How Efficient Are Marine Solar Panels? – BougeRV
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How Efficient Are Marine Solar Panels?

A boat rooftop with BougeRV’s CIGS thin-film solar panels

Renewable energy has made significant strides in various sectors, including the maritime world. One of the standout innovations here is marine solar panels. These solar panels harness sunlight to produce electricity, powering everything from electronics to essential systems on boats and ships. If you're thinking about adding solar panels to your boat, one of the first things you'll want to look at is their efficiency.

So, just how efficient are marine solar panels? In this blog, we're diving into the the efficiency of marine solar panels,  their benefits, limitations, and prospects.

Let's dive in!

The Basics of Marine Solar Panels

Marine solar panels work like regular solar panels, but they're built to tough it out in harsh marine conditions. Think of high humidity, saltwater splashes, and the constant rocking of the boat. Marine solar panels are made from corrosion-resistant materials and are way more durable than standard solar panels, making them perfect for sea life.

Types of Marine Solar Panels

There are three primary types of solar panels for marine use as follows:

1. Monocrystalline Solar Panels: These are made from single-crystal silicon and are known for their high efficiency and long lifespan. They are generally more expensive than Polycrystalline solar panels but offer better performance.
    Displaying three BougeR’s rigid Monocrystalline solar panels from marine use

    2. Thin-Film Solar Panels: These are made by depositing one or more layers of photovoltaic material onto a substrate. Thin-film panels are super flexible and lightweight, making them perfect for irregular surfaces like cabin roofs, bimini tops, and even curved hull sections. However, they are generally less efficient than their crystalline counterparts.

      A woman installing BougeRV’s flexible CIGS thin-film solar panels on her boat

      3. Polycrystalline Solar Panels: Made from multiple silicon crystals, these solar panels are less efficient than Monocrystalline solar panels but are more affordable. They are a popular choice to save some bucks without sacrificing too much performance.

      Efficiency Metrics for Marine Solar Panels

      The efficiency of a solar panel is measured by its ability to convert sunlight into usable electricity. This is expressed as a percentage. For example, an efficiency rating of 20% means that 20% of the sunlight hitting the solar panel is converted into electrical power.

      As mentioned earlier, the Monocrystalline panels tend to be the most efficient, followed by Polycrystalline, with thin-film panels like CIGS (Copper Indium Gallium Selenide) being less efficient but offering greater flexibility and lighter weight. 

      To make it more clear, we've put together a simple chart showing the general efficiency ranges for each type of marine solar panel:

      Marine Solar Panels

      General Efficiency Range (%)

      How Efficieny Are Marine Solar Panels at BougeRV?

      Monocrystalline Soal Panels

      15-22%

      Up to 25%

      Polycrystalline Soal Panels

      13-16%     

      BougeRV mainly sells Monocrystalline and CIGS thin-film solar panels

      CIGS Thin-Film Solar Panels

      10-12%

      17%

      Factors Affecting Efficiency

      1. Material Quality

      High-quality materials generally lead to higher efficiency. Monocrystalline solar panels, for instance, offer efficiencies between 15% and 22%, while polycrystalline panels range from 13% to 16%. Thin-film solar panels usually have efficiencies between 10% and 12%.

      2. Environmental Conditions

      Marine environments present unique challenges that can affect efficiency. Saltwater can corrode electrical components, and high humidity levels can damage solar panels over time. Additionally, the rocking motion of boats and ships can impact the angle at which sunlight hits the solar panels, thereby affecting their efficiency.

      3. Installation and Angle

      Proper installation is crucial for maximizing efficiency. Solar panels should be installed at an angle that optimizes sun exposure. Automatic tracking systems that adjust the sola panel's angle throughout the day can enhance efficiency but are often costly and complex to install.

      4. Shading and Dirt Accumulation

      Shading from sails, masts, or other onboard structures can significantly reduce the efficiency of marine solar panels. Similarly, dirt and bird droppings can obstruct sunlight, thereby reducing the solar panel's output. Regular cleaning and maintenance are essential to maintain optimal efficiency. 

      If you're thinking about adding solar panels to your boat, consider BougeRV’s CIGS thin-film panels—they deliver stable output even when it’s shady or during low-light conditions.

      Benefits of Marine Solar Panels