It's during the summer months where we really start to enjoy the perks of being a solar panel installation company. There's nothing better than basking in the glow of the sun within beautiful Leicestershire countryside completing various solar energy projects. Although it is a relatively niche area of our business, Run By The Sun have completed a number of solar array projects for narrow boats. These solar energy projects are obviously not connected to the grid, but our clients receive the benefits of generating greener energy to assist in the day-to-day running of the boat and reduce the cost of doing so in the process.
Run By The Sun recently exhibited at the Crick Boat Show for the second year running so that we could showcase the solar energy products we install on narrow boats. Run By The Sun supply three solar products and although there is little to choose between the three of them, each of our customers will have a personal preference.
Run By The Sun install a rigid frame solar panel that has to be mounted on a bracket, slightly above the roof. This solution can be anything up to 50kW to 300kW per solar panel. In many cases, one or two solar panels is enough but in some cases we have installed more panels depending on how a customer uses the boat and how they want to navigate around it. The bigger solar panels are cheaper but will naturally take up more space.
Rigid frame solar panels Installed on a narrow boat
Run By The Sun also offer a semi-flexible solar panel that can be glued to the surface of the boat. This product has a great profile and is typically 1-1.5m long and 2m in width allowing any customer the opportunity to easily walk down either side of it. You could step on the panel, however we advise our customers not to and given its size you shouldn't have to either. Semi-flexible solar panels although are smaller, are dense and can generate a considerable amount of energy.
Semi-flexible solar panel
We also offer a product from Uni-Solar which is a photovoltaic laminate, highly flexible, lightweight and is rolled out. This solar panel solution is very easy to install - like a sticker you can simply peel and stick this solar panel to the surface of your boat. It is capable of absorbing a greater spectrum of light and compared to the other products we offer, it works slightly better in dull or overcast weather conditions as well as early morning or early evening. It can work surprisingly well on the side of the boat because of its ability to work well in more overcast weather and is a better solution if you're looking for power all year round and throughout the winter season.
Aesthetically this solar panel is very pleasing on the eye and providing the roof top on your boat is dark or even black, it can at times go undetected.
However, there are a couple of reasons why this is not always a viable option. Firstly, it can only generate 68kW and most of our clients would be looking for a solution which is at least double this. Because it comes in 3m rolls, you would require at least 6m of boat space which can be quite challenging.
Any of the solutions above are installed with a solar charge controller or MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking). This is technology that has been use for residential solar energy projects for years and during the last couple of years, it has been refined to be used on off-grid solar energy systems.
These new solar charge controllers allow the solar panels to work at a better voltage and generate more power and typically will generate 20% more power in comparison to the old controllers.
Compared with grid-connected systems, these solar products are not generating you an extra income but they can save you money. A PV solar system will have paid for itself in less than 2 years, rather than using the power of your engine.
To put this in to greater context, we fitted a 250kW solar panel system for a couple who went cruising during the summer last year with another couple who didn't have solar panels fitted on their boat. Subsequently, this couple ended up spending £30 per week more on fuel.
If you're interested in finding out how solar power can be used for your narrow boat then please don't hesitate to get in touch. Our free consultation enables us to get an idea of how you use the boat and gives us the opportunity to take any necessary measurements so that we can install the best solar solution for you.