabilities rapidly. With unique composite and carbon fibre booms, the ACS3 system has the potential to support sails as large as 2,000 square meters, or about 21,500 square feet. That’s about half the area of a soccer field. (Or, as our UK friends mistakenly call it, a football field.)

With large sails, the types of missions they can power change. While solar sails have been small demonstration models so far, the system can potentially power some serious scientific missions.

“The Sun will continue burning for billions of years, so we have a limitless source of propulsion. Instead of launching massive fuel tanks for future missions, we can launch larger sails that use “fuel” already available,” said Rhodes. “We will demonstrate a system that uses this abundant resource to take those next giant steps in exploration and science.”

A solar flare as it appears in extreme ultraviolet light. The Sun is a free source of energy that's not going away anytime soon, yet it's also hazardous. Credit: NASA/SFC/SDO

Solar sail spacecraft don’t have the instantaneous thrust that chemical or electrical propulsion systems do. But the thrust is constant and never really wavers. They can do things other spacecraft struggle to do, such as taking up unique positions that allow them to study the Sun. They can serve as early warning systems for coronal mass ejections and solar storms, which pose hazards.

The new composite booms also have other applications. Since they’re so lightweight, strong, and compact, they could serve as the structural framework for lunar and Mars habitats. They could also be used to support other structures, like communication systems. If the system works, who knows what other applications it may serve?

“This technology sparks the imagination, reimagining the whole idea of sailing and applying it to space travel,” said Rudy Aquilina, project manager of the solar sail mission at NASA Ames. “Demonstrating the abilities of solar sails and lightweight, composite booms is the next step in using this technology to inspire future missions.”

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