Miasolé: Solar Power for Boats iMSS Case study

Chris Phillips is the proud owner of a Hake Yachts Seaward 32RK sailboat docked in San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico, a five–hour drive from his home near Tucson, AZ. One of his greatest joys is taking his boat out for a weekend sail or a more leisurely weeks–long vacation cruise. Like many boat owners, he uses renewable power (solar or wind) to charge up the house battery that runs the marine electronics, fridge, inverter, microwave and lighting systems while sailing or at anchor away from the dock.

Previously, Chris had installed two ridgid glass solar panels on an aluminum arch that he built for this purpose. The problems was the weight of the panels—each weighed 50 lbs for a total weight of 100 lbs. This extra weight, combined with the weight of the arch, had the potential to cause wear and tear and increased pitching of the boat. In the event of a storm or rough seas, Chris was concerned that the panels could not be easily lowered and stowed below deck, creating a safety hazard. He started looking for a solution to the potential danger and hassles that his current solar system presented.

Internet research revealed MiaSolé, a maker of powerful, lightweight thin–film solar panels. Chris was intrigued by their low weight and high efficiency. He purchased two FLEX modules and installed them over a weekend using industrial Velcro, some marine canvas and an aluminum frame to hold the panels on the boat's arch. Similar techniques are employed to attach flexible solar panels to the top of canvas Biminis and dodgers.

Chris has been delighted with the results. The new MiaSolé panels weigh less than 10lbs each, which makes them much easier to remove whether the vessel is at anchor or in a seaway. In the case of a storm or high winds, he is able to simply slip the panels out of the holder and stow them below deck, a process that takes minutes. The panels, his boat and its passengers are far safer than before.

Chris has also noticed a greater power output with the MiaSolé panels. Even though the MiaSolé panels are rated at a lower wattage than the glass panels (210 watts vs. 250 watts) they generate more power (20 amps vs. 16 amps). His theory is that the MiaSolé panels are able to perform better with the inevitable partial shading from masts, sails or the radar dome than the previous solution.

Chris' theory is not wrong. The MiaSolé panels do perform better in partial shade because they have a bypass diode for every two solar cells while the glass panels he had before had one diode per entire row of solar cells. When a solar cell is shaded, much like a Christmas light that's out on a string, it will disrupt power to the other cells it's connected to. Because of the increased number of diodes, partial shading has less effect on the output of the MiaSolé panels than traditional silicon panels.

Chris is able to charge the batteries from 50% State of Charge (SOC) to 95% SOC in four to five hours each day while sailing or at anchor. Battery SOC is the equivalent of a fuel guage on a battery pack. He believes the panels could bring the battery from as low as 25% SOC to 95% SOC easily in a single day's charge.

"MiaSolé's solar panels are the ideal solution for marine applications. The panels are encapsulated so they are impervious to salt water and UV exposure. The low weight and excellent performance of the panels means you can get the power you need in an easy-to-manage configuration." Chris Phillips, owner, iMSS

Solution Specifics

2 x MiaSolé 210 watt FLEX panels

1 x MidNite Solar "The Kid" marine charge controller

2 x 100Ah Odyssey AGM marine batteries

MiaSolé

2590 Walsh Ave

Santa Clara, CA 95051

www.miasole.com

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