Free Energy electric energy from the wind and sun to power your boat’s systems and charge batteries. Free is perhaps a slightly misleading title, the electrical energy from solar panels and wind generators only becomes free after an initial investment in the equipment. However, after that initial investment, the word “free” really begins to take on a huge significance.
The cost and of both solar and wind generators has dropped considerably
in the last decade while their efficiency has improved.
But which is the best system for you, a Wind Generator or Solar Panels
or should you invest in both?
free energy source is
better, Wind Power or Solar Panels?
Well both types have advantages and disadvantages.
And apart from anything else, wind generators need plenty of wind and
solar panels need lots of sun.
Perhaps the optimum answer is to have both but so much depends on your
specific situation and needs.
But whichever free energy source you chose, it will free you from both
the cost of and the pollution caused by running your engine to charge
It frees your engine from the wear and
etc. that running an engine just to charge batteries can cause.
Solar energy is also noiseless and many of the newer types of wind
generator are virtually noise free.
There is also the freedom from worrying about flat batteries in an
Just a few hours charging can even give enough charge to start the
For those with no onboard charging, it frees you from having to haul
that heavy battery ashore for charging.
And you can boat totally independent of shore power or fuel.
Even when you are able to generate your own
free energy using either
solar, wind power or both, reducing the drain on the battery bank is
easier than keeping them topped up.
Huge savings can be made in energy needs by a careful choice of the
devices to be powered,
Improving the efficiency of lighting by fitting LED bulbs can
make substantial reductions to the lighting load, especially LED
navigation lights that often run for long periods on a night passage.
An LED can run all night on the same amount of energy that a standard
halogen bulb would use in one hour.
Strong, dependable batteries are the foundation of any boat electrical
And a good monitoring device will allow you to see exactly what's
happening in your system at any given time.
For twin battery banks an automatic two-way split charge relay is
recommend to allow the battery banks to charge as one but discharge
Improvements in power efficiency can lead to the need for a smaller
battery bank that will need smaller solar panels and smaller wind
turbines to keep it charged.
“I grew to judge every purchase by how many bronze screws I could buy for the boat if I didn't spend on this or made do without that.” (Lin Pardey)
How much of that free energy you need will
clearly depend on how you
use your boat.
A liveaboard will want a constant supply of free energy on a daily
And the liveaboard will probably want a both wind and solar to capture
the best of both systems.
However, the owner who only uses his boat at weekends could make do
with a relatively small solar panel that can take all week, if
necessary, to recharge the batteries.
Quite often finding a suitable position for the generator, of either
type, on a boat is the biggest problem.
There are portable solar generators that combine solar panels and
controllers in a single package.
These days there are numerous gadgets such as flashlights, radios,
vents and fans that have their own built-in solar panels.
And there are also the small portable solar chargers for phones etc.
Free Energy Comparisons
including the charge controller and mounting hardware, are generally
less expensive than a wind generator.
are more expensive.
And they require a substantial mounting framework that can add to the
require little maintenance and can last for many years.
Many panels are almost unbreakable. Wind generators
are mechanical devices so a certain amount of maintenance is required.
side to solar panels is the 'effective' charging time, space required,
and problems with shadows on a sailboat.
While a solar panel can generate electricity during the daytime when
the wind is not blowing, a wind turbine can generate electricity all
night too, as long as there is a breeze.
tend to be more location sensitive than solar panels.
They need to be situated in an area of above average wind in order to
generate reasonable amounts of power.
They also require a smooth airflow, turbulent air will have the turbine
constantly changing direction, chasing the wind rather than extracting
power from it.
Whereas most people can implement a small solar array in most locations
and achieve success, the same cannot be said about turbines.
are completely safe.
There is a
potential safety factor concerning the danger from those rotating
blades if they are properly maintained.
generators can be noisy.
Most panels can stay out in practically any weather. Some wind
generators are self-regulating in high winds.
Others require shutting down manually and the blades tying off.