Solar panels – a win, win scenario
The marine sector needs to understand the full benefits of solar technology, says designer and manufacturer, Solar Technology International.
MD Adrian Williams says that while boat owners recognise the environmental advantages of using this renewable energy source to run onboard equipment, many fail to appreciate the impact on battery performance or the wider financial dividends.
“Solar panels maximise the life of onboard batteries by keeping the charge topped up. Batteries that discharge for long periods without being replenished suffer damaged cells and need replacing sooner," he explained. "A modern battery should last ten years, but poor maintenance and a failure to keep it charged can reduce life expectancy to around three years.”
An average replacement set costs between £200 and £500 and there are also issues around the old battery’s disposal; it contains materials containing lead and acid that cannot be thrown away and unrecyclable plastic.
Boats anchored offshore typically charge batteries using generators fuelled by petrol or diesel, which Solar Technology says is an ‘unnecessary use’ of fossil fuel: “Why use something that generates unpleasant fumes and CO2 when a typical 150wp solar panel can save 2.64 tons of CO2 over its 35-year life cycle.”
While Adrian concedes a boat moored close to shore can hook up to electricity, he estimates the first month’s costs of purchasing the cabling, berth fees and price per unit for the power is around £150 and says this does little to reduce global grid consumption.
He concludes: “The priority is about re-dressing the balance of energy usage and minimising generator or grid use. Boats with solar panels need smaller generators, reducing weight and costs and as they’re connected to the battery bank, they’re continually charging, even when the generators are turned off. This is a clear win, win scenario.”
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