For a long time, overnighting on a mooring or anchoring anywhere away from shore power meant either doing without most of the
comforts of electricity or relying heavily on a noisy diesel generator. Only
by firing up the mini power plant to
recharge the batteries could you have
your electronics, lighting, and much
more at your service.
Now, skippers of small boats often use
solar panels as trickle chargers to main-
tain battery banks and electronics devices.
This is particularly helpful, for example,
if you are on a mooring, have power out-
ages at the dock, or just want to keep your
batteries up while fishing, hanging off the
beach, or quietly drifting without using
that outboard. Others use large banks of
panels to supply most or all of the current
for living aboard, even including run-
ning refrigeration powered by batteries.
Regardless of how you want to use solar
panels, solar-power efficiency has made
significant strides in recent years, so it
helps to understand some basics.
We’ve relied here on the expertise
of Rob Warren of Coastal Climate
Control. Different manufacturers, retailers, and installers may have varying
opinions, techniques, and available
brands of products. Also, technology is
There’s more to solar power
than just buying any old
panel and connecting it. Let’s
find out what may be best for
the way you use your boat
BY TOM NEALE
Nordic Tugs has
solar panels atop
the pilothouse to
silently charge the
batteries and power
freezer, and lights.