Solar Panel Expansion: Part One – Mounting the panels on the side of the boat

My inital ‘oh god I need something QUICK’ rush job of sticking two 100 watt panels onto the front of the boat had done a good job, lasting all the way around the island but had suffered from me trampling all over, dropping spinnaker poles on them, being sick on them etc and were giving approximately 70% of the power they used to, PLUS they were in a pretty terrible location. So I decided to add more panels. MORE SOLAR PANELS MOER POWER.

As I really dislike the look of solar arches (COME @ ME) and still hadn’t got round to building a hard dodger I had to find another way to mount panels and decided on mounting them on the side. They would fold up to catch max sun, and fold down for travel/docking. Plus, they would need to be able to be removed quickly in case of a storm.

The panels

After a brief flirtation with the flexible panels that I’d used before, I went with rigid panels from Renogy. I got 2 100 watt panels and 2 50 watt panels. A lot of people seem to use these panels, and you can get a good price from amazon. 150 watts on each side would fit nicely in between two stanchions. I decided to mount them a bit forward of the cockpit as the boarding ladder would be going on the side by the cockpit (as the original boarding ladder at the stern would be removed to make room for the windvane)

Making the frame

The first thing to do was to increase the strength of the thing they would be fastened to – I didn’t fancy just clipping the panels to the lifelines. After thinking about it for a while, I got some T Pieces and then ordered some stainless steel 1″ tubing. I put a T piece on each stanchion at each side of the frame with the tube between them. I then threaded the lifeline back through the middle of the tube and T piece – meaning I didn’t have to change the length of my lifelines. The additional tension from the lifeline helped keep the whole thing rigid as well.

Mounting the Panels

To mount the actual panels, I bought 6 lengths of thick aluminium bar. I then got 3 packets of clamps from Seadog and carefully made a template of the hole pattern and drilled it into each of the 6 bars. Doing one first and using it as a template really helped but it was still a long and boring job.

Once that was done, I then drilled the mounting holes at each end to attach the bar to the panels and then screwed on the clamps

The clamps are very study but have kind of a stupid way to attach them and I ended up have to use additional nuts after I stripped a few of the connectors. Oh well.

Having a drill press REALLY helped (in probably it’s last hurrah) but gawd it all made a lot of mess. METAL IN EVERYTHING

Attaching the panels

Once that was done, it was just a case of attaching the panels to the rail! Feels pretty study, though I’ll add an extra screw to each end to make sure the bar is firmly attached to the panels.

Next up – plugging in the damn things.

And finally – A TRIPLE THANK YOU to Mike for donating! Very, very much appreciated!!!



  1. Sounds like you have been having fun Matt!, I am making notes, as what you are finding wrong i will hopefully correct when its my turn. keep the updates coming as I do look forward to them so much. Mike

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