Having a reliable source of power for boats and ships is important for any port. Big batteries often need recharging, and this can only be done with a reliable constant power supply feeding into a boat, often from a port. Therefore, keeping a power supply on your port should be a priority and there are various options to choose from. On-grid power systems can be expensive to maintain – if they go down, expect a long wait causing major inconvenience for on-grid power systems to be repaired. However, off-grid power systems can provide a much more reliable source of power, especially to those in remote locations. Further to this, our SmartPhase system is a great example of an offshore power supply, supplying power in a reliable and minimal maintenance way.
There are other power supplies you may wish to consider, which we’ll take a look at in the following article.
Marine power solar systems are a great way to collect power – it is renewable and an easy way to produce energy. When making use of a solar panel, there must be no shade covering the equipment, as this will significantly decrease the amount of power that is collected by the system.
Most single panels weigh around 8kg each, which must be applied onto arches that also add weight. The weight should be taken into consideration as it could decrease the boat performance.
To figure out roughly how much power can be generated from a solar panel simply times the value of the solar panel by about 6 hours of daylight. For example, with a panel of 150W, you can expect about 900 Watt-hours per day. This can change depending on your geographical location.
Finally, a controller is used to regulate the power from the panel to the battery. An MPPT controller (Maximum Power Point Controller) is a relatively expensive controller; however, it ensures maximum gain from solar panels by increasing the efficiency of the panels and how much of it is converted into usable energy.
Wind turbines are another efficient renewable energy source that can be used for marine power systems. The amount of power and output that can be gained from a wind turbine depends on two factors: the speed of the wind and the size of the wind turbine. Smaller boats with smaller battery banks are better suited to smaller wind turbines. The higher the energy usage of the boat, the better the turbine should be.
A controller also helps by regulating the wind turbine, and once your battery is fully charged, the controller will slow down the wind turbine to prevent a battery from overcharging and damaging it.
A wind turbine is usually fitted to the back of a boat; the higher up this is, the more power you will collect. This is due to increased wind speeds at higher altitudes.
A hydro generator is also a renewable source of energy for batteries. It is essentially a device fitted under your boat with a propeller spinning in motion with the vessel. It’s this motion that generates power and sends it to the battery. This is a very efficient and easy way of gaining power; however, it is often costly. This is suited to those who need to generate power on longer journeys and cannot make use of either solar panels or a wind turbine.
A prevalent method of gaining power on boats is to make use of an engine alternator. This works simply by having the engine on, which then alternates power and transfers energy to the battery. However, these do not tend to run at full capacity and often, the fuller the batteries get, the less the power goes in. Usually, this doesn’t suffice for most batteries and electric use abroad.
Modern engines can deal with alternators well. However, older engines, perhaps ten years or older, may get damaged over the long term.
Diesel generators are developing and continue to be a method for mariners around the world to supply power. This is an on-board generator, which uses fuel (diesel) and burns it inside the engine to turn a cylinder which powers a piston. This piston then creates movement, creating electricity.
Using a diesel generator is not renewable and therefore not the most popular choice; however, it has the potential to be very useful.
Perhaps the biggest reason for mariners not to use a diesel generator is due to the weight of it, and the risk of carrying flammable liquid in their boats.