Ranger Tug R23 Solar Upgrade

Category: Boat Stuff

I have been slowly planning and working towards our solar upgrade on The Salty Lass and finally finished it up. I took a lot of inspiration from @Submariner and their upgrades for Channel Surfing, but made a few changes to suit our different boat and different power usage.

When we first got the boat, the first upgrade I did was to add the Victron BMV-712 battery monitor. That was great for learning how much electricity we generally used. In preparation for the new solar panels, the first thing I did was upgrade to the Victron 100/30 MPPT solar controller. I mounted it in the port lazarette and initially used it with the stock panel.

Victron 100/30 MPPT solar controller

That stock panel on our 2018 R23 is a paltry 90 watts, which didnt even fully keep up with the refrigerator running. We are not super heavy electrical users, but I wanted to make sure we would be energy independent, so I decided to upgrade to 350 watts via two 175w Custom Marine Products panels. The 175w panels are square shaped, which would make them take up a lot of space if mounted side-by-side, so I decided to mount them front-to-back, essentially making a big rectangle. This allowed me to keep the sides of my rack free for other uses. I made up a quick wooden mock-up to make sure it would all fit before purchasing the panels.

Mockup to make sure the new panels would fit

In order to mount them, I used some aluminum channel strut (aka Unistrut) - I bolted the two panels to each other and then to the channel strut to make one solid unit. I chamferred the ends and used the Gemini rail mounts to attach to the roof racks.

I am really happy with the way it all turned out. It just so happened that @Submariner was visiting the Langley marina the day I got these installed and I think I even got his seal of approval =)

Here are some of the numbers from yesterday - it was pretty sunny, but there was some smoke in the air and it is the tail end of September in the PNW. For reference, I had never seen more than about 60 watts from the old panel on the brightest sunniest day with the old panel.

Solar output after upgrading

(NOTE: It is obvious in hindsight, but one thing I learned the hard way: the MPPT controller can output up to 30 amps (that is why it is called 100/30), so the fuse between the controller and the battery needs to be sized accordingly. The stock configuration included a 10 amp fuse and my old PWM controller and 90w panel never got close to that. With the new panels and controller, I blew the fuse when the sun was out and energy was flowing into the battery. Since my wiring was already 10AWG, I replaced it with a 30amp fuse and all has been fine since,)




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