How to turn your vessel into a solar powered boat

Posted at July 13, 2011 by Comments Off

Okay, I’m no sailor but we do live in Florida and we have a lot of boats. Inspired by my previous post, Oh no! We missed the World’s largest solar powered yacht, I’ve decided to figure out how we turn all of our floating friends into an ode to solar power and the environment.

Greening South Florida’s marianas starts with powering our boats in an eco-friendly way. Why not solar?

It’s benefits include:

  1. Fuel savings (gas is getting too expensive!)
  2. No more noise (its annoying)
  3. Reduced carbon emissions (yay!)
  4. Reduced risk of engine failure (i.e. permanently powered hand-helds, no more fears of being stranded at sea)


Figure out how many solar panels you need and their size. (Note: This depends on how much electricity the boat regularly uses, not to mention geographic location, time of day/year, water/air temperature and the electronics on board).

We’re in Florida. Enough said.

Anyway, you will also need to stock-up on the following:

  1. Solar panels
  2. Deep cycle batteries (lead acid or gel cell, both do the job)
  3. Regulator (this controls the batteries from becoming over or undercharged)
  4. Inverter (this converts the 12V that the panels produce to 110V which is what most things use)
  5. Wire for hardware and fittings
  6. Solar mounting rails/supports

According to

Most boaters find that maximal efficiency is achieved when the solar panels are installed high and aft on the boat, in direct sunlight. It’s best to place them at the apex of an arch, above the cabin, or above davits to reduce the chance that shadows will fall across the surface of the solar panel and reduce its efficiency.

Try to stick with a high-output model if you can. You can install the mount directly above a bimini (if you’re sure it will not be prone to shadowing), or, alternatively, you could install your solar panels on a rail along the stern.

Regardless of where you choose to mount them, make sure they are free from any shading. You want them to receive the best view of the sun at all times.

For a real life step-by-step account of how its done, check out this post by Mike Dickens, Owner of Paradise Yachts on Amelia Island.


solar boat 00 How to turn your vessel into a solar powered boat

Treehugger takes a look at 7 Awesome Solar Boats You Must See.

For more on the history of solar powered boats click here.

For information on solar powered boats around the world click here.

Already have a solar powered boat? Want to compete in the world championship of intercolligate solar boating? Click here.


Related posts:

  1. Oh no! We missed the world’s largest solar powered yacht

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