Have a look at the Energy Audit section to see how much power you might need/want to generate.
HDRX regulator for combination of wind turbine and solar panels.
This is a simpler, cheaper regulator that is just for solar panels.
wiring, regulator/blocking diode etc
Much of the PVs on the market are made in China where there are serious concerns about work conditions - pay, hours, harrasment, abuse, not to mention lack of personal and environmental protection when working with hazardous materials.
It is possible to get PVs made in Europe, under hopefully much better worker and environmental conditions.
Oil Companies Involvement
The market is dominated by lots of nasty companies involved in oil and nuclear. Remember to shop around and not give your money to large multinationals involved in terrible environmental and human destruction!
According to research carried out by Kassel University in Germany, an average 20W solar panel uses 62.5kg of CO2 (not including any frames, mountings etc). It will however save approximately 6.4kg of CO2 every year in the UK (worked out by comparing its power output and the National Grid's). That means a solar panel will take 10 years to cancel out its own CO2 emissions!
The production of solar panels causes the emissions of various airborne pollutants. The Kassel University research has estimated the amounts of these pollutants, along with the savings (the amount of these pollutants that would have been emitted from fossil fuel power plants). They estimate that a solar panel will take:
- 6.6 years to save SO2 emissions
- 6.6 years to save SOx emissions
- 7 years to save NOx emissions.
(Times adjusted to take UK average insolation into account).
The problem for us boaters is that these figures relate to power plants, not the alternatives we have as boaters - running an engine, getting a wind turbine, or using less electricity!
Almost all designs of PVs use heavy metals in the production process. Advanced PV technologies rely on semiconductor materials that incorporate heavy metals such as cadmium and selenium - these are toxic and bio-accumulative.
Silicon PV module production can include: arsine, phosphnie, fluorine, chlorine, nitrates, isopropanol, sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, silica particles, and solvents. According to a report from Utrecht University, "Estimated air emission is maximally 0.16 [kilograms of fluorine] and 430 [kilograms of chlorine] per [1000 megawatt-hours] of electricity supplied by PV modules, which is orders of magnitude smaller than the corresponding emissions of a coal plant."
So we can console ourselves with the fact that the quantities involved are small (for example, a PV module of one metre may contain six grams of cadmium, compared with 2.5 grams in a nickel cadmium penlight battery), but surely a radical environmental analysis demands that we don't make use of materials which are dangerous to use and difficult to safely dispose of?
For full details of the hazardous chemicals used in the production of PVs have a look at this Technical Report prepared for the California Energy Commission.
Similar to all electronics there is no decent way to dispose of PVs. The industry blithely says that they'll sort something out when the time comes (haven't we already heard that argument from the nuclear industry?). Currently much of our electronic waste ends up being sent illegally to places like China were workers with no protection hack and burn materials in order to recover the easily recyclable. The result is a human and environmental tragedy that even the Chinese government has admitted it cannot avert or deal with.
- www.islandenergy.uk.com (used to be Sustainable Systems)are recommended because they don't buy from China or any other dictatorship; dont have dealings with the oil industry or defence companies. Most of their PV panels come from Kyocera (Japan), Regulators from Steca (Germany), inverters from Studer (Swiss made) and Wind turbines from Finland, UK, Europe and the USA. (Steca and Studer use lead free solder and have waste recovery systems in their circuite board manufacuring plant. Both manufacturers repair their units. Kyocera have a checkable batch manufacturing record for waste and recycling).
- Renewable Energy UK - ideas and guides on building your own solar and wind systems - including some circuit diagrams and a shop. Very interesting!
- Solar and Wind Energy Co-op
- Onboard Solar - Solar panels fitted to your boat (This business is run by a liveaboard boater who uses the exact system he sells) www.onboardsolar.co.uk