Solar Panel Narrowboat Conversion – Becoming More Popular

     Solar Panel Narrowboat technology makes sense in the face of today’s energy demands. Electric boating is getting its legs again and will continue to do so with the price of diesel continuing to increase with no end in sight. Electric makes sense in today’s global economic, environmental and political challenges that we are facing.

Solar Power Costs Less Than Diesel Power
     Propulsion by solar energy is more practical now than ever for narrowboats. Higher performance solar panels, chargers, batteries, motor controllers and motors are more affordable than ever. The technology has come a long way over the past few decades. Other costs associated with diesel engines are associated with keeping the engine running, oil changes, extra hardware and other expenses. The solar panels themselves offer very low maintenance and running costs.

Solar Boats Are Quiet And Can Be Zero Emissions
     One of the nice things about using electric power is the quietness of the electric motors. Solar electric boats are great for travelling and sightseeing in unspoiled natural preserves. Another plus to solar powered boating is that it reduces the carbon footprint, or environment damage of the boat when compared to the damage from the diesel engine. Diesel engines are loud and give off that unpleasant diesel smell. I know for myself that being on a boat with diesel fumes makes me very nauseous. Electric boats have no emissions.

Narrowboats Are Great For Solar Conversion Kits
     Narrowboats – 7 foot wide barge like boats – are a great fit for electric propulsion due to highly efficient hull design and low canal speed limits found in the UK and other parts of Europe. There are nearly 30,000 narrowboats in use today as homes in the just the UK alone. A good propulsion speed for a narrowboat is upwards of 4 miles per hour. The slower the speed on electric the farther a boat can go. The name of the game for narrowboaters has never been the speed anyway. It is all about the boating experience and not how fast that you get there.
     Most solar boats use one or two of batteries for cabin electric needs and not just for cruising. The range will be reduced the more that demands for cabin electrical needs are pushed. Light use such as lights or radio may only reduce the range of the narrowboat by a few hundred yards. If you are going to use your washer and dryer, this may use up a few miles of cruising ability. Some boat owners set up a separate solar hot water system to help from draining the main battery.

Solar Narrowboats – Maintenance Free – Not Quite
     Solar Paneled narrowboats are not completely maintenance free or completely free from having some negative environmental impact. Most narrowboats use lead acid traction batteries which are very efficient and currently are the best value on the market. The lithium batteries still are not at a point of being efficient and economical for the mass population. In time they should replace the lead acid battery. For now the lead acid will be fine. The lead acid battery will need to be topped off with water from time to time. The battery will make up less than 10% of the overall weight of the boat.
     To get juice to these batteries you have two options. The first is to hook up a bicycle on a stand to the battery and use pedal power to juice. I’m not into biking 23 hours a day, so my choice is for the solar panels. The second option is more friendly and more my style; solar powered.
     With the solar options you should cover at a minimum half the roof of your narrowboat. The electricity that is generated from the photo voltaic solar panels can power the boat an average of 4 hours at their peak rated power per day. One thousand watts of solar panels will give you an average of 4kwh of electricity per day or about 8 miles at 2 mph. It can take up to 6 days to fully charge the battery from being drained. This will depend on where you are at on the planet. The more sun you get the less time it will take.
     The good news for the planet is better options for our energy needs are becoming available. All of our energy needs may not be settled in a day but taking one step at a time is a positive start to solving our global energy needs.