solar powered sailboat motor

6 Awesome Solar Boats for Eco Sailing in 2024 (Guide)

Liza Shuttleworth

Liza pivoted from environmental consulting and doing impact assessments to writing about her two most counter-intuitive but passionate interests: sustainability and the importance of living an eco-conscious life; and marketing, martech, and AI. When she’s not writing, you can find her living a zero-waste-adjacent life in South Africa, falling down research rabbit holes on the internet, or out hiking with her dogs.


Liza Shuttleworth pivoted from a career in environmental impact assessment and consulting to becoming a full-time writer, focusing on her most passionate (and diverse) interests: ecological conservation, sustainability, waste management and marketing, mar-tech, and AI.

Her professional portfolio reflects a diverse array of writing and consultancy roles spanning environmental science, marketing, and technology.

She has written for prestigious online and print publications on topics that include sustainability, climate change advocacy, waste management, and marine conservation, as well as marketing strategy, mar-tech, and the proliferation of AI tools for marketing.

Liza has an extensive professional background, having held management and consultancy positions within the environmental science, waste management, technology, and marketing sectors.

Her writing and editorial positions for both print and online publications have shaped content in ways that educate and inspire readers about sustainable living, climate change, and the power of innovative technology to overcome challenges in any setting.

Liza's academic background is rooted in a Bachelor of Social Science, focusing on Media and English. Beyond this, she has pursued tertiary qualifications in geography, psychology, and marketing, further enriching her knowledge base and contributing to her multi-faceted approach to writing and advocacy.

Solar boats are becoming a hugely popular choice for eco-friendly sailing. They’re quiet, can sail great distances without needing to stop for fuel, produce no carbon emissions, and do not rely on fossil fuels.

The popularity of solar-powered boats represents an evolution in marine transportation in favor of renewable energy and sustainability. Solar-powered boats provide a window into a future where clean, emission-free transport is not only possible but also preferred, due to developments in solar technology and design.

Solar boats are the ultimate of innovation and environmental responsibility, whether they are being used for peaceful journeys along beautiful canals or for bold ocean expeditions.

We reduce our dependency on scarce fossil fuels and lessen the ecological effect of traditional boating techniques by using the sun’s power to move us over the sea. Solar boats have the potential to completely transform the maritime sector and open the door to a more environmentally conscious and sustainable future for all, especially as the demand for eco-friendly alternatives keeps rising.

So, how do solar boats work? What are the benefits? And what are the best solar boats on the market? 

In this guide, we explain how solar boats function, the advantages of using them, and six impressive solar boats you can purchase in 2024.

Let’s dive right in!

Table of Contents

How Do Solar Boats Work?

In recent years, solar panel and rechargeable battery technology have improved dramatically. Panels are lighter, stronger, and more efficient.

Batteries are more compact, more efficient, and weigh considerably less than they did in the past. Both batteries and panels now last longer and cost less than they used to.

These advances in technology and a growing interest in eco-friendly sailing have shifted the development of solar yachts from idealists’ dreams to the mainstream.

So, how exactly do solar boats work? 

Solar boats use solar energy to power their motors, navigation systems, and onboard electronics, and appliances.

The solar system works much the same as a solar system on a house or RV , with some structural differences to meet the unique demands and challenges of a marine environment.

Solar panels mounted on the boat harvest solar power from the sun and send it to a charge controller , which controls the flow of electricity to a bank of rechargeable (usually lithium-ion) batteries.

From the batteries, power is sent to the electric motors, navigation systems and appliances via an inverter, which converts direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC). Most appliances like kettles, microwaves, and hair dryers use AC.

Solar Boats - Screenshot from Instagram of a yacht with solar panels on the roof

A solar system can be added to any boat, making it a hybrid or even just to supplement a little power using a renewable resource.

S olar is a great way to reduce your carbon emissions, reduce your fuel costs and increase the distance you can sail without stopping to refuel .

However, if you’re looking to buy a solar boat that is designed and built specifically for solar sailing, there are some really great options to consider.

What are the Benefits of Using a Solar Powered Boat?

When it comes to solar boats, there are some great benefits and they’re not limited to renewable energy and fewer carbon emissions:

  • No reliance on fuel – diesel generators can be used as an emergency back up but they’re not needed for everyday sailing or electricity generation.
  • Unlimited range: when batteries are constantly recharged by the sun, there is no need to stop to refuel and you can keep going indefinitely.
  • No noise and no fumes: as there is no engine, there is no noise and no diesel fumes. This makes the experience of sailing a solar boat much more peaceful.
  • No pollution: on a solar boat, there is no engine producing noise pollution, no carbon or greenhouse gas emissions , and no risk of fuel or oil spills.
  • More space: the absence of engines frees up a lot of space. Electric motors and batteries can be housed anywhere on the boat and do not take up as much space as engines and machinery, which means room for more storage compartments to keep your gear or equipment.
  • Lower running costs: beyond the initial investment and occasional maintenance, solar is completely free. This cuts out fuel costs and ongoing engine maintenance costs.
  • Less maintenance: solar panels need to be cleaned regularly to be most effective but that is the only ongoing maintenance needed. Once a good solar system is installed, it generally needs very little maintenance.
  • No limitations on electrical use: with solar, the supply is free and if you’re not pushing the motors to travel at speed you will often have more electricity than you need. This means you don’t need to watch your power consumption and you can run your air conditioning as much as you want!
  • Options to sell power back to shore stations: if you regularly generate more power than you need from your solar, you can share it with others or sell it back to the grid at some shore stations.

The benefits you will enjoy from a solar boat vary, depending on your location and the specifications of the boat you choose. There are also some downsides, for example, solar boats are generally slower and the initial investment is quite high.

That said, solar boats are well worth the investment!

So, let’s look at some of the awesome solar boats available on the market in 2024:

6 Awesome Solar Boats

There are many great solar-powered boats to choose from and we have selected six of the best to feature here. We have chosen a range of sizes, styles, and price points so there should be something for everyone on this list!

1. Silent Yachts – Silent 55

The Silent 55 by Silent Yachts is one of their smaller solar yachts and can be handled by two people, with or without any additional crew.

It is spacious, and beautifully designed to be as economical as possible without losing any of the luxuries of their larger boats. With three to six cabins and all the amenities you can imagine, it offers everything you need to live on board permanently.

Check out this video by Kara and Nate to see their experience of the Silent 55 and meet the couple behind the iconic Silent Yachts company:


Where to Buy: Silent Yachts

Price: From €1.97 Mio.

2. Serenity Yachts – Serenity 64

The Serenity 64 is a solar-powered hybrid yacht with a diesel engine. It can run on either, giving it a combination of unlimited range using solar or faster cruising using diesel.

It is a spacious and luxurious yacht, with plenty of living space and four cabins with en suite bathrooms.  The Serenity is the smaller of the two solar-powered boats offered by Serenity. The Serenity 74 is bigger and more luxurious, with an interior designed by Neiman Marcus Fashion Director Ken Downing.

Take a look at this video by Serenity Yachts to see more of the Serenity 64:


Where to Buy: Serenity Yachts

Price: From $3.3 million

3. Sunreef Yachts – Eco 80 Sail Catamaran

Sunreef Yachts Eco sail catamarans take eco-friendly sailing to new heights. Their luxury solar yachts use a special ‘solar skin’ that covers any composite structure on the yacht to provide solar power from every angle.

They also use hydro and wind power to supplement the solar and have a sail. The green power generated on their innovative solar boats is enough to propel the boat, run all the onboard appliances and charge the electric water toys.

Taking their commitment to the environment up a notch, they use recycled and reclaimed materials, non-toxic paints, and natural fibers.

Check out the video below by SUNREEF YACHTS OFFICIAL on a day aboard the Sunreef 80 Eco Catamaran:


Where to Buy: Sunreef Yachts Eco

Price: Price on Request (depends on the custom specifications)

4. Soel Yachts – Soel Senses 48

The Soel Senses 48 is a 48ft solar electric catamaran. It was designed to be solar-powered and is slender and lightweight to make it more economical.

There are two sleeping berths for two people each, and another four people can sleep in the salon. The interior and the exterior are both sleek and modern.

Everything on the Soel Senses 48 has been designed thoughtfully to make it as comfortable and functional as possible. It is faster than other solar yachts, due to its smaller size and innovative design.

Check out this video by Jim Waltz to see a little more of the Soel Senses 48:


Where to Buy: Soel Yachts

5. Azura Marine – Aquanima 40

The Aquanima by Azura Marine is powered entirely solar and features some innovative adaptations that make it even more economical and eco-friendly. For example, rainwater collection from the solar panels on the roof and the fact that excess solar can be sold back to shore stations.

The Aquanima is beautifully designed and the interior is clean and modern. It has two double guest cabins and two single crew cabins. It is one of the most cost-effective options if you’re looking for a purely solar-powered boat.

Take a look at this video by Azura Marine to see the Aquanima in action:


Where to Buy: Azura Marine

Price: From €523,000

6. Silent Yachts – Silent 80 Tri-Deck Solar Catamaran

The Silent 80 Tri-Deck Solar Catamaran is a superyacht that is completely customizable. It offers huge amounts of space, with three decks that can be customized to suit the owner’s needs.

The top deck can be open or enclosed and can be used as additional living space or a luxury master suite, opening onto a private outdoor space. Both open and closed versions include four to six customizable cabins.

As a solar-powered yacht, it has more space where the engines would normally be and that storage space can be used to house water toys and additional recreational equipment.

Check out this video by Yachts For Sale to see more on the Silent 80 Tri-Deck Catamaran, how it is built and what sets it apart:


Price: From €5.51 Mio.

Final Thoughts on Solar Boats

As solar and battery technology has improved, and boat owners have become more conscious of their environmental impact, solar boats have become both more viable and more desirable.

Modern solar boats, from small solar-powered yachts to solar superyachts, are equipped with state-of-the-art technology to make them economical, easy to maintain, and a pleasure to use.

They’re also becoming increasingly affordable, and we hope, will be a mainstream option available to every eco-conscious sailor soon!

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Custom Marine Products: A Cruiser’s Guide to Selecting and Sizing a Solar Charging System

Forbes: Solar-Powered Yachting: A Look Inside ‘The Tesla of Yachts’

Knysna Yacht Company: Top Things to Know About Yacht Solar Power

Robb Report: How Zero-Emission, Solar-Powered Yachts Entered Boating’s Mainstream

Robb Report: Solar-Powered Yachts Are Taking Over. Here’s Why That’s a Good Thing

The Land Between: Recreational Boating and the Environment – Tips and Tricks for Environmentally Conscious Boating

Yachting Monthly: Sailing with Solar Power: A Practical Guide

Frequently Asked Questions

How does a solar boat work.

Solar boats use renewable energy from the sun to run their motors, electrical systems, and onboard appliances. They do not use petrol/diesel generators or engines and meet all their power needs using solar panels and batteries. Read the full guide for more details on how a solar boat works.

What are solar boats used for?

Solar boats are used for any boating purpose but they’re most frequently used for recreational sailing, such as yachts and catamarans, as ferries and tour boats, or as houseboats. Solar boats are generally slower and less powerful than fuel-powered boats. In situations where speed is needed, solar is usually supplemented with wind-sail or fuel-driven motors. Read the full guide for more on solar boats.

What is a solar yacht?

A solar yacht is a yacht that uses solar energy to power its electric motors and all the electronic equipment on board. Solar yachts do not rely on diesel or petrol engines and run solely on solar power. They do sometimes have other power sources, like backup diesel generators or engines. Read the full guide for more on solar yachts.

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solar powered sailboat motor

Solar Powered Boat Motors: Easiest Way to Set up Your Solar Boat

Have no engine or shore power for your boat and look into various options for recharging? Or looking for an alternative power source to keep your boat batteries charged?

Solar-powered boat motors could be a solution!

The solar powered boat has indeed drawn a lot of attention these days not only because it saves the water environment from pollution but also reduces the cost of operation.

However, is it feasible to use a solar powered boat motor as the main power source?

Continue reading if you are interested in building a boat with solar powered motor. Find pro tips and tricks, shortcut to get it running successfully, and recommendations for the best solar system equipment out there.

Table of content:

How Feasible Is a Solar Powered Boat

Easiest way to set up your solar boat, solar powered boat motor charging time, best solar powered boat motor systems, how to install solar panels to charge motors.

Can boats be powered by solar panels?

The first thing popping up into your head might whether boats can be solar powered.

The short answer is YES, but solar powered systems are only feasible for smaller boats like inflatable tender boats and are not preferred for the big long-distance tankers, if you’re talking about providing complementary or primary motive power via solar.

Another feasible application is using photovoltaic solar panels only as a backup to replace or augment other power sources on the cruising and racing sailboats.

The reason lies in the energy-, weight- and cost-efficiency of the solar power.

After all solar panel efficiency is generally only around 15%-20% , mostly depending on the weather conditions.

Solar Panel Efficiency

And think about the massive amount of battery power needed to move a boat, which is like 5x to 10x more than a motor vehicle.

And if you want to harvest that massive amount of power from the sun, you will need an extensive number of solar panels, given that solar panels usually don’t get full sun load.

For example, according to the Robb Report , it requires 1,200-square-feet of solar panels for the Serenity 74 yacht to cruises at 9 to 11 mph infinitely.

And it is only achievable through a specially designed electrical system that is built to support solar power exclusively at its greatest advantage from the start of the boat design.

So if you want a solar powered motor to work on a big scale like building a 200 HP electric outboard motor with solar panels, that would be a daunting task even for the pro.

solar powered sailboat motor

It could be a huge undertaking to build an electric and solar powered boat (motor) by yourself, especially if you are not electrically inclined.

You need to be skillful and follow strict technical regulation documents, like doing the math to size the panel for your battery, purchasing the compatible type of solar panels and charger, and setting up solar panels with wiring tools and an electrical monitor.

We can see that many people attempted to set up their own solar powered boat motor and after a few trips to the store for the equipment, it finally didn’t work.

If you want to save your time and trouble, here is a shortcut for you:

Just using a solar powered outboard motor and have it installed on the back.

And usually, you can buy all the necessary accessories to successfully get a solar powered boat from the same brand, including the batteries, solar panels, charger, and wires.

The solar powered boat motor system may require a larger initial investment, but it’s the entire package and it works and will probably cost you less in the long run.

solar powered sailboat motor

As we have mentioned above, the solar charging efficiency could be disappointing, although some quality solar panels can reach a higher power conversion rate at about 20%.

Always remember to calculate the charging time before getting a solar powered boat motor especially if it’s intended to be the main power source to ensure it can meet your needs:

Generally speaking, you will need approximately 9 hours of continuous charging for a full recharge with a 1276Wh marine battery and 180W solar charger when the weather is good.

Solar Powered Boat Motor Charging Time

* This calculation is based on 3A charging current which will decrease on cloudy days and may vary among different chargers. That’s to say, the solar powered boat motor can take over 20 hours to get fully charged in adverse weather conditions.

If that’s something that you are looking for, continue reading for the best solar powered boat motor setup.

Editor’s Note: Larger solar panels can support longer hours of charging with more energy inside but will not make the charging any faster.

So if you don’t want to take any risk of failure, the best solution is to get a whole solar powered boat motor system that includes the motor, battery, solar panel, and solar charger.

Solar Powered Boat Motor System

The ePropulsion 3HP Spirit 1.0 Plus solar powered boat motor is an easy start for most of you who want to go electric and get battery topped off with solar power backup.

With 180W solar charging capability, the Spirit 1.0 Plus battery features dual power which allows solar charging while still using it, extending the runtime and range of your journey.

To save your trouble, you can purchase the foldable solar panel and solar controller together from ePropulsion directly. It helps the solar powered boat motor to make the best use of the solar energy with an easy plug-and-play installation :

Taking advantage of the Fast Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) technology, ePropulsion solar controller can draw more photovoltaic energy from the solar panel with efficiency greater than 90% by precisely positioning the maximum power point of PV cells.

Solar Powered Boat Motor MPPT Tech

The Spirit 1.0 Plus solar powered boat motor is also flexible in use which is designed to be compatible with 3 rd party solar panels, so you are free to use your own at your convenience.

ePropulsion solar panels have been put to the test, and received very positive feedback, through its partnership with SailGP :

The electric sailing league, that champions a world powered by nature, has been using ePropulsion’s solar products to power the electric outboard motors used on eleven supporting boats at its Grand Prix events.

Tips: If you are a sailboat owner and want a minimum impact on the environment, check out the Spirit 1.0 Evo . Besides solar charging, this model also comes with hydrogeneration function which allows batteries to get charged while sailing.

Note: Higher powered electric outboards like 9.9 HP ePropulsion Navy 6.0 is also available for solar charging (needs to be used with 3 rd party solar panels).

It’s super easy to set up the solar powered motor systems, like plug and play.

Take the above-mentioned Spirit 1.0 Plus as an example, here are 2 simple steps to have the Spirit battery charged via solar energy:

Step 1: Connect the solar charger controller to the Spirit battery plus

Solar Powered Boat Motor Installation

Step 2: Connect solar charger controller to the solar panel

Install Solar Powered Boat

Attention: For third party solar panels, make sure the maximum operating current 10A and the operating voltage is between 12V ~ 35V.

If you are using the ePropulsion E-Series Battery (only compatible with 3rd party solar panels), you need to set the solar charger float voltage to 57.6V. Meanwhile, the solar charger maximum discharge current needs to be less than 20A/40A/75A for E40/E80/E175 battery collectively.

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Can I take the electric set up as used in an electric car and install directly in a 10 metre catamarans covered in solar panels???.

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Hello George,sorry that it’s not in our product range. you can ask the related solar system company for further information, thanks!

Can I transfer from an electric car to a catermarang covered with solar panels. Many thanks.

Hello George,sorry that it’s not in our product range. you can ask the related solar system company for further information, thanks!

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Hi, I’ve bought the Navy 6.0 with two E-80 lithium batteries. They can be charged by the hydrogeneration of the motor. What products do I need to add solar charging to the batteries. Can the batteries be charged by both the hydrogeneration and the solar at the same time. About how many watts should the solar panel be? I have a Corsair 31 trimaran with LOTS of open net space.

Hello john, you can contact the local dealer for further informations, and here is the website: , thanks!

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Was interested to know whether John Scheck found any solutions for his Corsair. I have a Dragonfly 25 Sport trimaran and contemplating Navy 3.0 or 6 (although the Navy would be max HP for the boat). Thanks.

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Hi this is great, but looking to install between 4-6kw of solar and looking to install 2 x pod 6 drives with 2 x e175 batteries and possibly a third for house bank. Can someone assist in info re approve solar chargers and possible configurations, because would also want to utilise the hydro generation into the system as well. we also have a 4-6kw genset

Hello Gareth, you can contact the local dealer for further informations: , thanks!

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Hi..would like to have solar system for small boat 4to6 meter for fishermen to help them becuse the price of petrol very expensive. Hot weather sun 12hour away. Location is Sudan red sea.

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Hi, the small boat 4to6 meter, the 3HP motor or 6HP motor is recommended. You can consult the local dealer for more information. If you do not know the dealer nearby, you can go to the official website to check.

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Hi Gareth, can you let me know if you find a way to solar charge the e175 batteries?

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I too want to charge my e175 with solar. Has anyone come up with a good solution?

Hi Matt, we reocmmend you to contact the nearest dealer for further informations: , thanks!

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Hello Flora,

I own a Klepper Folding Aerius II Expedition 520 Kayak. My current source of power is Paddle and S2/S4 sail. As a soon to be retired Senior American, I prefer to paddle less on long distance expeditions.

It is my aim to be able to be out in the bays, Florida Keys, lakes and oceans kayaking all day without having to stop for hours to recharge a battery. Therefore, I am looking into a small electric outboard motor (not trolling) package. Consisting of recommended high efficiency solar panels (salt/fresh water proof), lithium battery assembly, controller black box w/cables, and motor controller.

If you have any products that can meet the requirements, please send the information and a Maryland Dealer list to [email protected] .

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I bought a Navy 3.0 with E80 battery. Now trying to find information on how to charge with solar. I have victron 100/20 solar charge controller and now trying to find the right panel to use. Nothing is coming up to help. Can Epropulsion please write some documentation on solar charging batteries, since not all marinas have shore power. This is becoming concerning that we can’t charge battery/motor for boat. Seems logical to have this solution for your customers. Thanks.

Hello Fish, you can contact the local dealer for further informations: , thanks!

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I am going to build a Clarkcraft Hal Kelly Airborne boat from the Clarkcraft plans. The boat is 10’ and 6” long. I plan to build the whole boat out of Cypress as recommended by Clarkcraft. The boat is very light weight and should only weigh around 138 pounds maybe a few pounds more since I plan to fiberglass the whole outside of the boat and not just the bottom. I would like to make a light weight top for it and cover it with solar panels and use the e propulsion system. What size system do you recommend I use for this boat? If you Google “” and click on Hal Kelly then click on “Airborne” you can see the plans. If you Google “Clarkcraft Hal Kelly Airborne” you can order full size plans from Clarkcraft.

Hello David, you can make a reference on our website: , thanks!

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I have a 25 ft loa sail boat i want to turn it as a solor power motor system with 2 motors. Its top is 40 ft n width is 10 feet. How much the motors with gearbox assembly cost. Solor panels are available here

You can consult the local dealer to ask the cost of motor. If you do not know the dealer nearby, you can go to the official website to check. The motor selection you can refer to this link. I hope this is helpful, thanks.

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Suggesting we have to contact a dealer every time is useless, surely EPropulsion has a technician you can dedicate to helping us figure out solutions?

For instance, do you have a similar charge controller off the shelf for the eseries batteries? I have an e175 and want to link solar. How do I do that? Is there a solution? Or do we need to connect up any charge controller, then go through an inverter first? Which would be over complicated.

Hi Randy. We do not have this controller device at present, if the E battery connects the solar energy, in addition to the need to set the maximum charge and discharge current voltage. We recommend there need “Relay” or “Switch” between the solar charger and Victron controller, and “Fuse” and “Switch” between the Victron controller and the battery. And always switch on the battery first, and switch off the circuit when in standy by.

What I’d like to see here is some sort of direct link/option to just click and purchase. Or at least a link to something I can then go and find. Your description is unclear and unspecific. Please provide more detail. Thank you

Hello Randy! Thanks for reaching us. We do not have a special recommended brand of inverter or solar charger. What we recommend customer contact the dealer means is to ask the dealer to check for compliance with the charging current and voltage of the E battery.

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solar powered sailboat motor

Yachting Monthly

  • Digital edition

Yachting Monthly cover

Sailing with solar power: A practical guide

  • Duncan Kent
  • November 13, 2020

The latest solar technology makes self-sufficient cruising much more achievable. Duncan Kent gives the lowdown on everything you need to get your boat sorted

Solar_Paul Cleaver_Alamy


Solar power is fast becoming the most popular and economic method of keeping the batteries charged on a boat.

Particularly now that the efficiency of photovoltaic (PV) panels, charge controllers and batteries is improving every day.

Furthermore, the latest technology in regulators and charge controllers has brought about a noticeable increase in useable power output, so the problems of shading and non-alignment can be compensated for more easily.

Not only has PV equipment become more efficient and cost-effective, but many of the modern devices we want to use on a boat have become less power hungry.

This means it is now far easier to provide your entire yacht’s electrical needs, both 220Vac and 12/24Vdc, from natural energy resources – particularly solar power, even if you are planning on a fully electric boat .

solar powered sailboat motor

Thinking carefully about how much power you need and how much your boat can accommodate is key to planning a solar array. Credit: Graham Snook


For instance, a boat with two new, good quality, deep-cycle house batteries of 100Ah each would supply 100Ah of energy to consume between charges, if you only use the recommended 50% of available charge between each charge cycle to protect the batteries.

From this you could run:

  • a modern 12Vdc fridge (approx. 1.5Ah, or 36Ah over 24hrs),
  • all LED lighting (say 20Ah per day),
  • various small device chargers (20Ah)
  • and a number of other items such as water pumps, TVs and stereos (25Ah/day)
  • Totalling around 100Ah.
  • For this you’d need 400W of solar capacity.

Of course, if you like to run a lot of AC devices off-grid such as hair dryers, microwaves, toasters and the like, then you’re going to need a DC/ AC inverter, which will take you to another level in power consumption terms.

But even then, with careful planning, solar could provide a large portion of the power you need before resorting to engine charging or a generator.


In practical terms, a modern 40ft monohull would have the space for around 1,200W of PV panels (cockpit arch, sprayhood top, deck), maybe 1,500W with the addition of a few portable panels for use at anchor.

The 1,200W of fixed position solar array could produce around 360Ah on a sunny summer’s day (zero shading) or more likely 250Ah on the average UK summer’s day.

So that’s enough for your 100Ah general DC consumption plus another 150Ah of AC consumption via the inverter.

Of course, to do this you’ll most likely need to increase your battery capacity to around 400-500Ah for maximum flexibility (you’ll need to store as much as possible during daylight hours), a typical figure for a 40-50ft offshore cruising yacht these days.


Get your solar charging right and you may never need to hook up to shore power

Typical daily inverter loads for a cruising yacht off grid might be:

  • induction cooking plate (20min) 60Ah
  • microwave (15min) 30Ah
  • coffee maker (20mins) 25Ah
  • hair dryer (5min) 15Ah
  • laptop charger (2h) 10Ah
  • or around 140Ah in total.

The trick is to monitor the batteries’ state of charge (SOC) at all times and vary your use of the inverter to suit.

For example, you might want to cook supper mid-afternoon, when solar is in abundance, and then reheat it in the evening when you want to eat it.

In some cases, when you’re cruising in warm climates such as the Med, you might end up with excess charge from your solar panels .

In this situation, many long-term cruisers devise a method of ‘dumping’ the extra energy by heating water for showers.

Do bear in mind if you’re planning to live aboard full time , then it’ll be a whole different story on cloudy days and during the winter, when inverter use might need to be knocked on the head entirely.

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There’s often confusion as to how much power you can harvest from a solar installation.

A PV panel is nearly always advertised stating its theoretical peak output power (Pw).

But in reality, on a yacht where there are limited areas in which to mount them, they will more likely produce a maximum of 60% of their peak output if mounted horizontally, increasing to 80% if tilted towards the sun and regularly adjusted.

The latter is rarely achievable on a boat, however, as even at anchor it can swing through an arc of 180° in wind or tidal shifts .


Flexible panels can be mounted on sprayhoods or awnings to add power when it’s needed at anchor or in harbour


Having trawled through hundreds of ‘deals’ to get the best price on the most efficient panels you can afford you now need to know how to install them to best fulfill your energy generation needs.

The output, even from the highest quality photo-voltaic array, will only be as good as the installation itself.

So following our guidelines should ensure you extract every last drop of energy from your investment.


Sailing boats are not the ideal structure on which to mount wide, flat PV panels.

So before you go ahead and purchase what looks like the biggest and best, take a few minutes to decide on exactly where you can mount them, as this will affect what size and type of panels you should buy.

In many cases the first choice would be on an arch, davits or gantry aft, especially if you already have, or plan to fit one.


Dinghy davits, particularly on multihulls, can support a huge solar capacity

These allow a solid metal framework to be constructed that will be strong enough to take the heavier, more productive rigid PV panels.

You can also build in some form of adjuster to the framework that will allow the panels to be orientated towards the sun for the best performance.

With luck (or careful planning) a gantry will also keep them aft of the boom, thereby eliminating loss of output caused by boom shading.

The next most popular position for mounting the panels is on a cockpit sprayhood or bimini, although this will often mean using the flexible or semi-flexible panels, which are generally less efficient than the rigid ones for the same area.


Alternatively, there are kits available for mounting panels onto lifelines, which can allow their elevation to be manually adjusted to a certain degree.


Pole-mounted panels can be used for maximum adjustability

Finally, panels can be fitted directly onto the deck by either gluing them down using mastic or attaching them onto a rigid support frame.

Once again you will probably need to use semi-flexible panels – especially if the deck surface is curved.

Rigid, glass-coated panels will obviously not be suitable for deck mounting in an area that is frequently walked over.

Don’t be tempted to drill through the panels, even along the edges, as this will invalidate the warranty and possibly damage the panel.


With solid panels, the ability to adjust the angle can add significantly to output

It might seem obvious, but the key to an efficient system is to avoid shading wherever possible.

It’s no good fitting expensive, high-efficiency PVs right under the boom as they’ll perform little better than the cheaper types.

Saying that, in good quality panels each cell will be isolated from the next by a series of diodes (one-way electrical valves), so that if one cell is shaded at least it won’t drag down the other cells within the same panel.

Older panels often didn’t have these, so the slightest partial shading caused the output of the entire panel to cease.


Another important factor that is often ignored when installing the panels is that of overheating.

If a PV panel gets too hot, which is quite likely if mounted directly onto a flat surface without an air gap behind, its output will drop quite noticeably.

To allow for some air circulation behind the panels it’s best to apply mastic adhesive in numerous large dabs.

This is best achieved by placing wooden spacer strips between the dabs until the mastic has completely cured, after which the spacers can be removed.

You might need some form of trim around one or more of the outside edges, though, if they are positioned where sheets and other lines might get caught under them.

Raising the panels up will also help water to drain off and thereby helping to avoid possible delamination from sitting in water for too long.


A PV module cannot supply an electrical device directly due to the changeability of the sunlight, which in turns varies the current it can produce.

Therefore, it has to be connected to a battery, which stores and smooths its output.

Whatever the size of your solar array you will need to fit a regulator, or charge controller as they are now more commonly known, to the system in order to control the output and to help extract as much power from the panels as possible.

There are two types of PV charge controller.

The older designs, called Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) types, were fairly basic voltage regulators and simply output volts at just above battery level.

The latest controllers use Multi Power Point Tracking (MPPT) technology and can accept much higher input voltages (up to 240Vdc).

MPPT controllers can be up to 30% more efficient as they use the peak output of the panels to charge the batteries, even compensating for partial shading.


If you buy online do be careful to ensure you’re getting what you pay for.

There are a huge number of fake MPPTs out there, which are simply the much cheaper PWM dressed up with fake labels.

It’s hard to tell which is which, but the old adage of ‘if it looks too good to be true, it usually is’ makes good sense.

MPPT controllers are usually bigger and heavier than PWMs, but if in doubt call or email the supplier to discuss the pros and cons of their kit before buying.

If they’re not happy to chat and advise you then I would steer clear of their gear.

Some good MPPTs are made in China, but unless they have a UK supplier, I wouldn’t bother with them as you’ll have no follow-up advice.

To calculate what size controller you need simply divide the panel’s peak power in Watts (Wp) by the battery voltage, which will give you the maximum current (Amps) they could theoretically supply.

For example 240W/12V = 20A. Although it’s unlikely you’ll ever get near the peak output from any PV panel, it’s best to go for the maximum possible.

Induction cooking

Induction cooking is now a reality on board, even without shore power

PV panels come with a short length of cable, usually around 1m long.

Some are supplied with MC4 connectors already attached but most only provide bare wires.

The latter can be easily extended using proper waterproof connections but thought must be given as to the current rating and voltage drop (usually max 3%) for the size of cable you intend to use.

If in doubt, bigger is better!

Panels can sometimes be ordered with the wiring on the back so that the cable can go straight below deck through a hole under the panel.


You may need to fit extra battery capacity if you want to run an inverter from solar charging


A commonly asked question is ‘should I wire my PV panels in series or in parallel?’

The simple answer is, if there’s any danger of frequent shading to one or more of the panels then install them in parallel.

If wired in series the shading of a single panel will drag down the output from all of the others in the same series.


Most commonly, multiple panels are wired together in parallel to a single charge controller, with diodes protecting each panel from discharging the others should one become partially shaded.

With the advent of MPPT controllers, however, there can sometimes be a benefit to wiring two or more identical panels into a series bank, thereby presenting a higher voltage to the controller.

It’s worth noting that, like batteries, wiring PV panels in series increases the voltage only – the current capacity of the array remains the same as for a single panel.

‘Where’s the benefit of wiring them in series then?’ you might ask.

Well, the higher the voltage fed into the MPPT, the more consistent it will be with its output, which could, in some cases, prove more efficient than a parallel installation with PWM controllers.

It’s also likely to be necessary if you have a 24V domestic system.


Series wiring is usually only done when the cable runs are long, as it helps negate the voltage drop caused by the resistance of the cable.

While a decent controller will have no problem handling the output from four or even five panels wired in series, it is often inappropriate for sailing yachts as shading just one of the panels will reduce the output of the entire series array.

If you need to do so in order to reduce cable runs then it’s best to split the panels between each side of the boat – a series bank on each side.

If you do this, then you would ideally fit a separate controller to each series PV bank and then connect their outputs together in parallel to the battery bank.

Note, however, that panels wired in series must all be the same types with an equal number of cells per panel.

Furthermore, the charge controller needs to be sized for the total of all panel voltages added together and the current rating of one individual panel.

Differently rated panels can be connected together in parallel but only if each panel has its own controller.

The outputs of the individual controllers can then be joined together to go to the battery bank.


Another frequently asked question is ‘Can I connect another charging source to the battery bank while the solar array is charging?’

The answer is yes.

Any decent PV controller will be protected against feedback from other charging sources.


Think carefully about where shade from mast, boom and rigging will fall. Credit: Graham Snook Photography


A frequent cause of reduced output from PV arrays is wiring that is too small.

The resistance of a wire conductor increases in direct proportion to its cross-sectional area, so go as big as is practicable for the least cable loss.

Each panel should be supplied with the correctly sized cables for its own maximum output.

But if you’re combining panels, either in parallel or in series, you will clearly need to rate the single feed cable to suit the maximum current available at theoretical peak solar output and to minimise voltage drop.

Likewise, the cable from the controller to the batteries should be sized to suit the controller’s maximum output current and protected with a fuse.

For outside it’s important to use exterior grade cable, which is double- insulated and UV-proof.


And wherever possible use compatible weatherproof connectors (usually MC4) to those found on the panels rather than cutting off the plugs and hard-wiring them.

Field- assembly MC4 plugs are available, so you don’t have to drill large holes in the decks or bulkheads when feeding the cables through.

When joining more than one panel together try to use the approved multiway connectors; not only do they keep the wiring neat and tidy, but they also offer a greater contact area than budget terminal blocks.

If you have to use screw-type connectors make sure to fit proper ferrules to the wire first to avoid any stray wires in the multistrand shorting across the terminals.

When feeding a cable from above to below deck, try to go through an upright bulkhead where possible to minimise ‘pooling’ of water around the access hole.

Also, use a proper watertight deck seal that matches the cable you’re using.

If drilling through a cored deck you need to drill a larger hole first, fill it with epoxy resin and then drill the required size hole through the epoxy to ensure no water gets into the deck core.

Ideally, the charge controller should be mounted no further than 2m from the battery bank.

If you need to go further, you’ll require larger cabling to reduce the voltage drop.

solar powered sailboat motor

A generous solar array will keep you self- sufficient indefinitely. Credit: Graham Snook Photography


There is often confusion over the ‘load’ output of a charge controller (often depicted by a light bulb) and what can safely be connected to these terminals.

Rarely explained in the manual, the load terminals should be pretty much ignored in a marine installation as the output on these terminals is usually very limited (10A max).

Some attach an LED light to them to indicate the controller is operating, but all your usual electrical loads should remain connected to the batteries with the battery terminals on the controller connected directly to that battery bank via a fuse.

It is possible, though, to control a high-current switching relay in certain conditions.


Parallel installation is more resilient to shading, but a series installation will increase peak charging outputs. A combination of the two offers some of the benefit of both


Unlike most cheap PWMs, the majority of good quality MPPT charge controllers come with an alphanumeric LCD screen to let you know what is going on.

This can either be a remote display or simply one on the front of the box.

It’s obviously a lot better to have a proper numerical display than to rely on a few flashing LEDs to tell you when something’s not right.

So if your chosen controller doesn’t have one be sure to fit a battery monitor (the shunt type) into your solar circuit between the controller and the batteries.

It doesn’t have to be a very ‘smart’ monitor, just one that can display the voltage and current being supplied by the panels.

For smartphone addicts there are several wifi apps that will do the job remotely on your phone or tablet.


All good quality PV panels feature built-in diode protection between each cell to prevent a shaded cell from dragging down the productive ones.

In addition, there will be internal blocking diodes on the final output to protect the panel from polarity reversal and to ensure that the batteries can’t discharge back into the panel during the night.

The latter can be added externally, the former can’t, so check before you buy.

A fuse, rated just above the maximum current available, should be fitted between each panel and the charge controller.

Another fuse should then be installed between the charge controller’s output and the batteries.

In the case of multiple arrays, this second fuse will be rated higher than the individual panel fuses and should match the maximum current rating of the cable.

With this protection installed other charging devices can be connected in parallel at the battery, meaning the solar can be left connected even when you are hooked up to shore power and the battery charger is operating.

In some circumstances, however, this arrangement can affect the sensing of the battery by the charger, causing it to fall back into float mode.

If this becomes apparent it can be overcome by installing a manual/auto switch to disconnect the solar array when on shore power.


Check the flex of the solar panel is sufficient for your deck


A solar charge controller works by disconnecting the supply from the PV panels when the batteries are fully charged.

But for some full-time liveaboards in sunny climates that can be considered a waste, when the excess power could be put to good use – heating water, say.

This is commonly done using an inverter to supply AC power to the heating element.

Alternatively, you can now buy a 12Vdc element for your calorifier (hot water tank) and supply this directly from your battery bank.

Both of these methods would require a voltage sensitive relay (VSR) to disconnect the element should the battery voltage drop below a pre-set level.

Don’t expect boiling hot water, as there will probably only be enough spare power to take the chill off it before your battery bank reaches its lower threshold voltage.

A 600W/12V element will draw some 50A, from the batteries, whereas a 1kW AC element run through an inverter will need close to 100A.


A small, semi-flexible panel will be sufficient for keeping batteries trickle charged, but not for heavy use


Despite massive recent improvements in semi-flexible panels in recent years, the solid glass panels still offer a higher power density.

That said, they are heavier, more awkward to mount and can’t be walked on, so unless you have a dedicated gantry aft, you’re better off choosing the more rugged semi-flexibles.

Modules incorporating monocrystalline cells also have a better output than those with polycrystalline cells (that’s cells made from a single slice of silicon as opposed to layers of smaller pieces).

Output voltage also depends on the number of cells on the panel.

In the past this has commonly been 32, but now some 36 and even 40 cell panels are available.

That said, they’re larger, of course, so an array of interconnected smaller panels might be a better solution.

Module efficiency is now more often around the 20% mark, as opposed to 12-15% for older models and semi- flexible (up to 20° bend) are usually better than flexible (up to 180° bend).


A rigid panel is more efficient, but less robust

There are a huge number of panels on the market, but many use the same cells.

Sunpower Maxeon cells are exceptionally good, as are the Panasonic HIT range and LG, but they are pricey.

If the maker is offering a 25-year guarantee instead of a 3-5 year one, you can be pretty confident they’re good.

When it comes to charge controllers it’s definitely worth paying a little more for a decent MPPT.

A cheap PWM might be okay just to keep a small starter battery charged with a 30W panel, but the MPPT will give you much more when it comes to heavy service.

Victron are probably top of the range, while cheaper brands like MakeSkyBlue and EPever are also good value – but treat imports of unclear origin with care.


Duncan Kent

Duncan Kent has been evaluating and reviewing yachts and marine equipment for the past 30 years

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Sailboat Life Magazine

Sailboat Life

Sailboat Cruising and Lifestyle Magazine.

solar powered sailboat motor

Sailboat Solar Systems and How-To

Sunshine on a Sailboat - Solar Energy Solar Panels

Solar on a sailboat goes together like hands and gloves, but sailboat solar systems can be installed in a variety of ways. The solar components themselves create an infinite combination of possibilities for off-grid sailing. Victron Energy chargers, Renogy Panels, Sunpower Yachts, BlueSea Systems, and many more brands have entered the marketplace, and that’s not including the lithium battery companies.

To simplify things, we’ve compiled three sailboat solar systems videos to give you an overview of what’s possible. And to help you decide on your own simple solar panel setup for sailing.

How-To Install Solar Panels on Your Sailboat

This system from Zingaro shows flexible panels summing 300w of power on a 38′ catamaran.

300W Solar System:

  • Three 100w solar flexible panels
  • 1 MPPT Solar charger controller

View on Amazon >>

100W HQST Flexible Solar Panels $100-$200

20amp Solar Charge Controller by Victron Energy $150-$200

100w Flexible Solar Panel

Simple Sunpower Solar System

This simple solar system from The Fosters shows a quick and easy setup with limited space on top of a bimini.

Sunpower Solar Panels are considered by most in the industry as the gold standard. They use the highest-efficiency solar cells and have top-notch build quality. In this simple installation, three 50w panels are just enough to get you started. Plus, it’s the most affordable installation!

150w Starter Solar System

  • Three 50w Flexible Solar Panels
  • A Single 15amp solar charge controller

50W Sunpower Solar Panels $150-$200

75v/15amp Solar Charge Controller by Victron Energy $100-$124

Victron Energy Smart Solar Charge Controller

Off-Grid on a DIY Solar Powered Sailboat

Here’s a special installation that turned a derelict sailboat into an off-grid sailing machine!

Simon has transformed this derelict sailboat into an epic off-grid solar-powered and fossil-fuel-free cruising catamaran. He’s been living aboard and renovating the boat for the past 3.5 years We’re excited to show you the transformation as well as how he plans to propel the boat without the use of diesel or fossil fuels!

5280w Solar System for Electric Powered Catamaran

  • 16 Rigid solar panels (330w each)
  • 20kwh of Lithium Batteries

240W Rigid Solar Panels $250-$300

200AH Lithium 4d Battery $1200-$1200

solar powered sailboat motor

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Solar-Powered Yachts Are Taking Over. Here’s Why That’s a Good Thing.

Diesel-powered engines are getting some healthy competition., michael verdon, michael verdon's most recent stories.

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Silent Yachts Silent 80

In 2005, Michael Köhler turned away from the diesel engines that had been powering his boats for 23 years and went instead with solar power, an idea that seemed laughable, given the technology’s limitations at the time. But after five years of testing and development, Köhler’s Solarwave 46 became the world’s first solar-powered yacht.

Since then, his Silent Yachts brand has become larger and ever-more luxurious, running bow-to-bow with traditional motoryachts. The new 80-foot tri-deck has a spacious salon and six staterooms, six-and-a-half-foot ceilings and unlimited cruising potential, since the lithium-ion batteries powering the 250 kw electric motors recharge on the go (and for free) courtesy of the yacht’s 1,227 square feet of solar panels. And the benefits extend beyond minimal emissions and engine vibration. “We have more living space than competitors,” Köhler says, “since electric motors require less space than diesel engines.”

Super Air Nautique GS22E

Very different vessels are using electric propulsion to minimize noise and lower emissions, like Super Air’s Nautique GS22E.  Super Air

The solar niche is small but growing, with new entrants like Serenity Yachts and the BYD Group. These power yachts have cruising speeds of 8 knots and top speeds of up to 20 knots, though they’ll burn through battery packs quickly at that rate. Therein lies the design dilemma of battery-powered boats: Do builders prioritize range or velocity?

Correct Craft ’s new GS22E wakesurf boat found a way to twist battery limitations to its advantage. “We’ve designed the most energy-dense battery system for where a combustion engine typically goes,” says Sean Marrero, president of Watershed Innovation, which developed the GS22E’s Ingenity electric propulsion system. Tailored for hour-long sessions, owners can wakesurf in the morning, then recharge the battery so it’s ready after work. “It doesn’t run like a Tesla,” says Marrero, “but rather it mirrors the wakesurf experience with its stern dug into the water—minus the noise and emissions.” Other builders are rumored to have electric towboats in the works.

Feadship Savannah

Feadship ‘s 273-foot Savannah.  Feadship

In the superyacht segment, Feadship director Henk de Vries would like to see every new yacht leaving his Dutch yard equipped with hybrid propulsion by 2025. De Vries is so serious about this mission that Feadship will absorb the extra cost over conventional propulsion, currently amounting to several million dollars, of those electric drives. So far, two boats have chosen hybrid power: the 273-foot Savannah , launched in 2015, and Feadship’s largest build, the 361-foot Anna, delivered two years ago. A third yacht launched that same year, the 287-foot Lonian , is also “heavily hybrid,” de Vries says.

“When we built Savannah , a hybrid with the [battery] equivalent of many Teslas in the engine room, we also invented the classification rules for these yachts,” says de Vries. “Even though the project was successful, the superyacht world was slow to adapt. I want to get to the point where one owner says to another, ‘Oh, your boat still burns fossil fuel?’ That will help create the mindset.”

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Sail Universe

Silent 60, The Solar Electric Catamaran With a Kite Sail System

solar powered sailboat motor

The new SILENT 60 solar powered catamaran carries 42 solar panels for 17 kWp of solar energy to power two electric motors of up to 2x340kw. Backed up by a battery capacity of up to 286 kWh, the yacht can cruise efficiently with zero emissions solely on solar power for up to 100 nautical miles a day for weeks. 

To further improve its green credentials and range, for longer crossings the first SILENT 60 is also fitted with a compact 9 or 13-sqm kite wing. The kite wing is optionally available on all SILENT models. 

How the kite wing works

A dedicated storage locker under the foredeck houses the kite wing and all its components, including an electric winch and a short, collapsible mast. On the first unit the mast is connected by four shrouds to pad eyes on deck that distribute the forces through the hull structure, but on subsequent deliveries (8 units with the kite wing option have been ordered to date) the mast will be mounted on a baseplate inside the locker to leave the foredeck clutter-free. 

After inflating the kite, it is released overboard to drift away on the surface of the water. Pulling on the lines launches it into the air and once it reaches the optimal flight height, it begins to trace a figure “8” in the sky and generates power to pull the yacht.

If you want to stop kiting, the automated app controls move the kite to a position right above the boat where it has the least pull on the line. From here it can be winched down electrically and collapsed over the foredeck ready for stowage.

lagoon seventy 7

“The main advantages of a kite over a conventional sail system are that it does not throw shade on the solar panels, does not need a tall mast, and generates up to 10 times more power per square metre than a traditional sail. In addition to that it saves about 1,5 tons of weight compared to conventional rigg and costs much less,”  says  Michael Köhler .  “It makes even more sense for the SILENT boats that run on renewable solar energy because the power generated by a kite easily exceeds the energy consumption of the system, so you can charge the batteries while cruising under kite power. And besides that, it’s great fun!”

“We tested the performance on different headings and at wind angles of up to 40 degrees with the 9-sqm kite,”  says SILENT-YACHTS’ Captain  Mike Wandler .  “Unlike a conventional sailing boat, the best results were directly downwind. Under kite power with no engines on or propellers turning, the boat speed was between 4 and 5 knots. We then switched on the electric motors drawing just 1kW each to reduce drag from the propellers and improve the flow of water over the rudders for better steering, this led to boat speeds from 6 to 7 knots over the same headings – a significant improvement on our original predictions.”

A big advantage of a kite compared to a conventional sail is, that the kite flies in much higher altitudes and therefore gets more steady and stronger winds up there. Therefore, it can already be used at low wind speeds of less than 10 knots, when it would not make any sense to hoist a sail on a sailing boat of comparable size. 

silent 60

As the kite rather pulls the boat than pushes it like a conventional sail, it requires good steering capabilities, which are compromised by the fact, that on a motorboat the rudder is typically pretty small and the propeller big. On a sailing boat it is the opposite. For this reason, it is difficult to steer a motorboat that is being pulled by a kite, but by turning on the motors, and by letting them run at a low speeds of 100 rpm this problem can be solved.

But only on a SILENT Yacht it is possible to run the electric motors at such a low rpm powered solely by solar energy and without consuming fossil energy. Any conventionally powered boat would need to run the diesel motors permanently when using the kite. 

“At 5 Beaufort we can drive with the kite indefinitely at 6-7 knots, which is faster than a comparable sailing catamaran in such wind condition when crossing the ocean, for example,”  adds  Michael Kohler .

Different layouts availabls

The first SILENT 60 has four guest cabins on the lower deck, including a spacious master suite, but other layout solutions are available. There are numerous social areas on board, including an airy main salon, an aft cockpit, a cosy bow area and a flybridge. The yacht also has high headroom throughout (up to 2.32m in the main salon).

Thanks to a draft of under 1m the yacht can access shallow bays, a crucial consideration for cruising grounds in the Caribbean and South East Asia. Two swimming platforms in the stern can be extended on owner’s request to carry a pair of electric jet skis. The lifting hydraulic platform between the two platforms can carry a 4 m tender.

silent 60

Efficient technology

The SILENT 60 is equipped with the company’s ventilation system, which provides cool and fresh air to all the interior guest spaces and can be individually adjusted to suit conditions. In addition, a reverse-cycle heat-pump system cools and heats the interior for all-season comfort. The insulated hull ensures that stable on-board temperatures can be achieved without excessive energy consumption.

A watermaker powered by solar-energy produces enough water to supply a full complement of guests. All on board appliances operate on the 220/110-volt system. The galley has good refrigerator and freezer space and an efficient induction cooker that precludes the need for carrying propane gas.

The countdown has begun for the new ICE 66 rs

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Review: Silent 55, the extraordinary solar powered yacht

Yachting World

  • January 18, 2019

Silent Yachts is tapping into the solar zeitgeist and creating a new meaning for the term ‘powercat’.  Sam Fortescue reports

Silent Yachts Silent 55

There is a slow, silent revolution under way in the yachting world. It is a revolution that is introducing tonnes of lithium and a sprinkling of silicon to the spec list of new boats. Holding out the promise of silent mobility, plus limitless domestic power on board, it made a big splash at the last Cannes Festival of Yachting – not least thanks to the new Silent 55 catamaran which debuted there.

From the pontoon side, the Silent 55 looks like a typical modern catamaran, with a big coachroof studded with windows and a flybridge helm. Except there’s no mast. Now, bear with me here. I realise that this is a sailing magazine, but we will shortly get back to more familiar territory. The unique qualities of this catamaran only become apparent from up top, where an expanse of solar panels stretches away fore and aft, embedded into the coachroof. The hard top itself carries yet more panels, and can be folded down flush to give an unshaded solar array of 49m2. During the heat of a summer day in the Med, this is capable of generating 10kW of power and up to around 60kWh in the course of the day.

Silent Yachts Silent 55 exterior

But to make a solar system work in reality, Köhler had to go back to the drawing board on yacht design. The saloon and hulls have extra thermal insulation to keep air-con losses down, and the use of carbon and aramid in key areas helps reduce the overall weight to a decent 17 tonnes (a Lagoon 52 weighs 22.5 tonnes). He has tried to keep windows out of the direct sun with long overhangs and in contrast to the Lagoon’s 12 deck hatches, the Silent 55 has just two.

Holistic design

On the other hand, it has lots of opening windows, to allow a natural draught to do its job. “It’s a holistic approach – you can’t take the batteries and the drivetrain and drop it into another boat.”

Of course, using the propulsion system quickly takes its toll of the boat’s 140kW battery bank. The model on display at Cannes had two 135kW motors, giving you just half an hour of silent motoring flat-out, albeit at a top speed of over 20 knots. More reasonable 30kW engines and a single-digit speed give you greater range. Nonetheless, the electric drive alone isn’t going to allow you to outrun a storm, or race home after a day at anchor, so the boat is designed to work with a generator hidden in the heavily insulated transom of its starboard hull. At cruising speed of around 5-6 knots, Köhler says there is rarely any need to use the generator, citing an owner who has just emailed him triumphantly about a second year totally generator-free. “In the end, you have to compare it to the performance of a sailing boat,” Köhler says. “It is as fast as a sailing boat in similar conditions – after all, there is no wind without sun.” He went so far as to tell me during the sea trial in Palma, Mallorca, that he believed the majority of sailors would happily dispense with the hassle of sails and a rig if only they could enjoy silent motoring and anchoring. “As soon as people realise the incredible concept of this boat, they won’t understand why they ever did anything else.”

The market does not seem to agree with him – yet. Sales of the boat have been good – they have already sold six, five of which are already in the water. But of those, four customers have taken the sail option, which means planting a 19.7m tall mast complete with boom and rigging slap bang in the middle of the coachroof solar array. “I was a bit amazed,” Köhler admits. “The shade from the rig reduces the energy generated by the solar area, while it costs more and is heavier, so consumes more fuel. Maybe it is for optical reasons.” In fact, the shade of the rig slashes the average yield of the solar panels in half. In the Med, that means around 30kWh per day. But perhaps it figures. The typical profile of buyers is an environmentalist who has a Tesla electric car and is “an early adopter who likes to have things before others”. And at low speeds, with modest use of the air-con, the reduced energy generation should still cover daily consumption.

Silent Yachts Silent 55 Sail Version exterior

The performance under sail should be reasonable because of the lightweight build of the boat, its broad 8.47m beam and stub keels added to each hull. Control lines are led back via conduits in the coachroof to the flybridge helm station, to make single-handing under sail a possibility.

More interesting, I think, is a sort of halfway-house option using a kite rig. This optimises the performance of the solar panels and gives plenty of propulsion. On the smaller 55 and the 64, Silent Yachts currently recommends a 19m2 kite that costs around €25,000 – a fraction of the cost of a new mast, boom, shrouds and sails. “The sail automatically makes a figure of eight above the boat, and you can steer it with a joystick or an app on an android phone,” Köhler explains. “It can propel the 55 at up to 6 knots, even in light winds.” Perfect for an Atlantic crossing, then.

For the bigger Silent 79, which will hit the water in the summer, a commercial grade Sky Sail system needs to be used – a smaller version of the ones used on cargo ships. This kite can propel the boat at ten knots, but it costs more than ten times as much as its smaller cousin. Both are capable of pulling the boat upwind. So far, so new. But outside the novel energy and propulsion system, the Silent 55 aims to do what many other cruising catamarans are trying to achieve. “Most of our clients order for circumnavigation and long-term cruising,” Köhler says. So the boat is aimed to be as comfortable and capable as possible with watermakers, TVs and an induction hob that all capitalise on the boat’s abundant energy. A flexible configuration allows owners the choice 
of between three and six cabins – the latter designed for charter. The owner’s cabin lies forward of the saloon, under the windows of the coachroof, which provide magnificent views and abundant natural light. There’s a walk-around bed and steps down into the starboard hull give access to an en-suite shower room and heads.

Silent Yachts Silent 55 master cabin

In my view, the best cabin lies aft of this, accessed in the traditional manner down steps out of the saloon. The king-sized bed lies athwartships and the shower is larger than that of the master cabin. There’s more space down here, better headroom and still plenty of light courtesy of the many hull lights.

Silent Yachts Silent 55 guest cabin

When I had the chance to sea trial the Silent 55, albeit in motorboat format, I jumped at it. It was a contrary autumn day on Mallorca with 15 knots breeze – just a shame, then, that this wasn’t one of the sailing configured versions.

To start with, getting on board is made really easy courtesy of deep boarding platforms on the skirts. She feels rather square because of that vast, glazed saloon with its deep overhang, and perhaps because of the utilitarian nature of the hard top, which is really about supporting more solar panels. Nevertheless, the side decks are broad and uncluttered. The space up top is designed to concertina down flat, hence the hydraulic rams, fold-down seat back and lowering console. It makes a great sailing position, though, with all round visibility, and is also perfect for sundowners at anchor. When the rain comes down, this feels quite exposed, but there is a fully sheltered helm at the front of the saloon, and it is also possible to drive the boat from anywhere using a tablet thanks to smart electronics. Under power, the handling is superb. The quietness of the motors is astonishing, and I gather they’ll be inaudible on the next boat, which will do away with the gearbox. Even in the aft cabins, directly above the motors, there is no more than a distant hum. The boat responds instantly to the power and the wind seemed to have no impact at all. As with any propulsion system, the power consumption jumps as you pile on the speed – it was sobering to see. At 6 knots, both motors drew 10kW but at 8 knots it was closer to 30kW. I liked the huge saloon with its raised table for 360º views. And the sliding door and window gives great access aft, connecting the saloon and cockpit in fine conditions. The finish was smart and in muted tones, feeling more Scandinavian than German.

Intriguingly, at least it seems to me, Köhler has tapped into something with the concept behind Silent Yachts – but not entirely for the reasons that he expected. Buyers are opting for the sail or kite versions of the boat because they want a comfortable wind-powered craft with abundant, quiet energy on tap. It brings a whole new meaning to the 
term ‘powercat’

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How Do Solar-Powered Boats Work? 7 Innovative Vessels That Run on Solar

Solar boats can serve ordinary functions for more sustainable transportation.

David Kuchta, Ph.D. has 10 years of experience in gardening and has read widely in environmental history and the energy transition. An environmental activist since the 1970s, he is also a historian, author, gardener, and educator. 

solar powered sailboat motor

  • Wesleyan University, University of California, Berkeley

solar powered sailboat motor

  • University of Tennessee

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When Greta Thunberg crossed the Atlantic in 2019 to address the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit, she sailed aboard the Malizia II , a racing yacht powered by hydro, solar, and sail. The Malizia II raised the international profile of powering boats with renewable, carbon-free energy.

Installing solar panels on the Malizia II and other boats is a challenge. The panels and electronic equipment can be exposed to corrosive saltwater, strong winds, and extreme weather conditions. The panels must conform to the shape of the vessel, but cannot interfere with the work of the crew. Fortunately, these are challenges that many boat owners have overcome. In a growing industry, flexible solar panels capable of being installed on a boat can cost as low as $200 . Solar power isn't just for high-end racing yachts.

One of the virtues of a solar-powered boat is its infinite range when paired with lithium-ion batteries on board, which can store the energy produced by the solar panels. Like a sailboat, a solar-powered boat never needs to make refueling stops.

Spurred on by competitions like the Solar Splash (which calls itself “the World Championship of Collegiate Solar Boating”), the Solar Boat Regatta , the Dutch Solar Challenge , and Solar Sport One , engineers and innovators in sustainable transportation have turned solar-powered boats from a novelty item on the sea to vessels that can serve many functions.

The Malizia II

Mark Lloyd/Alea / Getty Images

The Malizia II is a 60-foot (18-meter) monohull boat weighing 8 tonnes. It was launched in Monaco in 2015. While it has participated in a number of races and regattas, it is best known for transporting Greta Thunberg to the United Nations Climate Action Summit in 2019. But it was built for racing—capable of speeds of up to 25 knots, it is one of the fastest boats of its class.

The Solliner

The Solliner is a line of small catamarans meant for day boating, from Green Dream Boats . At 21 feet (6.2 m), it can accommodate up to 10 people in a U-shaped seating area. They are fitted with four solar panels that allow for navigation without the need for an outside energy source. They can sail at up to 12 km/hr. Solliner boats have been seen around the world, such as the one pictured here in Poland. In the United States, they are sold by Infinity Solar Boats.

Samarjitbharat / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

The Aditya is India's largest solar boat and the world's first solar-powered ferry. Carrying approximately 1,700 passengers per day , it is 30 times cheaper to run than the diesel ferry it replaced. In 2020, it won the Gustave Trouve Award for Excellence in Electric Boats and Boating, an international award. The Indian state of Kerala, which commissioned the Aditya , plans on replacing the entirety of its diesel fleet with solar ferries. The Aditya is a 20-meter-long catamaran ferry boat made from glass-reinforced plastic with photovoltaic panels on its roof. It seats 75 passengers at a time.

The Interceptor

The Interceptor sounds like a racing boat, but it is a 24-meter (78 ft) solar-powered barge whose role is to intercept 50 tons of trash a day from Malaysia's rivers—most of it plastic that would otherwise reach the sea. The Malaysian Interceptor is one of a series of Interceptors created by The Ocean Cleanup , the largest effort to remove plastic waste from the oceans, 80% of which stems from 1,000 of the world's rivers. Other Interceptors are (or will be) stationed in Indonesia, the Dominican Republic, and Vietnam.

MS Tûranor PlanetSolar

Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images

A 31-meter catamaran, the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar is the world's largest solar boat and the first to sail around the world. On its round-the-world voyage, it sailed at an average speed of 5 knots—not racing yacht speed, to be sure, but to be expected from a 6-meter-wide scientific research vessel weighing 89,000 kg (nearly 100 tons), 8.5 tons of which are lithium-ion batteries stored in the ship's two hulls. It was launched in 2010.

The 537 square meters of solar panels are sturdy enough to be walked on, and provide electricity stored in 6 blocks of lithium-ion batteries, allowing the Tûranor PlanetSolar to travel over 60,000 km (37,282 m) in 584 days without fuel stops.

The Ecowave

The Ecowave ( Ecowolna ) is Russia's first solar-powered catamaran. In 2018 it conducted a scientific expedition to explore the potential for solar-powered trams for the Neva, Oka, and Volga rivers. Launched from St. Petersburg, the Ecowave expedition covered more than 5,000 km (3,106 m) over 90 days, traveling the Black and Caspian Seas as well as major rivers of Russia. The catamaran is 11.6 metres long.

The solar panels cover an area of ​​solar panels is 57 square meters (613 sq ft) and are capable of producing 9 kW of power. Lithium-ion batteries allow the vessel to sail for 20 hours without recharging.

While apparently no longer plying the waters of the Lot river in France, the Kevin was a solar-powered hotel boat that offered river cruises focused on sustainable river tourism. Calling his converted barge “ the first solar boat-hotel of the world ,” owner Dominique Renouf launched Kevin in 2011. The vessel was 97 feet (29.50 m) long, equipped with a solar water heater, and able to accommodate 14 overnight passengers in 6 cabins.

4FR / Getty Images

Solar-powered boats can be as humble as tour boats on Turkey's Lake Eğirdir or on Lake Altaussee in the Austrian Alps. Like ferries, tour boats are ideal candidates for solar power, as their regular routes allow for batteries to be sized with enough electricity to power voyages of days when the sun isn't shining.

Solar boats have barely entered the mainstream boating market, but the technology is within the financial reach of most boat owners, as the cost of solar panels has dropped precipitously over the past decade. Any boat with a large-enough surface exposed to the sun can attach solar panels to it, and with a little wiring and (optionally) battery storage, infinite sailing is an increasingly affordable possibility.

" Largest Solar-Powered Boat Completes Around the World Voyage ." Guinness Book of World Records , 2012.

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Solar-paneled yacht navigating the seas using solar energy

The award-winning entry to solar-electric yachts

As the successor to the Silent 64 (the first ever solar powered production yacht to cross the Atlantic Ocean during January of 2018), the 60 Series is equipped with the most refined, efficient and clever technology available today. Being a multi-award winner, including the prestigious “Best of Boats Award” in the category of ‘Best for Travel’, she embodies solar electric yachting in its purest form. Available in a variety of deck and cabin options, the Silent 60 is ideally suited for families cruising with or without additional crew.

multihull award winner 2022


Deck options, silent 62 flybridge.

Silent 62 flybridge yacht side view

The flybridge version with a retractable roof offers enough space for a dining area with a small lounge and a dedicated helm station. For owners who do not need the additional space of the 62 3-deck configurations, the flybridge version offers enough space and outstanding 360° visibility.

Silent 62 3-Deck Open

Silent 62 3 deck open flybridge yacht side view

An additional open deck instead of the flybridge combines the benefits of larger catamarans with the compact dimensions of the 60 Series. The open sky lounge is a fantastic outdoor community space, equipped with a full dining area including a panoramic view and a superyacht atmosphere.

Silent 62 3-Deck Closed

Silent 62 3 deck closed flybridge yacht side view

The closed version of the 62 3-Deck further develops her character as a compact superyacht. Providing additional indoor space, the closed third deck is available in two options: a choice between a sky lounge or an exclusive owner’s deck makes sure it can be tailored towards individual needs.

Electric catamaran with solar panels on the roof

Model variations

Exterior of a yacht with front master exit

Front Master Version

  • Available for every deck option (flybridge, 3-deck open & 3-deck closed versions)

The Master cabin is located below the bow in the front of the main deck. This replaces the additional exit in the front of the salon.

Exterior of a yacht with front front exit

Front Exit Version

Hereby the salon on the main deck is equipped with an additional exit in the front. The Master cabin moves to the side of the hull in the lower deck.

Boat saloon on the main deck

3-Deck Open

Yacht sky lounge area plan

3-Deck Closed

Yacht owners suite area plan

Front Master

Yacht main deck front master area plan

Solar-electric yachting advantages

Unlimited range, noiseless cruising, zero emission, minimal maintenance, powertrains, 6o series highlights.

Electric catamaran with solar panels on the roof and a kyte system

Kite sail system

Adding the option of a fully automatic towing kite gives the 60 Series the opportunity to make use of the wind without shading the panels. The either 9m² or 12 m² sized kite flies at heights where winds are much stronger, thus being able to create up to 10x more pulling power compared to a conventional sail.

Two men enjoying a glass of champagne on the flybridge of an electric boat

Self-sufficient lifestyle

Designed from the ground up to be fully autonomous. By being able to produce your own energy and water while making use of coolable food supplies for storage as well as a worldwide internet connection, you have the possibility of creating a fully self-sufficient lifestyle on board.

Aft bridge deck storage of a catamaran

Bridgedeck storage

Under the bridge deck, there are two spacious storage boxes for SUPs, surfboards, small RIBs or compact sailboats. Both of them can be accessed either from the aft cockpit deck or directly from the hydraulic tender lift.

Master bedroom on the upper deck of a boat

Owner's suite

Being able to design the 60 Series with an exclusive owner’s suite on the 3rd deck us unique amongst 60-foot catamarans. The suite itself is fully equipped with an en-suite bathroom and measures 23 m² in size. It also gives direct access to the 36 m² lounge area in the aft.

8 Years Warranty Battery Banks

4 0 years warranty solar panels, lifetime warranty electric motors, ce-a category certification, ocean crossing capabilities.

If you would like to enquire about this electric yacht and get in touch with a member of our team, please click on the button below.

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120 Explorer

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Our charters offer you the opportunity to book a memorable vacation on board of our electric yachts. Including our helpful crew, consisting of a captain and a chef, you will experience the comfort of solar powered yachting.

The silent team at the aft of the boat

As the pioneers of solar yachting, we have almost three decades of experience regarding the research, design and build of electric yachts. Our team, shipyard and the hiring of new talent are the backbone of our operations.

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By transferring our solar yachting technology, Silent Resorts develops sustainable beachfront resorts in beautiful locations worldwide. Memberships offer full or part ownership of an eco-property and a Silent yacht.

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Create your infinite playground on the water. A selection of premium electric water toys, which can be recharged by simply connecting them to your Silent yacht, as well as other accessories for the ultimate experience on board.

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  • ← Technology

What You Need To Know About Boat Solar Panels


Sunshine and boats are a natural together, so why not use all that free energy? Here’s the lowdown on solar panel selection and installation

Solar panel in use on top of a vessel in open waters during sunlight.

I first embraced the idea of solar power while up a pole (literally) in the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway replacing dead batteries. It was the early 1980s, and I was maintaining buoys, beacons, and other such Aids To Navigation (ATON) for the U.S. Coast Guard, replacing massive, nonrechargeable batteries with rechargeable solar-powered ones. The higher-ups said the solar rechargeables would last six years – twice as long as the one-shot batteries. As the deck-ape in charge of lugging all those batteries up and down the ladders, my back and I immediately appreciated the whole “free power from the sun” thing, a concept I continue to embrace.

The strategy behind s olar energy onboard is simple: A solar panel converts sunlight into electricity, after which wiring conducts it to your batteries for storage until needed. Solar panels are used to keep batteries or banks charged rather than to power equipment directly. This arrangement allows the panels to store generated power whenever produced, while providing a steady source of power to a piece of equipment even when the panel is producing no power.

While they do require an initial outlay, solar panels can easily pay for themselves in money saved and independence gained over their service life. They’re noiseless, have no moving parts, and they provide free electricity for years with minimal maintenance. Solar panels also have the benefit of being modular, letting you start small and add more as your power requirements increase.

The benefits of solar

Almost any boat can benefit from solar power. Whether at a slip, mooring, or on a trailer, boats can keep their batteries topped off without the need for external power. You can also use solar power to supplement or even replace other onboard charging sources, reducing or eliminating the need to run engines or generators to keep batteries topped off (a wasteful practice that burns fuel while wearing down the costliest pieces of equipment onboard).

While underway, it’s a plus to be able to recharge a dead battery in an emergency – say, to operate a VHF radio or navigation gear. While dockside, solar panels keep batteries charged and vital systems (such as bilge pumps) up and running without the need for shore power.

Large solar panel mounted to a covered vessel docked in a harbor.

Just about any boat can benefit from solar power, whether it’s to keep batteries topped off or supplement other onboard charging sources.

Solar panel mounted on a vessel in use during a sunny afternoon.

Mount solar panels where they are exposed to maximum sunlight but do not interfere with operation of the vessel. 

Large solar panel in use on a clear and sunny day.

Bottom: Something as simple as the shadow of a line or shroud can reduce or halt output.

Types of panels

Solar panels contain photovoltaic cells – small silicon semiconductor devices that convert sunlight into electricity. Each cell generates between 0.45 and 0.5 volts, depending on exposure to direct sunlight. Cell size determines amperage, with a 3-inch cell producing roughly 2 amps, a 4-inch cell a little over 3 amps, and a 5-inch cell around 5 amps.

Construction-wise, the three main types of solar panels are monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and amorphous (or thin-film) technology.

Monocrystalline panels have been around the longest and remain the most popular. The panels are constructed of thin slices of crystal silicon (each cell is cut from a single crystal) housed in a rigid, aluminum frame and covered with tempered shatterproof glass. The panels have a uniform black, blue, or gray appearance and are generally quite rugged, although they can be cracked or broken if subjected to extreme abuse.

Monocrystalline panels have the longest service life of the three types. With a conversion efficiency of around 17%, they’re also the most efficient and have the highest electrical output per area, but they are also the most expensive.

Polycrystalline cells are sliced from a cast silicon block and have a shattered glass appearance. Built in much the same way as monocrystalline panels, they’re rectangular, giving the panel itself a tiled look. Their life span is similar to monocrystalline panels, and while their conversion efficiency is lower (by 14%), they’re also a bit less expensive.

Amorphous panels are made by placing a thin film of active silicon on a solid or flexible backing (such as stainless or aluminum sheeting) depending on whether the panel is to be rigid-framed and glass-fronted or flexible. Flexible amorphous panels, in which cells are sandwiched between rubber and polymer covers, are light and tough enough that you can walk on them and, in some cases, even roll them up for storage.

This type of solar panel is also better if shade is an issue. With crystalline panels, even the thin shadow of a rope or shroud across one cell can reduce or halt output of an entire module. Amorphous panels have “bypass” diodes that essentially turn off shaded cells and provide a current path around them. Some monocrystalline panels also have bypass diodes, but this feature comes at an increase in cost.

Amorphous panels are the least expensive of the three types, but their efficiency is also lower – around 8%, or roughly half that of a monocrystalline type. This lower output is somewhat mitigated in newer panels, however, which use three-layer construction. Each layer absorbs different colors of the solar spectrum, so the panel will deliver more power longer each day and during lower light conditions than the other two types.

Mounted solar panel charge controller

The charge controller should be mounted below decks and as close to the battery as possible. 

SunSaver-10L Solar Controller

Follow manufacturer instructions for wire connections.

Planning the system

While factors such as cost, mounting options, and output are important, a successful installation depends on knowing what you want the system to accomplish. Is the goal to float-charge a single battery or supplement an overall vessel energy plan? Answering these questions up front will help determine the type, size, and number of panels required.

To understand the process better, let’s walk through the basic steps to determine power requirements and installation considerations for a single solar panel installation. While the example itself is simple, the steps are the same used to plan more complicated installations.

For our example, the goal is to install a solar panel to provide charging for a single 12-volt, 100-amp-hour wet-cell battery used to power an automatic anchor light on a moored vessel.

The first step is compiling a daily power consumption estimate to determine how much solar power is needed.

The daily self-discharge rate for a wet-cell battery is roughly 1%, meaning our 100-amp-hour battery requires one amp every 24 hours just to maintain the status quo. The anchor light draws 50 milliamps per hour of operation, and we’ll assume it operates 10 hours each night. Multiplying current draw (50 milliamps) by hours of daily operation (10) generates a daily energy expense of 500 milliamps or .5 amps.

This means our solar panel must meet a minimum daily energy tab of 1.5 amps – one amp of battery self-discharge rate plus .5 amps of power draw for the anchor light.

Next up is figuring out panel size and the best mounting location. For our example, let’s assume the panel will be a horizontal, fixed-mount installation. A 10-watt horizontally mounted panel should generate between 3- and 5-amp hours per day.

We’ll need at least 13 volts to fully charge our 12-volt battery. As most solar cells generate at least 0.45 volts, you’ll want a panel with a minimum of 33 cells, which should provide around 14.85 volts.

Keep in mind that’s the minimum needed, which may not be enough once you factor in a few cloudy days. Most panels are designed to generate between 15 and 20 volts to overcome problems like cloudy days or inherent electrical resistance within the panel or installation components. While this higher voltage lets you make up for less electrically productive days, it also means you’ll want to install a solar charge controller (voltage regulator) to avoid battery damage due to overcharging.

Attempts to plan a system that tries to use the output of the panel and capacity of the battery to prevent overcharging (and avoid the installation of a charge controller) is false economy and should not be done. The system will never meet its full output potential and, worst case, can damage the battery due to overcharging.

A word on ‘charge controller confliction’

If your vessel has multiple charging sources, such as solar panels and a wind turbine, a crucial but often overlooked consideration is “charge controller confliction.” In short, this is an issue where the charge controller for your solar panel and the charge controller for your wind turbine are internally adjusted to the same maximum charge voltage set point. This means they are constantly fighting each other to be the dominant power source, which results in diminished overall charging output and performance. An in-depth article on this issue can be found at ­ (in the website footer, click “Superwind Turbine Manuals & Technical Bulletins.” Under the header “Charge Controllers,” select the document “Resolving Charge Controller Confliction”).

While this article addresses charge controller confliction at remote, off-grid sites, the information provided is also applicable to vessel installations. — F.L.

Location and mounting

Solar panels should be mounted in a location where they are exposed to the maximum amount of sunlight but do not interfere with operation of the vessel or the movement of passengers and crew. Solar panels will typically be either fixed or mounted on some type of movable bracket that allows you to actively point the panel toward the sun for maximum output. Both methods have their pros and cons. Fixed panels (which are normally mounted horizontally) don’t produce as much power as a panel that can be adjusted to face the sun. The downside is that adjustable panels must be aimed throughout the day to maximize their output.

Marine-grade heat shrink connectors for solar panels

Use good quality, marine-grade heat shrink connectors (top) and liquid electrical tape (right) to create airtight, waterproof seals and reduce corrosion.

Liquid electrical tape being applied to create airtight, waterproof seals and reduce corrosion.


After choosing and mounting your panel, it’s time to connect it. The first thing you need to determine is the size (gauge) of the wiring to be used. Multiply your panel’s rated amp output by 1.25 (which adds a 25% safety factor). Then measure the length of the entire wiring run, panel to battery, and multiply by 2. Once you have these two numbers, refer to the American Boat and Yacht Council’s (ABYC) 3% voltage-drop table for wire size. Ancor Products offers a handy wire calculator on its website ( ).

Always use good quality marine grade connectors  and tinned, multi-stranded copper wire with vinyl sheathing. The wire will run from the solar panel to the charge controller first, then to the battery. Try to keep the wire run as short as possible, and if it transits an external deck or cabin house (it likely will), be sure to use an appropriate weatherproof deck fitting.

The charge controller should be mounted below decks and as close to the battery as possible. You’ll always want to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for connections, but in a typical installation you’ll connect the solar panel’s positive (red wire) lead to the charge controller’s positive input wire or terminal and the negative (black wire) lead to the charge controller’s negative input wire or terminal.

Next, connect the charge controller’s negative output to the battery negative terminal and the controller’s positive output to the battery’s positive terminal via an appropriately sized in-line fuse (or circuit breaker). ABYC recommends these be installed within 7 inches of connection to the battery or other point in the DC system. To reiterate, the installation of the charge controller can vary among models, so follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions.

Finally, ensure all connections are waterproof and secure any loose wire runs with wire ties and cable clamps for a neat installation. Then get ready to lean back and soak up some free sun.

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Top 3 Best Solar Panels For Sailboats

Best Solar Panels For Sailboats | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

June 15, 2022

Choosing whether or not to install solar panels on your sailboat is a big decision. They are not exactly cheap, though they can start to pay themselves off pretty quickly.

This article is going to cover not only why you might want to use solar panels but all the benefits they provide. You will also find a helpful guide on which solar panels would be best for you and your budget. Hopefully, by the end, you will feel confident in your decision to install solar panels on your sailboat and even have an idea of which ones you might like.

Table of contents

Are solar panels on sailboats necessary?

Whether or not you should be installing solar panels on your boat is a matter of choice, not out of necessity. Sailboats get their power from the wind, by harnassing it in their sail. So if you plan to be sailing for the afternoon you probably don’t need solar panels.

You could charge a battery pack from the marina and that will probably see you through several trips. The problems only really start to arise if you are planning to be on your sailboat for longer periods, or even permanently. If you plan to live on your sailboat year-round, even if you spend 80% of it in a marina, you would be better off with some solar panels. Even if it is just as a backup source of power.

Are solar panels on boats safe?

Solar panels are generally pretty safe. They have no moving parts and typically have a very strong protective cover over them so you never come in contact with the electrics themself. So, as a source of power, they are generally pretty safe. The only time they may become unsafe is if they are badly damaged.

Solar panels are often covered by glass plating that keeps them safe. It also helps them absorb sunlight and warmth. This is great, except when the glass breaks. If the glass protective cover on your solar panels should crack and splinter you are at risk of serious injury from sharp shards of glass. Not only is the glass itself dangerous at this point, so are the electronic components inside. They have powerful currents running through them, and if you come in contact with them you may be in for a shock.

Furthermore, if these electronics get wet they can become deadly. Electricity and water do not mix well at all. Being as you are on a sailboat, at sea, the chances of them getting wet is very high. Luckily, the chances of them breaking in the first place are slim to none. The only real way they would break, besides vandalism, is by debris hitting them during a bad storm. There is not often debris at sea, so this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

What are the benefits of having solar panels on a sailboat?

There are so many great benefits of having solar panels on a sailboat. They can be a lifesaver if you find yourself at sea for a long time. There benefits range from trivial comforts to being the difference between life and death. Here are some of the benefits you might not have considered about having solar panels installed on your sailboat.


Solar panels are not cheap, it is far cheaper to just run a generator or charge your batteries from the marina the whole time. At least, it is in the short term. Over time, it can start to become very expensive. With solar panels, you are looking at a big initial cost (the solar panels themself) and then it’s smooth sailing. You don’t need to pay for power again. Solar panels last for about 40 years before they start to become too inefficient at producing power. The cost of a few solar panels upfront compared to 40 years of marina fees and gasoline for a generator is the financially savvy move.

Emergency power

If you find yourself at sea, the wind dies down (or becomes too strong), and you find yourself stuck bobbing around waiting for more favorable conditions you may run into trouble. Depending on how long you are out there, you may find yourself with dead electronics. Be it a satellite phone, radio, or secondary engine (depending on the boat). Having a set of solar panels and a power bank can be a genuine lifesaver in these situations.

Comfort amenities

Whether you are day sailing or making a week-long voyage, having access to the comforts in life can make the whole journey so much more enjoyable. The amenities may not be available to you without having a constant source of power at sea. Having access to a kettle, tv, videogame system, radio or microwave oven may be the only thing keeping you going at rougher times. As exciting as sailing can be, when you aren’t sailing and are just bobbing around it can be quite dull. The sea is beautiful, but there is only so much time you can spend looking at the water before you miss the comforts of land. With solar panels, you can bring those comforts with you.


There are only two alternatives to solar panels. A gasoline generator, and taking power from the grid. Neither of these is good for the environment. Luckily, solar panels are a great third option. Solar panels are completely eco-friendly and are great for the environment. This is not just great for the earth, and your conscience, but for the journey itself. If you are running a gasoline generator at sea you are going to be listening to it thrumming away and smell the burning gasoline. Wouldnt you prefer silence and nothing but the smell of the sea breeze?

How much do solar panels cost?

How much solar panels cost is almost entirely tied into both their voltage/wattage and whether or not they are portable panels. Portable solar panels are great for people who don’t spend a lot of time on their boat or are happy enough living off the marina’s power grid. Permanent solar panels, the kind that may need to professionally installed, can end up costing far more. They are also likely to be far superior and you can pretty much forget about them once they are installed.

Portable solar panels will cost just a few hundred dollars each. You will need a few to be sustainable, but that’s not going to be much of a problem. These portable solar panels can just be rolled out on the deck of your boat, weighed down, and then hooked up to a battery pack. The battery itself here is going to be the most expensive part of the whole set up. A decent-sized battery could set you back a $1000. But, when charged fully it will last days. Even with constant use.

Permanently installed solar panels can cost one or two thousand dollars in some cases. The advantage here though is once they are installed that’s it, you can forget about them. You don’t have to put them up, take them down, and find somewhere to stow them every time they need using. They too will need to be hooked up to a battery, the battery is still only going to cost you $1000. If you are installing permanent solar panels because you plan to be making long voyages, it is ideal to have two or perhaps even three large batteries hooked up to your boat. One to run off, one or two for emergencies.

How do I maintain my solar panels?

Solar panels, unlike gasoline generators, are generally pretty easy to maintain. They have no moving parts and are thus pretty self-sufficient. They don’t need taking apart and they last as long as 40 years. That being said, if they do break they need repairing as soon as possible. The exposed electrics can be deadly when water is thrown into the mix. Which, on a boat, is almost always. The glass cover will need replacing and the electronics inside may need repairing, though not always. Don’t ever attempt to do this yourself unless you are experienced at making these repairs. The cost of hiring someone to do it for you is preferable to being dead. Solar panels have very powerful electric currents, that when in contact with water and yourself can be fatal. As mentioned above, these panels rarely break so you will likely not ever run into this problem. If you do, hire a contractor.

Do my solar panels need cleaning?

Solar panels work by converting the light and heat of the sun into useable power. The process itself is rather complicated but the results are simple to understand. That being said, there are some reasons that your solar panels will stop working as effectively. They all revolve around a lack of sunlight. It could be because it is night time. It could be because it is very cloudy. Or, it could be because they are dirty. If solar panels become too dusty, dirty, and become too covered in grime they stop operating at maximum efficiency. This is not as much of a problem at sea, the sea spray stops dust settling. The biggest thing you will need to clean off your solar panels is salt build-up and slime. This is easy enough to do with some warm soapy water. Freshwater, not seawater. You want to be removing as much salt as possible. Salt is corrosive to electronics, so removing it is important. Never clean your solar panels using pressure washers as they can crack the glass.

Which are the best solar panels for sailing?

There are so many options on the market at various price points. Here are three very different options that will all make good choices, depending on your needs. It is important to consider not just price but power output. Spending a lot of money on solar panels now might not feel ideal, but it is the most cost-effective decision.

1. Renogy Starter Kit

This starter kit is going to be perfect for installing on almost any sized boat. There are four solar panels, each can be fitted permanently to the boat. They can be mounted (and unmounted) easily, for your convenience. They do require a flat surface, but they are small enough that that likely won’t be too much of a problem. This starter kit is very middle of the pack price-wise but should provide enough power for a small to medium-sized vessel easily. It is also possible to buy extra panels individually should you need them.

Wattage: 400/4 (100 per panel)

2. Nature Power Rigid

The nature power rigid is a large, powerful, single solar panel. If you are looking for the right panels to power your entire boat comfortably, these are the ones for you. They are very large so they will need a large flat surface area. alternatively, they can be hung vertically from rails. This is an inefficient way of using them, so you would need to buy more this way. Nature power makes various solar panels so you could find some smaller ones of the same brand to supplement it. This one is not so easy to install, you might need to hire someone to install it for you.

Wattage: 165

3. Nature Power Monocrystalline

Nature power makes a portable solar panel that fits inside a special briefcase. It is perfect for stowing away easily and only taking it out when it is needed. It is decently powerful considering its portable, but there is the inconvenience factor of having to set it up each time. If you planned to buy the nature power rigid, buying one of these portable panels might be ideal for supplementing your power supply when it is especially sunny. Though, it may be cheaper for you to just fit more of the Nature Power Rigids.

Wattage: 120

Hopefully, you now have a good idea about whether solar panels would be right for you and your sailboat. Sailing is great, but the lack of power at sea can be dreadfully boring. Luckily, there are so many great options available on the market. Not just the ones mentioned above. Buying a solar panel is an investment, the initial cost is minor compared to the steady return from all the savings you will make.

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I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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Bringing over 15 years of extensive expertise in electrifying solar electric yachts since 2007, we have been pioneers in the solar yachts industry. Our integral solar electric systems in-house have impressively powered more than 27 circumnavigations of the Earth across the world’s oceans, offering unmatched real-world testing and performance validation for an extraordinary and worry-free sailing experience.


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You could be a retiring or downsizing sailor. Perhaps you are an up-and-coming professional searching for your first yacht. Maybe you simply love classic boats. Either way, you value sustainability or you wouldn't be here on this page.  Wouldn't your lake, river or sound be a classier place with a boat that is in alignment with your values?   

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Rosatom starts production of rare-earth magnets for wind power generation

November 11, 2020 5:17 pm

Rosatom starts production of rare-earth magnets for wind power generation

T VEL Fuel Company of Rosatom has started gradual localization of rare-earth magnets manufacturing for wind power plants generators. The first sets of magnets have been manufactured and shipped to the customer.

In total, the contract between Elemash Magnit LLC (an enterprise of TVEL Fuel Company of Rosatom in Elektrostal, Moscow region) and Red Wind B.V. (a joint venture of NovaWind JSC and the Dutch company Lagerwey) foresees manufacturing and supply over 200 sets of magnets. One set is designed to produce one power generator.

“The project includes gradual localization of magnets manufacturing in Russia, decreasing dependence on imports. We consider production of magnets as a promising sector for TVEL’s metallurgical business development. In this regard, our company does have the relevant research and technological expertise for creation of Russia’s first large-scale full cycle production of permanent rare-earth magnets,” commented Natalia Nikipelova, President of TVEL JSC.

“NovaWind, as the nuclear industry integrator for wind power projects, not only made-up an efficient supply chain, but also contributed to the development of inter-divisional cooperation and new expertise of Rosatom enterprises. TVEL has mastered a unique technology for the production of magnets for wind turbine generators. These technologies will be undoubtedly in demand in other areas as well,” noted Alexander Korchagin, Director General of NovaWind JSC.

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Rosatom Starts Production of Rare-Earth Magnets for Wind Power Generation

TVEL Fuel Company of Rosatom has started gradual localization of rare-earth magnets manufacturing for wind power plants generators. The first sets of magnets have been manufactured and shipped to the customer.

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In total, the contract between Elemash Magnit LLC (an enterprise of TVEL Fuel Company of Rosatom in Elektrostal, Moscow region) and Red Wind B.V. (a joint venture of NovaWind JSC and the Dutch company Lagerwey) foresees manufacturing and supply over 200 sets of magnets. One set is designed to produce one power generator.

“The project includes gradual localization of magnets manufacturing in Russia, decreasing dependence on imports. We consider production of magnets as a promising sector for TVEL’s metallurgical business development. In this regard, our company does have the relevant research and technological expertise for creation of Russia’s first large-scale full cycle production of permanent rare-earth magnets,” commented Natalia Nikipelova, President of TVEL JSC.

“NovaWind, as the nuclear industry integrator for wind power projects, not only made-up an efficient supply chain, but also contributed to the development of inter-divisional cooperation and new expertise of Rosatom enterprises. TVEL has mastered a unique technology for the production of magnets for wind turbine generators. These technologies will be undoubtedly in demand in other areas as well,” noted Alexander Korchagin, Director General of NovaWind JSC.

For reference:

TVEL Fuel Company of Rosatom incorporates enterprises for the fabrication of nuclear fuel, conversion and enrichment of uranium, production of gas centrifuges, as well as research and design organizations. It is the only supplier of nuclear fuel for Russian nuclear power plants. TVEL Fuel Company of Rosatom provides nuclear fuel for 73 power reactors in 13 countries worldwide, research reactors in eight countries, as well as transport reactors of the Russian nuclear fleet. Every sixth power reactor in the world operates on fuel manufactured by TVEL.

NovaWind JSC is a division of Rosatom; its primary objective is to consolidate the State Corporation's efforts in advanced segments and technological platforms of the electric power sector. The company was founded in 2017. NovaWind consolidates all of the Rosatom’s wind energy assets – from design and construction to power engineering and operation of wind farms.

Overall, by 2023, enterprises operating under the management of NovaWind JSC, will install 1 GW of wind farms.

Elemash Magnit LLC is a subsidiary of Kovrov Mechanical Plant (an enterprise of the TVEL Fuel Company of Rosatom) and its main supplier of magnets for production of gas centrifuges. The company also produces magnets for other industries, in particular, for the automotive

industry. The production facilities of Elemash Magnit LLC are located in the city of Elektrostal, Moscow Region, at the site of Elemash Machine-Building Plant (a nuclear fuel fabrication facility of TVEL Fuel Company).

Rosatom is a global actor on the world’s nuclear technology market. Its leading edge stems from a number of competitive strengths, one of which is assets and competences at hand in all nuclear segments. Rosatom incorporates companies from all stages of the technological chain, such as uranium mining and enrichment, nuclear fuel fabrication, equipment manufacture and engineering, operation of nuclear power plants, and management of spent nuclear fuel and nuclear waste. Nowadays, Rosatom brings together about 350 enterprises and organizations with the workforce above 250 K.

solar powered sailboat motor

U.S. Added Less New Wind Power in 2021 Than the Previous Year — Here’s Why

solar powered sailboat motor

Norway’s Massive Floating Wind Turbine Wall Will Be Funded by the Government This Year

solar powered sailboat motor

RWE Becomes a Top Tier Renewable Energy Company in the United States

solar powered sailboat motor

Renew Power Deploys India’s 1st 3X Platform Wind Turbine Generators

solar powered sailboat motor

Top 10 Countries in Wind Energy Capacity

solar powered sailboat motor

Onshore Wind to Play a Key Role in Achieving India’s 2030 Target


  1. 6 Must-Have Features for the Ultimate Solar Boat in 2024

    5. Azura Marine - Aquanima 40. The Aquanima by Azura Marine is powered entirely solar and features some innovative adaptations that make it even more economical and eco-friendly. For example, rainwater collection from the solar panels on the roof and the fact that excess solar can be sold back to shore stations.

  2. Solar Powered Boat Motors: Easiest Way to Set up Your Solar Boat

    It's super easy to set up the solar powered motor systems, like plug and play. Take the above-mentioned Spirit 1.0 Plus as an example, here are 2 simple steps to have the Spirit battery charged via solar energy: Step 1: Connect the solar charger controller to the Spirit battery plus. Step 2: Connect solar charger controller to the solar panel.

  3. Sailing with solar power: A practical guide

    THE AVAILABLE SPACE. In practical terms, a modern 40ft monohull would have the space for around 1,200W of PV panels (cockpit arch, sprayhood top, deck), maybe 1,500W with the addition of a few portable panels for use at anchor. The 1,200W of fixed position solar array could produce around 360Ah on a sunny summer's day (zero shading) or more ...

  4. Advanced electric yachts

    ALVA Yachts, the German builder of luxury electric solar catamarans and sail boats, has announced it is currently building the world's first fuelless 90ft superyacht catamaran with wings, the OCEAN ECO 90 H2. The first superyacht catamaran to run without fossil fuels and producing zero emission, the OCEAN ECO 90 H2 is designed with luxury ...

  5. Sailboat Solar Systems and How-To

    He's been living aboard and renovating the boat for the past 3.5 years We're excited to show you the transformation as well as how he plans to propel the boat without the use of diesel or fossil fuels! 5280w Solar System for Electric Powered Catamaran. 16 Rigid solar panels (330w each) 20kwh of Lithium Batteries.

  6. This New 100-Foot Sailboat Uses Solar and Wind Power to Cruise Autonomously

    The Sunreef Eco 100 has all the hallmarks of a luxury sailing vessel, but also benefits from 2,600 square feet of solar panels for nearly autonomous power. Published on February 20, 2023. By Kevin ...

  7. Solar-Powered Yachts Are Taking Over—and That's a Good Thing

    So far, two boats have chosen hybrid power: the 273-foot Savannah, launched in 2015, and Feadship's largest build, the 361-foot Anna, delivered two years ago. A third yacht launched that same ...

  8. Silent 60, The Solar Electric Catamaran With a Kite Sail System

    1,493 4 minutes read. The new SILENT 60 solar powered catamaran carries 42 solar panels for 17 kWp of solar energy to power two electric motors of up to 2x340kw. Backed up by a battery capacity of up to 286 kWh, the yacht can cruise efficiently with zero emissions solely on solar power for up to 100 nautical miles a day for weeks.

  9. Tested: Silent 55 Solar-Electric Power Catamaran

    The hull I sea trialed in late 2019 was powered by twin 250-kW e-motors, giving it a solid cruising speed of 10 to 12 knots. Under solar power alone, the yacht makes 5 to 6 knots. Among the many things that make the Silent 55 unique are the 30 solar panels arrayed on its coach roof.

  10. Review: Silent 55, the extraordinary solar powered yacht

    On the smaller 55 and the 64, Silent Yachts currently recommends a 19m2 kite that costs around €25,000 - a fraction of the cost of a new mast, boom, shrouds and sails. "The sail ...

  11. ® OFFICIAL Silent Yachts

    The Original Solar Yacht. As the original inventors of series produced solar-electric yachts, we pioneered this innovative approach. Our first model, the Silent 64, was launched to the market in 2016, several years before any other shipyard considered the possibility of going electric.

  12. How Do Solar-Powered Boats Work? 7 Vessels That Run on Solar

    The Aditya. The Aditya is India's largest solar boat and the world's first solar-powered ferry. Carrying approximately 1,700 passengers per day, it is 30 times cheaper to run than the diesel ferry ...

  13. Electric yachts

    Adding the option of a fully automatic towing kite gives the 60 Series the opportunity to make use of the wind without shading the panels. The either 9m² or 12 m² sized kite flies at heights where winds are much stronger, thus being able to create up to 10x more pulling power compared to a conventional sail.

  14. What You Need To Know About Boat Solar Panels

    I first embraced the idea of solar power while up a pole (literally) in the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway replacing dead batteries. It was the early 1980s, and I was maintaining buoys, beacons, and other such Aids To Navigation (ATON) for the U.S. Coast Guard, replacing massive, nonrechargeable batteries with rechargeable solar-powered ones.

  15. Top 3 Best Solar Panels For Sailboats

    Spending a lot of money on solar panels now might not feel ideal, but it is the most cost-effective decision. 1. Renogy Starter Kit. This starter kit is going to be perfect for installing on almost any sized boat. There are four solar panels, each can be fitted permanently to the boat.

  16. Solar-Powered Yachts with a Virtually Unlimited Range

    Dubbed Silent System, the electric motors allow an average cruise of 6 to 8 knots (and a top hop of about 10 knots), with a virtually unlimited range across the entire lineup. Two factors make this possible, the first being Silent Yachts' constant upgrades to the latest-generation lithium batteries. -Tesla Motors now supplies the company with ...


    Our solar electric catamarans combine all the elements for a luxurious and environmentally conscious aquatic lifestyle. With zero CO2 or noise emissions on board, you can reconnect with your senses and fully enjoy the journey. electric models. The Soel Yachts portfolio offers solar electric catamarans for both private and commercial applications.

  18. 100% Solar Boats

    Our 100% solar electric boats are proven, practical and fun! top of page. SUSTAINABLE ENERGY SYSTEMS. More. SOLAR SAL BOATS. 100% SOLAR ELECTRIC . The Leader in Solar Boating. First 100% Solar US Coast Guard Inspected Passenger Vessel ... Wayward Sun is the first solar powered boat to complete the Inside Passage from Bellingham, WA to Glacier ...

  19. This solar-powered 10-seater electric boat has infinite range

    The Solar Sal 24 is a recreational electric boat that has enough solar power from its canopy to offer unlimited range. ... Powered by an electric motor using batteries recharged by solar panels ...

  20. Infinity Solar Boats

    Welcome to Solar Electric Boat "Solliner" Your Gateway to Green Boating where Innovation meet sustainability. [email protected] (619) 997-1288 ... Meva can be powered by one or two motors. It is very easily maneuverable and can run. 15 km/h powered by 4 batteries 210 Ah each. Length of 20.1' width 6.5'

  21. Update on things and how to buy a Dyna-Ski Boat

    I feel that power assisted hydraulic steering is really overkill for a single motored boat but if you want it order it. 17.6 Open Bow maximum motor capacity is 150 HP. We have sold them with motors from 75 hp on up. The people that buy the smaller motors are usually on horsepower limited lakes. A 115 or larger motor will be a decent water ski boat.

  22. Dyna-Ski Boats: Upgrading to Evinrude digital controls

    The G2 motors cost more than the E-Tec but the controls cost less than converting the regular Evinrude motors to digital controls they say. I have a couple G2's on a twin. I'll try to get the guy driving the Dyna-Ski Boat with the twin G2's to give us his thoughts and I'll try to do the same with the guys driving G2 powered new style Dyna-Ski ...

  23. Rosatom starts production of rare-earth magnets for wind power generation

    T VEL Fuel Company of Rosatom has started gradual localization of rare-earth magnets manufacturing for wind power plants generators. The first sets of magnets have been manufactured and shipped to the customer. In total, the contract between Elemash Magnit LLC (an enterprise of TVEL Fuel Company of Rosatom in Elektrostal, Moscow region) and Red Wind B.V. (a joint venture of NovaWind JSC and ...

  24. Rosatom Starts Production of Rare-Earth Magnets for Wind Power

    06 Nov 2020 by Rosatom. TVEL Fuel Company of Rosatom has started gradual localization of rare-earth magnets manufacturing for wind power plants generators. The first sets of magnets have been manufactured and shipped to the customer. In total, the contract between Elemash Magnit LLC (an enterprise of TVEL Fuel Company of Rosatom in Elektrostal ...