Selecting Controller for first installation on a commercial boat...

This is my first solar installation, so I have had to do a lot of research on the Internet...

I just bought several 205 and 210 Watts Evergreen grade B panels on Ebay in the $300.00 range and plan to install one 205 Watts panel on a commercial fishing boat in lieu of the gasoline stand-by generator usually carried on these boats to recharge engine starting batteries when they have been carelessly depleted...

The boat operates in the tropics South of 20 degrees South latitude and the heat will likely drop output voltage in the 15 Volts range, so the most I expect would be about 13 Amps output at noon local time charging into a bank of four 8D batteries for a total of some 900 Amps/hour...

In addition, the engine runs a 160 Amps alternator charging at the same time as the solar panel and I wonder if I need to somehow isolate this charging current from that coming off the charge controller, even though I understand that no diode is normally required between the controller and batteries...

At first, I thought that no controller would be needed because of the large discrepancy between the 13 Amps charging current and the 900 Amp/hour battery capacity. Then, I realized that a well designed controller with a 4 stages charger and a display would be very useful for battery management, besides having the satisfaction of watching "free current" flowing into the battery and the ability to rig an automatic security deck light when the boat is tied up to the dock with all its valuable electronics...

A review of the MPPT controllers revealed none at an affordable price with the required display with the added risk of RF interference with the VHF and SSB radios and 1kW fishfinder's transducer. Besides, there is probably little gain to be obtained from a single panel in the tropical heat...

I also looked at the enticing BZ products flush mount 25 Amp controller, but found about the negative comments here and elsewhere in time. A quality 15 Amp controller, like the German built Steca PR1515 would be nice to have, as it can be currently be bought at a reasonable $117.00, excluding the temperature probe cable: I imagine this is a necessary addition to allow the 4 stages regulation to operate properly. In a similar vein, but probably of a lesser quality is the Chinese built 20 Amp EPIP 20, which appears to be the same unit as the 20 Amp HQRP, which sell in the $75.00 to $90.00 range.

On the other hand, a 25 to 30 Amps controller would allow to add another 205 Watts panel, in case it's needed. A good looking quality contender in the Steca class is the 30 Amps Samlex SCC-30AB for about $125.00: however, the temperature probe is extra and it mounts flush, which will likely create some difficulty to install as a cut-out is required.

Much cheaper and probably of a lesser quality is the Chinese built Wellsee line of controllers that has many features including a thermoscope cable: a 30 Amps unit, the WS-C2430, can be bought for about $45.00 and shipped to the Caribbean for another $50.00 by DHL. However, I'm not yet sure that it has a 4 stages charger, which is a definite requirement...

I hope that this review will save time to someone starting from scratch and would like to hear the views of the experienced members of the Forum concerning the Wellsee unit and whether it's important to have a temperature probe to the battery for effective 4 stages regulation...

Comments

  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Selecting Controller for first installation on a commercial boat...

    Have you considered the possibility that this may be a waste of time, effort, and money?
    Nevermind the fact that so far there's no evidence that BZ controllers have improved from "complete junk" status.

    Let's look at your stated intent: to recharge the starting batteries if someone lets things go and they're dead. These batteries are 4 8D's - in parallel? Commercial fishing boats with diesel engines may have 24 Volt electrical system, so two parallel banks of two in series might be the case. 900 Amp hours is a lot.

    You have a 160 Amp alternator. Basically you want to replace that with solar power. Even at 12 Volts, that's a lot more Wattage than one 205W panel will produce. About ten times as much. In rough estimation you'd need four of these panels to get any sort of viable recharge from them.

    I don't mean to sound like a killjoy and I may have miscalculated slightly but I really don't think one 205 Watt panel will do much for a 900 Amp hour battery bank.
  • dmillerdmiller Solar Expert Posts: 68 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Selecting Controller for first installation on a commercial boat...

    While I don't entirely agree with Marc's logic, the problem as I see it is solar for emergency backup. The guys run down the batteries at 8 p.m. What time can the engine be charged and cranked? Late morning the following day? That's not a plan and perhaps not even safe.
    Better to spend the money protecting a starting battery with a charging relay. The higher-amp Blue Sea model is nice. Solar on a diesel boat would be best to keep the batteries charged when in port but not on shore power.
    With solar the MPPT is questionable on a vehicle anyway. See if a non-mppt Morningstar woud work. The CC may just shut down when the engine runs. If there's minimal engine off time during the middle eight hours of the day there may not be much point to solar.
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Selecting Controller for first installation on a commercial boat...

    dmiller makes a very good point: solar doesn't work at night. If the batteries are dead and there is no sun, there's also no charging. It could be a long wait.

    Definitely isolate the starting batteries from any on-board system batteries.
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Selecting Controller for first installation on a commercial boat...

    Thanks for the comments, so far...

    The existing 2kW gasoline generator for emergency starting is not really at issue here and it may well stay on the boat for that purpose...

    I just wanted to describe the process of elimination I went through to find a suitable budget priced controller for this particular purpose and perhaps save someone a lot of time surfing the Internet to see what's available and at what price...

    Btw, I can PM links of any product I have mentioned here to those interested...

    I have not mentioned other well known and more expensive brands either, as this is a commercial boat on a budget, like many prospective buyers of controllers...

    The advantages of this solar panel and controller are the following:

    - It will make batteries state of charge monitoring - currently non-existent - very easy, which should prevent careless discharge of the starting batteries in the first place...

    - It should provide some "free" 80 Amp/hour per day to help feed the 3 power hungry deep drop lines...

    - It will keep the batteries charged at the dock without the complication and cost of a shore power installation...

    - The 4 stages charging system should keep the batteries healthy and increase their service life...

    - It will allow rigging an automatic security LED powered flood deck light when the boat is tied up to the dock with all its valuable electronics...

    To come back to my earlier questions: does anyone know anything about the WS-C2430 Wellsee 30 Amp controller and whether it's important to have a temperature probe to the battery for effective 4 stages regulation?...
  • dmillerdmiller Solar Expert Posts: 68 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Selecting Controller for first installation on a commercial boat...

    With a 200 watt panel to a big bank there's probably not a need for a temp probe. Certainly a temp sensor from the alternators regulator would be more protective than the lower powered solar charge controller. But if there's an existing sensor and the batteries are in a potentially very hot place (engine room) then maybe.
    Another way to put it is a probe might be beneficial if the batteries were hot enough to to risk damage from any charge. But that's not likely the case.
    3 or 4 stage doesn't matter as much in your situation as current is limited by relatively small panel to battery capacity.
    A search shows no hits here on wellsee. Saving a few dollars on an offbrand controller can be expensive.
    Your use of solar sounds good. As long as the led deck light doesn't run down the batteries too far solar will probably lengthen battery life and cost little or nothing over time. The trick in mobile apps is avoiding shade as much as possible, including antennas.
    I'm assuming your nominal panel voltage matches your battery bank voltage. I believe all the lower price CC require that symmetry, although I'm not certain. Multiple panels should be wired in parallel in a mobile app. (You don't want to use two 12v panels in series to charge a 24v battery bank).
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Selecting Controller for first installation on a commercial boat...

    Dmiller, thanks for your advice...

    Yes, there are too many advantages to the proposed system for this vessel not to do it, particularly on this low budget installation that will come under $400.00 for the 205 Watts Evergreen panel and the Steca PR3030 - excluding freight...

    I finally decided to go for the 30 Amp Steca, which will allow me to add one more 205 Watts panel, should the need arise...

    The Steca may well be designed in Germany, but it can be found at a very reasonable price from Chinese suppliers and it seems to be of good quality and very user-friendly, according to the user's manual...

    I have no brackets to install the approx. 6' x 3' Evergreen panel and plan to use 1" diameter Schedule 40 PVC stand-off pipes 2" long - 4 to the long side and 2 to the short one - mounted on thick rubber pads to prevent transmitting any engine vibrations to the panel and bolted through the cockpit hard top...
  • mike95490mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 9,359 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Selecting Controller for first installation on a commercial boat...

    1) you must protect the starting battery with a relay (Blue Seas as mentioned earlier) There never should be any other loads on the starting battery. (or the genset battery either)

    2) 200W of solar into the large battery bank is a joke, you might see a result on sunday afternoon, after the boat has sat idle all weekend. 2 panels, 400w may begin to show some usefullness.
    Powerfab top of pole PV mount | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
    || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
    || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

    solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
    gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister ,

  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,006 admin
    Re: Selecting Controller for first installation on a commercial boat...

    A single 200 watt panel operated for 1 day is about the equivalent charging capacity of a 1-2 amp trickle charger operated from 120 VAC for 1 day--Not very useful to recharge a XXX AH capacity battery bank.
    • 200 watts * 0.77 derating * 1/29 volts charging = 5.3 amps
    Normally, you will get around 4 hours of sun (marine layer will kill solar panel output, as well as any lines/rigging created shadows):
    • 5.3 amps * 4 hours = 21.2 AH per "average" sunny day
    • 1 amp trickle charger * 24 hour charge day = 24 AH per 24 hour day
    For a 900 AH battery bank, even a 10 Amp charger would only be good for a maintenance charge--not to recover a dead battery.

    That is around 1% rate of charge--it would take a 10 amp * 24 hour charger to "fully charge" a 900 AH battery bank over 90 hours (3.75 days).

    A PV system that large would need >2,000 watts of solar panels for a similar performance.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Selecting Controller for first installation on a commercial boat...

    As I have already mentioned, I have made provision for a second 205 Watts panel - should the need arise - by buying 2 x 30 Amps controller and 4 panels in total...

    Once installed, I'll know exactly the daily input from the panel in the tropical sun and I expect it to be substantially more than 21.2 AH per day at 19 degrees South: I'll keep the thread posted as to the average output figure...

    Btw, the 2 Steca PR3030 bought from a Chinese supplier cost me less than $30.00 a piece, plus freight...

    BB. wrote: »
    A single 200 watt panel operated for 1 day is about the equivalent charging capacity of a 1-2 amp trickle charger operated from 120 VAC for 1 day--Not very useful to recharge a XXX AH capacity battery bank.
    • 200 watts * 0.77 derating * 1/29 volts charging = 5.3 amps
    Normally, you will get around 4 hours of sun (marine layer will kill solar panel output, as well as any lines/rigging created shadows):
    • 5.3 amps * 4 hours = 21.2 AH per "average" sunny day
    • 1 amp trickle charger * 24 hour charge day = 24 AH per 24 hour day
    For a 900 AH battery bank, even a 10 Amp charger would only be good for a maintenance charge--not to recover a dead battery.

    That is around 1% rate of charge--it would take a 10 amp * 24 hour charger to "fully charge" a 900 AH battery bank over 90 hours (3.75 days).

    A PV system that large would need >2,000 watts of solar panels for a similar performance.

    -Bill
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,006 admin
    Re: Selecting Controller for first installation on a commercial boat...

    Sounds like a very good deal!

    The charge controller is probably not even needed for that small amount of solar panels (just a blocking diode)--but the controller will prevent any chance of overcharging from solar...

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
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