Friday, August 22, 2008

Hurulu Joins the Clean Tech Bandwagon

As you can tell by the recent string of posts, our lives these days are consumed with outfitting the boat with gadgets large and small that will (hopefully) make our trip to Mexico safer and more enjoyable.

Our latest addition is one that I'm particularly excited about. I've always been a closet environmentalist-- after all, I grew up in Boulder, Colorado which has a strong hippy vein running through its collective bloodstream.

And, one of the greatest things I love about sailing is harnessing the natural power of the wind to move fast. Not to mention the obvious fact that wind doesn't cost a dime--we feel "sorry" (sic) for those anxious powerboaters watching the price of a barrel of oil-- after all, how could you relax while burning a gallon a minute?

Given this predilection, our thinking was that if we added solar panels to Hurulu, we would be less reliant on our diesel engine for all the electrical, radar, VHF, etc. We'd be able to sit back and enjoy our sunsets knowing that, somewhat ironically, the blazing sun was cooling our cocktails.

So, the past few days have seen me spending an inordinate amount of time comparing obscure technical details... monocrystalline vs. polycrystalline, thin-film vs. traditional, fixed modules vs. flexible, etc. It's a bit like choosing a cell phone plan-- the range of options boggles the mind.

Further, in addition to just cost and power output, there are special considerations such as size, where to mount them, and their ability to tolerate shade. (On this latter note, many panels are like the old-fashioned Christmas lights, where if one went out, the whole string would go the same way, on some panels if a single cell is in the shade, the output of the whole array is greatly reduced.)

Ultimately we pulled the trigger on a Kyocera 65 Watt panel. While it's not terribly large nor powerful, it didn't break the bank either, and we're hoping it will be enough to avoid running the diesel during those sunset cocktail hours-- and who can put a price on that?

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