We toyed briefly with the idea of running up to the boat show, but decided that the things I would be looking for were probably easier to find and figure out online. So, thus far I've been playing with various solar panel configurations trying to come up with a design that is cost effective while maximizing the power output.
From a cost perspective, when looking only at the panels themselves, it seems that $1 (U.S.) per watt is considered a good price for rigid panels. There are flexible and semi-flexible panels as well...but these are newer technology, less efficient than their rigid counterparts, and more expensive. Having spent a lifetime in the software industry chasing cool new high-tech stuff, I've learned to appreciate trailing edge technology. The tried and true and usually cheaper options than the latest and greatest.
But price obviously isn't the only criteria, even if it is an important one. Even on a catamaran, there is only so much space where solar panels can be mounted. In my case I'll (hopefully) soon have a nice new hardtop that can support a number of panels. There are other, and possibly better, places to put solar on the boat, but I'm not interested in taking on more structural changes to the boat right now, so for this discussion, I am limiting the location to the available space on the hardtop.
Trying to leave a space along the top to provide a walkway for dealing with the boom (and maybe a place to set the boom to avoid some shading of the panels), I came up with several potential placements.
I started by looking at a rather large Kyocera panel. Their 325 watt panels are just over 65 inches long and almost 52 inches wide. There is only enough room to fit two of these on the top. I was hoping for a bit more than 650 watts and at about $1.20 per watt, I was looking for something a little better in that category too.
|65.5" x 39" panel placement, such as Renogy 270's.|
Next I looked at panels in the 270 watt range. Taking a look at the Renogy Monocrystalline panels, I was able to place 3 of them on the top while maintaining a walkway and access for the helm sail viewing port. This would give me 810 watts of solar (theoretical...I know actual will be less) for about $765 plus tax and shipping. Under a buck a watt, not too bad.
|47" x 21" panel placement, such as Renogy 100's.|
|62" x 32" panel placement, Grape GS-S-195 panels.|
While there are a lot of different panels out there with varying sizes and specifications, it seems that many of them are pretty similar in dimensions so I figure one of the above three placements will likely be what I end up doing.
In other news, the past two days have been good for fiberglass so we were able to get glass laid up on the PVC handhold/dodger holders. There is at least one layer on everything, with second layers applied to the rails along the sides. We used the 10 ounce fiberglass for the straighter runs where the PVC was used and chopped strand for the more difficult complex curves of the corners and other foam details.
So, I guess things are normal...getting work done, in between rains, bad temperatures...and hurricanes.