Grommets, snaps, witch stitchery … Now that we had our solar panels and knew where we wanted to put them, we were debating all the different ways you can possibly attach them. I kept trying to break out the old hot glue gun, and Phillip kept vetoing it (for good reason). After some debate and research, we finally decided on Velcro. I was thrilled with the decision. I love velcrow. Back in the day, it was all I wore! Who wants to waste time tying laces when you can rock those Velcro flap shoes?
Nailed it! (Me and the Bro always brought it at the annual Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta).
I considered myself a bit of a whiz with the Velcro. I had used it often to rig up nifty little things on the boat. You recall the Chair-Wow and my various Velcro/hot glue creations:
Velcrow for the solar panels was going to work just fine. So, we got up with our regular canvas guy — Tony with Coastal Canvas — and started laying out the panels and determining the attachment points. Recall we did have the issue with the Eisenglass window pane over the helmsman’s head that we had to work around:
However, Tony said it would not be a problem at all. He would simply reduce the size of the opening for the pane on top to accommodate the two square panels on either side. I like that guy. Seems for him, nothing’s a problem! We provided Tony with the bimini and our panels and he set to work.
In the meantime, I kept at it with the silks,
and eventually learned my first drop trick! (We call this the reach-and-grab … for obvious reasons.)
Phillip, however, seemed to think my new acrobatics could be put to better use on the boat.
“You like to climb, huh? Well, up you go!”
The Man runs a tight ship! Remember that steaming light we crushed during our trip to the Keys when we attempted our first (and hopefully our last) mid-sea mast climb to retrieve the main halyard?? Well, while we were waiting to get our bimini back from Tony, we picked up a new one and Phillip sent this little Cirque de Soul up the mast to fix it.
Maybe some silks skills do come in handy on the boat.
At 50 feet up, it’s hard to say which “sport” is more fun!
A few new tricks and projects later and it wasn’t long before we had our bimini back outfitted perfectly for our panels.
Tony reduced the size of our Eisenglass pane to open easily between the two square panels on the back.
And, his craftsmanship proved to be a vast improvement from my hot glue jobs.
With the Velcro outlines in place, we were ready to slap some panels on the bimini!
While the decision to stitch the Velcro onto the bimini was an easy one (it’s canvas, that’s a no-brainer), how, exactly, to attach the Velcro to the panels was another story. Although the panels we bought (the Renogy monocrystalline) are technically “flexible,” that really only means up to 30 degrees. The “flexible” panels could actually be considered pretty rigid when you start trying to stick a needle through one.
For an equivalent, I would say they feel about like a thin sheet of PVC. While there is a little white lip around the edge that we could have had Tony try to stitch through, there was no guarantee the needle could punch through or that, if it did, it wouldn’t crack the panel and ruin the monocrystalline cells. This time, Tony had a problem. He was understandably hesitant to crank up his heavy-duty industrial sewing machine and run one of our brand new expensive panels through. Can’t say that I blame him. Tony suggested we simply apply adhesive-backed Velcro to the backs of the panels to stick them on the bimini and even supplied us with a roll of industrial strength adhesive Velcro to use.
It was probably the right call. Having used that type of adhesive Velcro before, we knew it was pretty strong and risking the panels in a sewing machine catastrophe was not worth the added comfort of having the Velcro stitched onto the panels. Plus, the panels came pre-made with grommet holes at each corner if we wanted to do some hand-stitching to the bimini later for added security. We applied a thin strip of Velcro on each edge of the panels to match up with the Velcro outlines on the bimini.
We set them in place on the bimini and were pleased to find the Velcro gave a good, solid hold.
Absent gale gusts or a hurricane, we didn’t feel like the panels were going anywhere. But, now they were only attached. That was the easy part. They were not yet wired in.
Each panel has a positive and negative output — positive to pass the solar energy through, negative to ground the panel. We had three panels, a large 100 watt panel in the front and two 50 watt panels in the back. We were planning to wire the back two square panels together to basically have two panel outputs coming in (the 100 watt and the combined 50s). As I mentioned previously, we also had to install two MPPT Charge Controllers to regulate the flow of each solar “panel” into our house battery bank.
Example diagram of the combined 50 watts:
You having fun yet? While we like to research and troubleshoot and try to figure things like this out for ourselves (because no one’s going to be there to help us when these systems break in the middle of the dadgum ocean), when we’re faced with something completely new and do have the collective knowledge of our fellow boat buddies to pool from, we like to invite them over to the boat at times like these to “have a few beers.” That’s boat code for “I want your help with something.” We’ve been lucky to fall into a great group of boat friends in Pensacola, and they’re always eager to lend a hand or an opinion. Bottom-Job Brandon and our Broker-turned-Buddy Kevin came over and we all started scooching panels around, running wires and scratching our heads.
(Don’t they look smart?) What can I say, there were beers involved.
Decisions were made, though, as to where to mount the MPPT controllers, how to run the wires from the panels on top of the bimini, down the bimini frame and through the deck of the boat and how to connect the charge controllers to the main house battery bank. Up next, the real work of the solar project begins!
These circus skills really do translate. Perhaps I need to take up contortionism next … Stay tuned!
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