That huge glowing sphere in the sky is both a good friend and an enemy to sailors. After a few days on board, those at the helm may curse or bless its ever presence. One thing is for sure: solar power can supply you with much-needed electricity. So how do you charge a smartphone, camera or GPS while travelling beneath the sun? We have a great tip for you..
Nowadays, there are fully solar-powered vessels that are absolutely independent of external electricity power. It is also possible to buy large flexible adhesive solar panels. But if you are not the actual owner of the boat, you wouldn't really want to invest in them. So how is it best to harness solar energy simply and practically? We’ve tried out one option for you.
Why use solar panels on boat?
There are several portable, foldable solar panels on the market that are no more than A4 size when folded up. They are affordable and easy to pack for a week-long charter cruise, when you don't want to spend too much time in the marinas hooked up to the electricity and water mains.
Today, there are also boats that are completely independent of external electricity sources
Compact when packed away, easy to operate and with enough power - all these things should be demanded from solar chargers today. In addition to this, if you're planning on taking it out to sea, then it should also be durable with some degree of water resistance.
A solar panel is most effective when positioned correctly
We tried out the Nomad 14 Plus from Goal Zero
With these factors in mind, we tried out the Nomad 14 Plus from Goal Zero. As it is easy to clean, provides ample power and is great value for money, it lends itself perfectly to a sailing trip away from the mains. The first advantage you will notice straight away is that everything you need is right there in the device itself - there’s no need for any other external devices such as batteries, controllers or indicators. All you need is a USB cable that you can connect directly to your "dead" phone.
Of course, direct charging requires sufficient sunlight. To aid you with this there are 4 blue LEDs to show you the intensity of the current sunlight and the performance of the panel. If a cloud passes overhead and the device being charged is disconnected, the panel will automatically reconnect it as soon as the lighting conditions improve again. As well as this, the panel performance is electronically optimized to best match the device being charged.
The panel gets great results when placed in a sunny place (here on the bimini top)
The energy for later
If you want to store the energy for later, you can connect a power bank. The manufacturer offers a range of them, the most suitable for this model being the powerpack Venture 30 or Venture 70 with a capacity of 7,800 mAh and 17,700 mAh respectively, which we also tried out.
These are smart power banks that adapt the charging parameters to the specific connected device. In addition, they have increased impact, dust and water resistance. You will also appreciate their rubberized body when handling them with wet hands.
Modern devices offer the ability to charge devices directly, store energy in a power bank, and daisy chain multiple panels for higher performance
In practice, we managed to fully charge the smaller power bank in 1 day with the panel laid out on the bimini top without setting any optimal angles to catch the sun. It took around 2.5 days to charge the larger one under the same conditions. On a single charge, the smaller power bank has enough power to completely recharge a conventional smartphone 2.5 times.
Six large loops combined with the included four snap hooks will give you an infinite range of panel placement options. The bimini top is an ideal location and possibly the sprayhood. The panel itself also has a separate stand combined with a mesh pocket for the necessary cables. The hinged stand is fixed magnetically and the whole thing is removable - and held back in place by the magnets (this, of course, requires attention when working near the compass).
Large flexible adhesive panels are also available on the market
Nomad 14 Plus Goal Zero
Panel dimensions: two 31 x 20 cm panels
Weight with stand: 862 g (635 g without)
Power: 14 W (18-22 V)
Output: USB (5 V, up to 2.4 A)
Did you know that among our offers you can also choose boats according to whether they are equipped with solar panels? You won't need your own solar panels on these boats. When searching for a boat, look under Comfort in filters and select Solar Panels.