Adding Solar Panels

(Technical data to be written by Eric later) We’ve long believed that solar panels are a good idea for narrowboats. But the complexity of adding them to an all electric boat the way that Eric wanted seemed a step too far for our builder. For the sake our our sanity we didn’t peruse it initially, but during our week at Beeston things fell into place for us to rectify this compromise.

Eric had been researching panels on and off for several months. And the panels that fitted our bill came from Photonic Universe, a company in Orpington, Kent. We had a family event to attend in Sussex, so hired a car large enough to take advantage of close proximity and transport 4 panels back to Firecrest.

You’d think it was Christmas morning when Eric unpacked the boxes on our bed.

Inspecting the goods

My concern was, “where the heck are we going to store these until they are fitted” but Eric’s enthusiasm was such, that it wasn’t much of an issue. We were hoping for cool overcast dry weather and that’s what we got the very next day, so it was out onto the bank to unpack properly

Unpacking on the bank

First we needed to check which way we were going to position the panels. Bearing in mind that retro fitting panels means working around pancake vents, centre ropes and dog boxes, we had a lot to consider. Our choices were horizontal across the width of Firecrest or lengthwise, so we played around also taking into consideration the need to wire them into the boats electrics.

Looking at different options

We opted for length ways down the boat, 2 in front and 2 behind the pancakes, rather than width ways across the boat.

Decision made, pairs of panels lengthwise

First job though, was to wash the roof thoroughly. We don’t call him Flash Gordon for nothing.

Washing the roof

Then Eric used masking tape to mark out the chosen positions, and to protect the roof from any excess glue squelching out. He used CT1 glue as its both waterproof and flexible as well as being virtually impossible to unstick.

Glue on the panels

We worked as a team lifting each panel into place.

The point of no return, lowering the panel into place

We smoothed the panels down and held them in place with our ballast weights whilst the glue cured.

Smoothing and weighting the panels in place

Stopping for a cuppa after each one, and then completing second pair the next day.

Three down one to go

After a week at Beeston we were itching to move on, so we cruised the 5 miles along the Beeston Cut onto the River Trent outside the County Hall. Here Eric was able to add a bead of glue to mastic the edges of the panels.

Applying mastic

All four panels are now safely in position, awaiting the far more complex stage of the project. Wiring in and connecting them to our existing system.

Looking towards Trent Bridge

And just before anyone comments on the ropes across the panels in our header photo, we know this will reduce our output, generally speaking we will only have one centre rope and it fits between the panels. We have a secondary extra long rope available for deep river locks.