Choosing New Solar Panels – Super Charging the Power System

I have been planning for awhile to make some significant upgrades to the power systems onboard. The batteries are original, after 8 years they are tired and past their expiration. Fellow Seawind 1160 owner Dave Straton (SV Nimrod) did an upgrade to Lithium batteries about four years ago and wrote a great write up on the conversion process. After exchanging a number of emails with Dave, I had no doubt this was the right direction to take things on Strikhedonia. Of course adding batteries doesn’t help too much if you don’t have a way to fill them. Seawind 1160s come with two BP 3125 solar panels (rated at 125 watts, in the real world they generate closer to 90 watts). This works out to somewhere in the neighborhood of 80-100 AH loaded into the system each day. Only enough to keep the refrigerator/freezer running and lights at night. Some improvements for keeping devices charged, watching movies, and other entertainment must be made.

First decision was to figure out the solar panels. There are many manufacturers and sources for panels. I found it difficult to compare between them; seems shocking to me that companies who sell panels don’t have good tools for evaluating options. After narrowing down a size of the panels that would fit on my boat I put together a list of options:

Manufacturer Model Number Supplier Size Ideal Volt Ideal Amp Ideal Watt Cost Cost per watt
BP 3125 Seawind 1510x674x50 17.6 7.1 125.0
LG LG315N1C-G4 1640x1000x40 33.2 9.5 315.4 $391.83 $1.24
Solar World SW 290 Mono Black 1675x960x33 31.4 9.3 293.0 $348.00 $1.19
Solar World SW-285 Mono 1675x951x31 31.3 9.2 288.0 $348.00 $1.21
Suniva OPT285-60-4-100 1660x990x35 31.9 8.9 284.9 $300.00 $1.05
Suniva OPT285-60-4-1B0 1660x990x35 32.2 8.8 284.6 $310.00 $1.09
SolarWorld SW280 1675x960x33 31.2 9.1 283.0 $320.00 $1.13
Astronergy CHSM6610P-260 1652x994x40 31.1 8.4 260.5 $250.00 $0.96
Kyocera KU260-6MCA 1662x990x46 31.0 8.4 260.1 $322.00 $1.24
Canadian Solar CS6K-255 1650x992x40 30.2 8.4 254.6 $252.00 $0.99
Grape Solar GS-S-195-Fab3 1580x808x40 36.2 5.4 194.8 $195.00 $1.00
Solar Land SLP180-24U 1484x992x45 34.4 5.2 179.9 $263.00 $1.46

The Decision
My decision ultimately came down to getting the most power possible. I went with the LG panels since the price difference between the cheapest panels (Astronergy) and the LG only worked out to about $80 per panel but increased my overall power by 20%. And you can never have too much power…

The LG panels highlights:
Enhanced Performance Warranty: The annual degradation -0.6%/yr (many are -0.7% or more)
High Power Output: Performs better on sunny days thanks to its improved temperature co-efficiency
Outstanding Durability: With reinforced frame design, can endure a front load up to 6000 Pa, and a rear load up to 5400 Pa
Double-Sided Cell Structure: The rear of the cell will contribute, just like the front; the light beam reflected from the rear of the module is reabsorbed to generate a great amount of additional power

Going from two smaller panels to three large panels will require new fabrication of the arch and dingy davits. In reality that stainless work will probably be equal or more than the solar panels making the decision on the most expensive (per watt) panels a bit easier to self-justify. I can almost taste the 945 watts (increase of nearly 400%) flooding into my battery bank!

I should add that EcoDirect was a good company to deal with, good response and okay pricing (I was unsuccessful in getting a price match). I found the panels for $368 from Beyond Oil Solar. However they were located in Northern California and the shipping cost was $110, compared to a local pickup from EcoDirect in Oceanside, CA, which tipped the overall cost towards EcoDirect. Total cost with tax came to $1,275.41.

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