Solar Panels (Photovoltaics)


Basics

Have a look at the Energy Audit section to see how much power you might need/want to generate.

Installation

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

Work Conditions

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!

Pollutants

Greenhouse Gases

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!

Airborne Pollutants

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!

Heavy Metals and other Pollutants

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.

Disposal

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.

Suppliers

  • 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

 Onboard Solar

Great TIIP!

Well this article that i've been waited for so long. I need this article to complete my assignment in the college, and it has same topic with your article. Thanks, great share.
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how to installation?

Hii I interested to use solar panel at my home. But I can't find a technician that can install solar panel at our city. Is this bosible to I learn how to assembling it by my self?
dhe ujha

Outstanding Aftersales Service and Info from: Marlec, Corby

As a long standing Solar Panel user on my boat and my friend's boat, the following information may be valuable to anyone thinking about adding Solar Panels to their boat

1) Go for the biggest array that you can afford and fit on your roof (Explanation and return on Investment later)
2) Solar controller *type* important for efficiency - Go for MPPT type - And spend money on this item
3) Excellent advice and prices, can be obtained from Marlec Ltd. of Corby, for Solar panels, (Rutland Wind Generator manufacturer). Ask for Lloyd West if phoning - contact details from their web-site

My Installation:

This was purchased from the above company, after advice and electronic design help was digested. They also made up a wiring harness with special waterproof connectors for me at a surprisingly low cost

I have 4 x 190-rated watts 24-volt German panels assembled in Germany (736 watts out at 24-volts, approximately equals 1520 watt at 12-volts for comparison). Don't worry about the 24-volts output from the panels if you have a 12-volt system, as the controller should take care of this.

My Solar panels are wired in series/parallel giving a 48-volt nominal output and wired into the controller
The controller will accept any voltage up to 150-volts

The Tri-Star controller will automatically sense the battery voltage and adjust accordingly. I chose the option of pre-setting my battery voltage for a 24-volt system. (Voltages can be set at 12, 24, 36,& 48-volts)
I also included a temperature sensor, (Included with purchase). This is added to any battery terminal

Note: My batteries are 4 x 300 amp/h Rolls Canadian 6-volts lead/acid type in series, giving me my 24-volts

There are many different qualities of controller. I purchased an American 45-Amp, Tri-Star MPPT type. The reason I selected this particular make and model, was because it monitors the input in REAL time, together with the state of the battery and compensates for battery temperature, also in real time. This passes the maximum amount of available energy input to the batteries

If you are interested in statistics, the "Tri-Star" has a large memory and stores up to 3 months data that can be retrieved at any time during the period. One can also read at any time the input and battery state, from the LCD screen

The Solar circuitry is wired directly to the batteries, via 2 x fuses in both positive and negative cables. Nothing could be simpler

Personal experience:
My complete installation, (Almost £2000), was recouped in less than 2-years, from the direct savings on diesel fuel and at least halved my engine hours per annum, extending oil change times, (A further saving on oil, and filters). Oil and filters have not been taken into the above statement - but I suppose I should have allowed something for this too?

Where else can one invest £2000 and have 100% return on an investment in less than 2-years? This was the best money I have ever spent. However, I did struggle to find the amount in the first place!

I do hope that my installation helps you to choose the right system for your boat - ~Allan~

Solar Panel Supplier

I'm not sure how up to date the links are on this page, but we are happy to help At Midsummer many of us live on boats and are happy to supply advice by email or over the phone on suitable sustainable Solar Panel systems sales [at] midsummerenergy [dot] co [dot] uk 01223 858414# Best wishes Jim www.midsummerenergy.co.uk

Solar Panels - Please Update this page !!!

Firstly the "embodied energy" in a solar pv panel depends on the technology used. Modern solar panels are much better than early ones. Sanyo panels for example use 75% less energy than conventional panels. Uni-solar likewise. China - Human rights ? Suntech - China's leading solar pv manufacturer has higher human rights standards than most European companies - "There is a union in place at Suntech and 60% of all employees have joined the union. The union works to negotiate fair employment terms, benefits and working conditions for its members. In setting human resource policies, the company consults with the union." - and that's only the tip of the iceberg, they treat their staff very well. The prices of new solar panels has been dropping rapidly. Approx 30% in the last 12 to 18 months. As an example - the Lorentz 120w module (German, 20yr warranty) now costs approx £ 380 + VAT. And if you have a larger solar array - you want to consider an MPPT charge controller which will boost the power into your batteries by about 30% in the winter months (yes, just with a new controller). I hope that clarifies a few issues. G.

Panels

Okay - I've read stuff about solar panels being difficult to dispose of, environmentally an'all, but I have to say, they are great for me and are supposed to be guaranteed for 20 years. Hopefully, there will be a viable method of disposal before 20 years are up! I got mine a guy near near Oxford (Rumi). His site is www.sustainable-systems.co.uk and I got em from him because he doesn't source stuff from China (human rights issues).

Advantages: No need to run the engine, polluting the environment, just to have cabin lights on or charge up my mobile phone.. I hate walking past rows of boats running like they're in a traffic jam. I know people need to heat water and the like, but there has to be a better way (and it may well be solar). They also work in weak winter sunshine, though less effectively - it helps if you tilt them. Disadvantages: er.. haven't found any yet except that they're expensive. About £300 for an 85 W panel.

What about second hand?

Yeah, I consulted with Oxford Rumi when considering a wind gennie, and eventually realised from the point of view of my finances as well as the amount of power produced, I was better off getting a second solar panel to supplement my first smallish one, and the two together will cover my power needs in winter just fine (summer one does the job.)

Taking into account the resources that go into making them, as described above, does anyone know of a good source of second hand panels? Should I just try ebay? What should I look out for? Are some models too old and inefficient to be worth the bother? Also, is there an easy way to tell what wattage my panel is? If I ever knew, I've forgotten...

============= I live on my narrowboat with my cat, Bella.

Try schools for 2nd hand solar panels

I've been watching Ebay for 2nd hand solar panels on and off for quite a while but so far the price has been depressingly high...

I have however had several reports that lots of schools have solar panels sitting in cupboards - i have one that spent about 10yrs in a cupboard after it was donated to a secondary school. They were really happy that it was going to be used, and I told them that they could come and see it in action whenever they wanted.

So, may be worth asking round local schools?

 

Solar Panels

Hello Everyone,

First post @ LILO Smile

I wanted to say congrats to everyone involved - LILO is great ! Just what was needed (only just found you).

I used to live on a boat for many years and for the past 10 years we have been setting up and building a solar & wind energy co-operative (started from nothing - so took a little while to get going properly).

I won't mention who we are because this is not to promote the business... just to say that we really support this kind of thing (LILO) and that we would consider offering members of LILO a special discount.

We do all of the stuff you need on a boat ... lol... that's where we came from (the company was founded on a boat) and some members still live on boats. Personally, I'm on the lookout for a new (secondhand) one.... :-)

If you Peeps would like me to post our website somewhere, that would be fine.

Nice to have stumbled this way,

Take care everyone,

 G.