There are many ways to get your solar wires into the boat but few are as elegant and reliable as the ScanStrut watertight deck glands. I prefer the robust stainless versions but they also make them in a plastic body version as well. This one is a ScanStrut DS30-S.
Here's a photo of the panel installed onto the bimini. The bimini will also get a Velcro lapel to cover the panel feed wire. We wanted to get the panel installed and the wire run before laying out the wires lapel.
On top of the lapel we will be adding a "Strapless bimini Kit" making the bimini nice and taught. In this pic the straps are not even installed. It was purposely take this way to show just how light this panel really is. There is no tension on the forward bow at all other than gravity.
While no sailboat has the perfect spot for a solar panel, to 100% eliminate shading, on this boat the bimini top was still the best bet.
The Solbian panels are a tremendous option for those needing light weight, high output per sq foot and easy stowage. In a price per watt category they are not winners, however they can save installation costs so all these factors need to be weighed.
Solbian vs. Knock-Offs
Solbian vs. the Knock-Offs:
FACT: None of these semi-flexible panels are going to outlast a well made aluminum framed glass panel. This is just a reality. You are paying a premium for the light weight, watts per square inch and the laminate technology.
Good quality semi-flexible panels can however yield a decent service life. The key here is "good quality". Solbian invented this technology and the Chinese manufacturers have ignored the patents and essentially stolen the technology. What else is new? Solbian is simply too small to fight them all.
The cheaper Chinese semi-flexible panels however have proven, rather widely, to be hit or miss under performers and even dangerous, sometimes developing hot spots, due to micro-cracking of the low grade cells used in them.
I've yet to find a semi-flexible panel that I can stand behind other than Solbian or Gioco. If I find one, you can bet I will add it to the list here, and likely sell them myself, but most of them are using low grade cells, poor junction boxes, sub par construction techniques, knock-off cell interconnects and poor quality films/laminates.
The Sunpower cells, just the solar cells alone, that are used in Solbian panels, far exceed the retail cost of most of the Chinese "Sunpower" complete assembled panels. When you see a Chinese knock-off company stating "A Grade Sunpower Cells" this is a sure sign of pure unadulterated BS. I call it dishonest marketing or snake-oil. A google search as of two minutes ago yielded multiple pages of hits on the words "semi-flexible A Grade and Sunpower", all from Chinese knock-off suppliers. Just remember that "A Grade" Sunpower cells don't exist.....
As of the May 2015 pricing sheet Sunpower had 10 grades of solar cells, none of them were or are labeled or sold as "A Grade". The cells many knock-off companies are using were running $1.33 each (1500 cell quantity column). The cells Solbian uses in the SP panels were running $12.20 (1500 cell quantity column) for each cell.
Even among the "knock-offs" we have the regular dishonest sleaze balls and the f*cking dirt-bags. The f'ing dirt-bags are using Sunpower cells sold for as little as 65¢ (1500 cell quantity column) each. But hey they can still claim they are "Sunpower Cells"...... Caveat emptor!!!
Sunpower also requires the use of their proprietary cell to cell interconnect straps something most knock-off makers are simply not using.
In short there is a definite difference between "looks alike" and "performs alike". The knock-off makers are good at "looks alike" but often not performs alike. I have physically tested far too many knock-off panels that don't meet spec right out of the box. Once customer bought six 100W knock-offs and none of them had the same output and none of them could meet short circuit or OCV spec. For this sort of testing I have a known good "control" panel I can compare against for the conditions. The control panel met its spec during this testing, none of the six knock-offs could.. The eBay seller refused to take them back, go figure.
125W of Invisible Solar
Once again the bimini has not yet been tensioned to illustrate just how light weight these panels really are.
Another benefit for this installation is the minimal disruption to the vessels aesthetics. The owner of this beautiful custom built Able 42 preferred not to add any more visible "junk on the trunk" so to speak. The Solbian CP-125 sewn to the bimini is all but invisible power not further degrading the vessels lines at anchor...
Unless you've gone to great lengths to mount & secure rigid aluminum frame solar panels they will likely need to come off and get stowed below in rough weather while at sea.
One huge benefit of the Solbian panel, over a rigid panel, is that it stows neatly underneath a berth mattress. It stows so flat you won't even know it is under there and does not impact sleeping on it.
With a rigid aluminum frame panel the last thing you want are the sharp edges gouging up your woodwork or a 40 pound panel flying around the cabin in rough seas. This is not an issue with a lightweight Solbian panel.
Where's The Panel?
The 125W Solbian panel is under this berth mattress hidden, out of sight and protected from gouging up woodwork.. I laid down in the aft cabin and was unable to tell it was even there. This is one great unadvertised benefit of the Solbian panels.
Purchasing Solbian Solar Panels:
After numerous requests from readers asking to buy these panels from me I have finally become a Solbian & Genasun dealer. If you are interested in purchasing a Solbian Solar panel or Genasun MPPT controller please click the link below for pricing:
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