Ambassadors for all we America was. Apologists for all America is.

Twilights’ last gleaming …

This page will be devoted to discussions of solar power usage on Spiritus.

We equipped her with two 140 watt Kyocera solar panels that I managed to self-install the day before we left Newport, Oregon.  The goal was so make her more self-sufficient energy wise, reduce to a bare minimum the use of the engine to generate electricity, and free her from the electric cord that tethers most boats to a dock for power.

She already had a 2000 watt Heart inverter/battery charger and battery isolator switches.  The batteries on board are five-year old gel cells with 200 amp hour ratings.  They each weigh in the range of 175 pounds and are located in the lazarette on the boat’s stern.

In addition, the boat has a backup starter battery just for the engine.  The engine can also be started with a hand crank (but having done that once, I reserve that for only the most dire energy emergencies).

The panels are connected in parallel and charge both batteries (which are also in parallel)  through a Blue Sky Solar Boost 2000E  (12 V 25 A) MMTP solar charge controller.  The boat has a 12 volt DC power system which the inverter converts to 110 AC volt for electronics like computers, chargers, electronics, and a hot water heater.

The last few rays of light!

The last few rays of light!

I just spent two weeks off of dock power to test and shake down the solar wings.  One week was spent without a refrigeration unit.  The second week was spent using the onboard Alder-Barbor icebox.  During the week without it, I used a small foam ice chest that cost two dollars to keep milk, vegetables, cream, cheese, and the occasional cold beer or soft drink.

Success of the test is determined as follows.  If I can start the boat after several days and at the end of the week without difficulty, then the panels are keeping up with demand.

When not using the refrigeration unit, there is absolutely no problem going a week without shore power.  With the unit, management is necessary to keep up with the electric demands of the icebox.

To that end, it evolved into a practice of using the refrigeration only 12 hours a day and turning it off (coasting) at night.  I use a cold registering thermometer to keep up with temperatures inside the icebox at night.

Results of management.  After another six days, engines started without problem.  But, at the end of six days, the compressor for the unit began to cycle on and off repeatedly, trying to start without success.  Cure, give it a few hours till the battery charge was brought up by solar panels and it worked fine.

My thoughts, the batteries were getting low enough to not be able to run the compressor correctly.  This was after six days.  The digital read out of battery voltage at the time was 12.04 volts.

This all probably means I can go without dock power and without an engine start-up and run each day to recharge the batteries for about six days if we are using the refrigeration unit.  Without it on, we can probably go indefinitely.

Just a note:  The first week we had several overcast days which slowed charging and solar cooking.  Still, the batteries charged enough to continue the testing.  The last day (with the refrigeration unit on) also was very overcast and may have led to the battery draw-down as the unit was used when the panels were not keeping up with its electricity usage.

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