Thursday, September 25, 2014


BIANKA was doing well energywise with my homemade solar bimini that contained just two 75 watt Siemens 12 volt solar panels and two 60 watt 48 volt Kanaka panels. But this year I added a second Engel refrigerator/freezer and the 150 watts of 12 volt solar available was having a hard time making it through the night without the Morningstar Solar Controller having flashing red lights appear on it's charge panel in the wee hours threatening to cut off power to the ENGEL coolers. Cleary a little more power would help. Yeah, I could fire up the Honda in the evening to charge things up a little more. But, that would be a little fuelish and something I try to limit doing.  So an additional solar panel seemed like the best solution and something that I was thinking of adding anyway. As I looked at the possible choices of Solar Panels  for installing on BIANKA. I came across the Renogy® 100W Monocrystalline Bendable Solar Panel. This panel looked like it would solve a lot of issues I had about adding a new solar panel to the boat. Namely the weight and where to mount another panel. Since the Renogy panel only weighs four pounds it's light enough to move around. Since it can also bend a little I could easily move it and lay it on the deck in a location to receive the highest energy from the sun. It also claimed a 20% efficiency rating.  It sounded too good to be true but, I bought one to check it out. First take a look at whats in the box:

After unboxing the panel a small sticker on the plastic membrane says to remove it:

The big junction box that was the norm on early solar panels has been replaced by a thin raised piece of plastic with two wires coming out of the ends with MC4 connectors on the ends:

The panel has six small brass grommets situated around the panel so you can secure it or hang it depending on your mounting needs:

The holes are a little small but, I was able tie a bowline through them using some 500 lb paracord:

This will make it easier to secure the panel as I move it around the boat or hang it to use as an occasional solar shade.  The photo below shows the comparison in size of the 100 watt bendable Renogy panel next  to one of the 75 watt Siemens panel on the right:

 The Renogy panel also weighs only about four pounds compared the the Siemens sixteen. This makes it ideal for being able to move around the boat to get maximum exposure on the panel. That's not easily done with the rigid heavy panels like the Siemens and others. Here is an example of moving the panel off of BIANKA'S solar bimini and laying it on the deck for better exposure to the sun:

With a little adjustment of the angle I was able to get some decent amperage out of the panel without too much effort:

5.15 amps is pretty good considering the optimum operating current according to Renogy is 5.70 amps.

NOTE: The panel comes with MC4 waterproof connectors on it's output wire but, you will have to purchase two more MC4 mating connectors and wire them to hook it into your system.

So far I am very impressed with the Renogy panel it bends nicely to the curve of the deck and seems rugged enough to move around without breaking. You might be able to step on it as long as it was fully supported underneath but, I really would not recommend it. It is smaller than the 12 volt 75 watt Siemens panels I installed  back in 2002. This shows the advances that have come along in solar panel technology over past twelve years.  Whether or not the Renogy panel will hold up as well as the Siemens panels is yet to be seen. But, so far I'm very pleased with the purchase and it's operation.


StarPathImages said...

Looking at buying one of these myself. Was there an update to this post or can you tell me how you like it so far after a bit of use? Any problems with it or modifications perhaps?

Capt. Mike said...

Panel is still working well in the second season. I'm actually thinking about buying three more to use as part of a 48 volt array. I especially like how light it is and I'm able to easily move it around the boat to get the best solar energy.