This part 2 of my Solar Panel related posts, the previous post being about the Solar Charge Controller…
I drilled a hole and installed a 1/4″ cable outlet similar to this one over the starboard lazerette where the charge controller is located in order to run the power cable from the solar panel into the lazerette, thru-bolting with nylon locking nuts and sealing everything with 3M 4200 UV to keep from letting any water in. I then installed the solar panel on the stern rail using the Sunsei solar panel mount.
As you may be able to guess from the picture, the dinghy outboard caused a problem with shading the panel starting around 2pm when at the dock with the bow facing roughly north, and by 4pm the bimini was completely shading the panel. Clearly this was not the ideal installation setup as I was missing many hours a day of good charging to shading. The problem was even worse when we were out on the boat for the weekend as the bimini ended up shading the panel for a large portion of the day when the boat was pointing in many other directions.
I decided to find a way to to raise the panel above the dinghy outboard and bimini to eliminate the problem with shading altogether. After some thought I came up with what I thought was a pretty simple yet highly effective solution. I decided to build a mast to install the panel on top of, and secure the mast to the stern rail for support. I know some people put their panels on the bimini, but I didn’t think that was necessary given the small size of the panel, and would actually introduce complications with the canvas.
The idea was simple, use a length of 1″ SS tubing normally used for bimini frames, and attach the base to the deck just like the bimini using a 90 deg deck hinge, and then use 2 support arms that hold it in place attached to the stern rail. The tubing should be plenty strong to support the small panel, a bimini top has much more wind loading than my little panel does. I very simply drew up the idea and circled the different hinge / attachment points in red, and the examples of what I was going to use in green. Note, picture is older and shows the old dinghy motor, which would not have caused as much of a problem with shading as the new Honda 4-Stroke 2HP and cover does.
I ordered the parts from the local chandlery Hathaways, using 7/8″ SS tubing for the support arms to save a little weight (plus they gave me some scrap tubing for the support arms as neither was over 12″ long), and trimmed the pieces to length and checked everything for fit, then drilled the holes for the deck hinge, sealed it up with 4200 UV, and did the final assembly of everything.
As you can see the finished product looks pretty close to the original concept idea.
The mast raises the panel well above anything that will cast a shadow on it, so the only thing that should be shading the panel from now on is the Main.
As you can see below the bracket fits the panel as if it was made specifically for it, and with the ball and socket joint it allows for easy adjustment to change the angle the panel sits if one so chooses, but I just set the panel for the best midday angle and leave it alone. I do however intend on replacing the clamp on fitting by epoxying the end of the socket side into the end of the tubing, and then running the cable through the SS tube to the deck instead of wrapping it around the outside as it is now. Until that is done, the end of the tube is plugged with a rubber stopped to prevent rain / insects from finding their way in there.