The weather's been ideal for working on the boat; dry, but not so hot that it's painful to work outside. So it was time to get started on Eve's solar panels.
It's only taken seven years, after all.
That's jobs for you, sometimes; if you don't get stuck straight into them, they can just fade into the background. But a few weeks ago, when I was moored up at Diggers, a chap kindly gave me a solar panel he was taking to the bins (the canal bins act as a sort of informal swap shop too; folk often leave stuff that's useful there, so that you can pick it up and reuse it). The panel is not working at full capacity, he explained, and he'd upgraded. But I put my meter across the terminals, and it was chucking out a healthy voltage. So...
Then on Sunday I rescued this timber from Bradford Wharf, and made a start on a combined roof box and panel holder.
The sides and lids are plywood, covered with pieces of old cratch cover and tarp. All recycled material.
Here's the panel in place. The wiring goes through a hole in the roof sheltered by the box, into the engine room.
|I'll be tidying up that wiring. Sometime.|
Down there it goes into an MPPT (maximum power point tracking) controller. Because solar panels chuck out a relatively high voltage, this device regulates the incoming electricity and presents it to the batteries in optimal form - lots when the battery's charge is low, and then just enough to keep it topped up when it's full.
|oh dear, spaghetti...|
This is the bank of four large leisure batteries, that provide the power for my domestic electrics - water pump, lights, 12V sockets. They can be charged from the engine's alternator, or a battery charger that runs off my suitcase generator (which I use for power tools, or when I want to use the desktop computer or printer.
The MPPT controller talks to my iPhone through Bluetooth, so I can see what's going on there. As you see, so far I've only harvested 2 kWh of electricity in total so far, but that's power that I didn't need to run the engine for, and it's early days yet; I shall be adding more panels.