Windpower vs Solar - Charging your batteries
Harnessing the power of the sun and wind to keep your batteries charged is an ideal solution for boats that either don't have access to charging in their home berth or are sailing away from charging facilities for extended periods of time. Technology in this area has improved dramatically, and as we move towards boats that have more power-hungry creature comforts, we thought we'd discuss a few types of charging/storage systems, and highlight a few new products that really stand out...
Windpower vs Solar. We get asked a lot whether customers should choose wind or solar charging. Unfortunately, there is no 100% correct answer to this, but both have pros and cons, and the area in which you sail can make one more preferable to the other. Here's a few things to consider with each type..
Unlike solar, wind is not normally limited by season or lattitude. While it may not be blowing all the time, by definition it is normally in areas in which we sail. If the wind dies for a few days, and we are forced to motor instead, the slack is normally taken up by the engine alternator.
Size: for a given amount of space onboard, a wind charger is often more efficient. Solar panels by their nature are large and flat, so can take up more room.
Moving parts: Wind turbines have motors and bearings that spend a large proportion of their lives moving. While this is accounted for in the design, it is a potential point of failure
Noise: Some wind turbines can create noise as they operate, restricting areas in which they can be used. One exception to this is the GIGA turbine below, which is near silent.
Blades: Wind turbines can spin very fast, and if the blades aren't contained within a housing, or fitted with a ring around the tips, they can cause injury should you get in the way of them.
Ideal for hot climates - if you sail in the sun, these units can generate huge amounts of energy.
Silent: Solar panels make no noise, and many can be walked on to make fitting easier.
No moving parts: Solar panels have zero moving parts, and while this doesn't make them indestructible, it does make them ideal for the salty/wet marine environment.
Latitude/Season variations - Solar charging can be less effective at higher latitudes, or during winter months. If you sail in either of these areas/seasons, you may find wind charging more effective
Space: Solar can take up large areas of space, which is often at a premium on boats.