Well, the arch is finally done! If you read some of the earlier posts of our quest for more energy, you know that we decided to spend some serious boat dinero to make ourselves more self sufficient. We found a local stainless stainless guy here in La Cruz and commissioned him to make an arch for Piko. Primarily to hold two more 130 watt panels, but also some other minor stuff like the radar dome, dinghy engine lift and some antennae. Here you can see the workers putting it all together here in La Cruz.
As you can see, it is quite large. This was because it needed to be taller than our hydrovane (they do make a version of the hydrovane sail which is stubby for this reason, but we don’t have it). It also was integrated with the rear pushpit of the boat, so it is all one piece now for strength. The two main tubes are 1.5″ diameter stainless and then there is an interier 1″ tube to help build the lateral strength of the whole unit. We also have build a awning for it for while we are underway. That piece of it is all removable as I know the shade will be nice, but I am concerned with it’s effect on the hydrovane, and we want the canvas as least to be removable in case of a predicted storm. Sadly I don’t have a picture of it on my camera right now. The whole unit is very strong, easily enough for either of us to crawl up it to get access to the etc, though I wouldn’t want to be up there in 20′ seas.
So with the arch, we now have 530 Watts of solar (2×130+2x135W). We also have two smaller 80 watt panels we are planning to sell, or possibly add to the array down the road that was our original interim solution. Down here, that means we can generate about 30A @12V near solar noon, or for almost 4 hours. Since the arch does partially shade the lower panels, we didn’t double our capacity, but pretty close. From looking at some of the data logging our charge controllers provide, we are generating about 180Ah a day onaverage. I think the lowest we have seen was 160Ah, and 1 day over 200 in the last week.
We also reworked our Link 20 meter, so instead of monitoring the starting battery, battery 2 now tracks renewable energy INTO the batteries, while battery 1 tracks net energy usage. As you can see here, it is showing 28.2 A flowing in, and we can track at a glance how much energy we produced that day. It is nice, we can run a laptop 24/7 if we want, no longer have to think about the engine if we need to fill an empty water tank with the water maker etc.
One cruiser we met down here who has been doing this for some time, before solar became as inexpensive as it is now, calls them freedom chips. Spend some money up front, but you can quickly buy your freedom as far as energy goes, which we now have.
We will keep track of how they work while underway and in the south pacific, as we are planning on leaving in the next few days. We are basically waiting for some breeze int the Sea of Cortez to help carry us out to the trades…