Solar paddle boat idea.

newplumber

Senior Member
Hi Everyone its been a long time since I blabbed here but
In the last 3 weeks I've been kicking around the idea of using solar for a cool project....like a full size "solar" boat.
so if you look out side and the sky starts turning gray and less sun ...don't worry It's just me screwing around with a bad experiment stealing sun shine!
And first off thanks to you all for the threads of solar and controllers and info...I didn't realize how easy it was to set a solar panel up (without smoke).
I bought one from harbor freight for 140 on sale .... I don't know much on controllers but I think I will use the
solar controller that comes with the HF kit ..(i think its mppt)....my goal is to have 3 options for this experiment
1-a boat that don't sink
2-bank account that has a diode going positive
3-a few submarines on stand by
(Joking)

1 - pedal generator
2- wind generator
3- solar generator

Is it possible to have all 3 generators power a dc motor at the same time?
I bought a cheap electric trolling motor (35 amp) for tests
but knowing me I say forget the "35 amp" and run double the amps and see what happens
I plan on putting this all in a paddle boat but a small pontoon might be better
so if you happen to be lost at a lake and see this UBO scream by its just me.

I plan on using a picaxe 20m2 to control the direction trolling motor by
a joy stick for speed and direction with a stepper motor to rotate the handle

So my plan is to get the max speed out the boat
I have a treadmill motor for a good generator for the feet and maybe the wind combined
and thinking since like making some sun shade with solar panels
like 6 or eight panels
I did some tests on using 19 volts directly to the trolling motor and it ran fine
and since its going to be in the water why not run it a lot hotter
I will try drawing up some horrible design
My goal is build this boat so fast I can go to UK and grab some picaxe chips and be back in a few hours then I would save on shipping :)


Also since I am here I hope not to jump off ideas but my last experiment on the crushing poly pipe
is on hold for waiting for a stronger design.

Sincerely or your last friend on the list
Mark
 

papaof2

Senior Member
For a pedal generator, you need to research how much horsepower a healthy adult can produce - and for how long. Using pedal power, you'll travel farther with direct drive to the paddles of a paddle boat because you don't have the losses of manpower --> generator (x% loss) -> motor (y% loss).

Do be aware of the large pulses and electrical noise associated with DC motors and do very good filtering of the power and control lines to/from the PICAXE.

Solar panels as roof on a boat? What's the beam of the boat and how much load (lb/kg) can it carry? 100 watt solar panels are about 20lb (10kg - yes, I'm doing rounding). 250 watt panels are about twice that (40lb/20kg). 300 watt (and up) panels weigh proportionaltely more - and you don't want a top-heavy boat which could capsize. Unless you're shopping for lightweight panels, which transfers the load to your wallet ;-)

The trolling motor's amps depend on the voltage used and the load applied. Putting 24 volts on a 12 volt motor will make it run faster but not for long. The trolling motor's power (and the amps/volts) are based on it being water cooled. The 35 amp rating is what it draws at full load on its rated voltage.

How big a battery (volts, amp hours, weight)? If there's no sun and your legs are too tired to pedal any longer, how will you get home? From experience with a solar backup system, the days you need sun the most will be "partly cloudy" or worse.
 

erco

Senior Member
Good luck. Pedaling a generator to drive an electric trolling motor is next to impossible. Per papaof2, you lose half your efficiency at every energy conversion. 50% times 50% is 25% at best. Get yourself a crank flashlight and see how hard it is to maintain even the power to run an LED bulb for an hour.

Recommend you figure out an all-mechanical pedal to prop system with electric assist you can connect/disconnect with a clutch.
 
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newplumber

Senior Member
For a pedal generator, you need to research how much horsepower a healthy adult can produce - and for how long. Using pedal power, you'll travel farther with direct drive to the paddles of a paddle boat because you don't have the losses of manpower --> generator (x% loss) -> motor (y% loss).

Do be aware of the large pulses and electrical noise associated with DC motors and do very good filtering of the power and control lines to/from the PICAXE.

Solar panels as roof on a boat? What's the beam of the boat and how much load (lb/kg) can it carry? 100 watt solar panels are about 20lb (10kg - yes, I'm doing rounding). 250 watt panels are about twice that (40lb/20kg). 300 watt (and up) panels weigh proportionaltely more - and you don't want a top-heavy boat which could capsize. Unless you're shopping for lightweight panels, which transfers the load to your wallet ;-)

The trolling motor's amps depend on the voltage used and the load applied. Putting 24 volts on a 12 volt motor will make it run faster but not for long. The trolling motor's power (and the amps/volts) are based on it being water cooled. The 35 amp rating is what it draws at full load on its rated voltage.

How big a battery (volts, amp hours, weight)? If there's no sun and your legs are too tired to pedal any longer, how will you get home? From experience with a solar backup system, the days you need sun the most will be "partly cloudy" or worse.
Well very good questions Papaof2 !
the boat? I was going to use a paddle one but like you say not good on stability
I was hoping to find old damaged pontoon but looks like half of the world is looking as well
my bro gave me a sad old looking 17' aluminum starcraft closed bow with no motor so I might use that
I also have not much experience in solar so its perfect for me to learn
I searched on pedal generators and every one of them look horrible compared to the power I am getting out of my tread motor
If I use the boat I can probably can fit 2-250 watt on closed bow and 3 more on shade skirt I will make.....so in total about 1000 watt
I am doing testing on my foot generator so i don't have the results yet I still need to get foot pedals attached also I am planning to use
a balance wheel to keep power more steady.
batterys? don't know yet ....i seen they make some good 40ah lithium....this may sound strange but my goal is use no power from
batterys and only from whats generating at that time but might have to use the batterys to smooth/control the current
I live were its no trees and plenty of sun infact its so much sunshine it even shines at night :)
This is going to be a big project and it might take a few tries to get it right and i will try to add results a weekend here or there but the biggest thing is see what speeds can I make with sun and man power on water within my ability.

I want to use a picaxe 20X2 or 40X2 to control the speed of the trol motor
and if possible add adjustable propeller



If I test this trolling motor in a 1/2 full 55 gallon barrel ....would the results be the same as at the lake? maybe not cause the flow might be different


Good luck. Pedaling a generator to drive an electric trolling motor is next to impossible. Per papaof2, you lose half your efficiency at every energy conversion. 50% times 50% is 25% at best. Get yourself a crank flashlight and see how hard it is to maintain even the power to run an LED bulb for an hour.

Recommend you figure out an all-mechanical pedal to prop system with electric assist you can connect/disconnect with a clutch.
hi erco
I tried the recharge flashlight but they use horrible mechanical gears infact i believe your using more power grinding the gears together
then making the gen turn
now i know you know way more on power and your probably right but using my cheap drill turning my gen motor seems like
a person could easily make good power ...but maybe I am running into a brick wall with the foot idea
but i will try it out and tell you how sad it is :)
 

Flenser

Senior Member
Newplumber,

Articles about how much power a human can produce by pedaling from the internet.

Human power - Wikipeida
"During a bicycle race, an elite cyclist can produce close to 400 watts of mechanical power over an hour and in short bursts over double that—1000 to 1100 watts"
"An adult of good fitness is more likely to average between 50 and 150 watts for an hour of vigorous exercise."

How Much Electricity Can a Human Generate?
"when I'm working at my pedal-powered computer desk, I'm only able to generate 45-50 W of electricity"
"Your sustainable power output depends on your fitness level. Some elite athletes can maintain 350 W or more for more than 30 minutes. A fit recreational cyclist, you can probably maintain about 200 W, while the average, untrained person can produce about 75 W "
 

newplumber

Senior Member
thanks for that Flenser ...i seen some videos on how hard it is to pedal power which is interesting but I am still going to try build one for testing

I did some testing last week with my horrible solar power
I had 3 "25" watt panels in parallel and since it was 104 F degrees out
the panels got to be 135 F degrees and could only produce MAX 3.2 volts+3.4 amps while spinning the trolling motor in water
the picture shows 2.5 volts and 2.75 amps under same load with less sun solar troll test.jpg
so I am guessing the panels under heat lose a ton of energy and or since they are from harbor freight the panels them selves are horrible

There probably isn't a easy way to use a picaxe to control a dc treadmill motor using pwm with a pot and some switching
I'll keep searching the site
 

papaof2

Senior Member
From personal experience, the larger panels typically deliver more of their rated power than the smaller panels and the better panels come closer to their STC (Standard Test Conditions) ratings in the real world. I've never had a 100 watt panel deliver more than 75 watts, even using an MPPT controller which should have found it's maximum power point. However, I have some 250 watt Jinko panels which I measured at 235 watts in backyard sun on a summer day at 85F (~29C)- so warmer than the 25C (77F) of the STC (didn't check the panel temp other than it being hot to the touch so probably over 100F (~38C)).
Driving devices such as DC motors directly from the solar panel can be a long road to frustration. Brushed DC motors are almost a short circuit when they are at rest - it's the counter EMF they develop as they come up to speed that reduces the power draw. The 2.75 amps from your panels isn't even close to what's needed to get that motor up to speed. Unlike batteries which have a large current capacity at their rated voltage, solar panels often deliver their rated current to a mismatched load but their rated voltage and current together only occur when the load matches what the panel is designed for. Several 100 watt panels (about 5 amps each) in parallel might drive that motor nicely at 18 volts (ballpark voltage for 100 watt panels) - 18 volts at 15-25 amps being closer to the ballpark of what the motor needs to get up to speed.

You may find that you need batteries - charged by solar power, maybe - but still batteries which can deliver the amps needed to get the motor up to speed. At which point, adequate solar power could continue to run the motor - but you need to know the actual power levels needed - starting amps, amps and volts to reach the designed maximum notor speed, amps needed to keep the boat moving once at speed - and that's different if you're moving with or against the wind or with or against the current in moving water.

If this stuff was easy, your local sporting goods store would love to be able to sell a $200 "solar trolling motor" package that only needed one portable solar panel to run it - that package doesn't exist because the unpleasant truth is that motive power of any kind requires an adequate power source. Moving 180lb of human in 120lb of boat requires X horsepower and that's 746 watts/HP - less allowances for things not being 100% efficient. A 250 watt solar panel can put 750 watt/hours of power into a battery in 3 hours of full sun (ignoring losses) and you could use that 1HP for an hour by draining the battery to oblivion (ignoring losses). Three 250 watt panels in parallel would be close to 1HP (but at 30-40 volts) so that might work in full sun. A 250 watt panel delivers about 8 amps so 3 panels could provide about 24 amps - much more likely to move that boat. Yes, I just upped your solar power by a factor of 10.
 

newplumber

Senior Member
Driving devices such as DC motors directly from the solar panel can be a long road to frustration. Brushed DC motors are almost a short circuit when they are at rest - it's the counter EMF they develop as they come up to speed that reduces the power draw. .
I've never had a 100 watt panel deliver more than 75 watts
Ok thats what i wanted to hear ...mine are only getting like 15 watts
they must measure the wattage of them at the peak brightness of nuclear bomb



I just had installed a solar pump for a buddy of mine and the pump I believe was brush 12v 50 watt motor
which like you said and i say in different words " trying to balance on a bowling ball with roller skates"! it was a horrible pump.
I am going to try getting a brushless pump and stop the headaches
I do love my brushless treadmill motors ....they run on just about any voltage without any complications
I have alot of them motors since everyone loves to run now days :)
I'm going to test with a mppt controller see if it makes a difference
 

John West

Senior Member
thanks for that Flenser ...i seen some videos on how hard it is to pedal power which is interesting but I am still going to try build one for testing

I did some testing last week with my horrible solar power
I had 3 "25" watt panels in parallel and since it was 104 F degrees out
the panels got to be 135 F degrees and could only produce MAX 3.2 volts+3.4 amps while spinning the trolling motor in water
the picture shows 2.5 volts and 2.75 amps under same load with less sun View attachment 24826
so I am guessing the panels under heat lose a ton of energy and or since they are from harbor freight the panels them selves are horrible

There probably isn't a easy way to use a picaxe to control a dc treadmill motor using pwm with a pot and some switching
I'll keep searching the site
The heat will only drop a couple of volts maximum from the panel's output, and typical panels for 12 V systems are built with enough cells to still charge a 12 V battery when they're hot. One thing you have to be aware of is that PV panels are essentially current sources, meaning that without a MPPT controller they will under no conditions put out more than their rated current. So if you have a load that is expecting to draw 35 amps at 12 volts it will look roughly like a .34 Ohm resistive load, and will drop down to less than 2 volts the output voltage of a panel that can only source 5 amps. If the PV's manage 2 volts at 5 amps, that means they re delivering 10 watts. PV's are fussy like that, and need to be run with the right load on them in order to get full power out of them even in bright sun.
 

papaof2

Senior Member
As John said "the right load". That's why you don't see much solar-direct-to-load. Regardless of the potential inefficiencies of converting the solar panels' optimum output voltage to a standard battery voltage, the charge controllers (especially the true MPPT controllers) get more power from the panels to the load than the direct panel-to-load connection. Although many vehicle headlights will have some level of output with only 9 volts applied, the 9 volt battery of a pocket radio can't light them at all - the power source needs to be matched to the load.
 

lbenson

Senior Member
Ok thats what i wanted to hear ...mine are only getting like 15 watts
they must measure the wattage of them at the peak brightness of nuclear bomb
If there is even an approach to truthfulness in the ads for cheap solar panels (ebay, banggood), it must be that the watts claimed (e.g., 100W for an approximately 12-inch by 18-inch flexible panel) is over a full day of good sun. That is, on a good day, that panel charging a battery might give you 100 watts for an hour (disregarding inefficiencies). Not useless, but it won't paddle your canoe.

Those panels are fun and convenient for testing, though.
 

mikeyBoo

Senior Member
I don’t see why you couldn’t keep your battery charged from a solar panel on the water. The kayak control system I use (my first Picaxe project) is pretty energy-efficient.

However… the relationship between speed & amp draw ain’t exactly linear (i.e. once you reach hull speed (the bow wave reaches the stern) it’s like hitting a brick wall & amp draw shoots way up.).

my old yak project https://picaxeforum.co.uk/threads/picaxe-kayak-control-project.28063/

The relationship between speed & distance you can travel is huge. See the attached .pdf to see what I’m talking about (albeit amp values were for my yak). Solar might be feasible, if you are ok with going slow.
 

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newplumber

Senior Member
The heat will only drop a couple of volts maximum from the panel's output, and typical panels for 12 V systems are built with enough cells to still charge a 12 V battery when they're hot. One thing you have to be aware of is that PV panels are essentially current sources, meaning that without a MPPT controller they will under no conditions put out more than their rated current.
Ok that makes sense thanks .....I'm still waiting for a mppt controller

lbenson said:
If there is even an approach to truthfulness in the ads for cheap solar panels (ebay, banggood), it must be that the watts claimed (e.g., 100W for an approximately 12-inch by 18-inch flexible panel) is over a full day of good sun. That is, on a good day, that panel charging a battery might give you 100 watts for an hour (disregarding inefficiencies). Not useless, but it won't paddle your canoe.
Ok so is the going rate of solar panels watts per hour? 100 watts means 60 minutes which means .6 watts per minute
I guess I confused my self again....so my panels are pushing 3 amps at 3 volts so 3X3= 9watt a minute so 9X60 = 540?
wow my 100 watt panel is producing 540 watts....calculator must have covid 19!...don't worry i got a MASK on it! :)

mikeyBoo said:
I don’t see why you couldn’t keep your battery charged from a solar panel on the water. The kayak control system I use (my first Picaxe project) is pretty energy-efficient.
ya I thought the same but still waiting for some testing equipment to show up....
and thanks for the list......
I like the 20% PWM for 102 miles ....I don't think I will get a barefoot skier to plain out with that speed tho :)
 

lbenson

Senior Member
Ok so is the going rate of solar panels watts per hour? 100 watts means 60 minutes which means .6 watts per minute I guess I confused my self again....so my panels are pushing 3 amps at 3 volts so 3X3= 9watt a minute so 9X60 = 540? wow my 100 watt panel is producing 540 watts....calculator must have covid 19!...don't worry i got a MASK on it!
Hmmm. How's your math. (I may be wrong in this, but) I take "100W" panel to mean that in good sun, in an hour your panel will charge your battery with 100 watt hours (.1 kilowatt hours) of power (disregarding inefficiencies). 100 watts divided by 60 minutes is 1.666 watts per minute.

I don't even understand what you're trying to say with the rest of that calculation.

What model panels do you have? What physical dimensions?
 
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mikeyBoo

Senior Member
For what-it’s-worth:

I had a pedal drive on my yak before adding the Picaxe PWM drive & trolling motor. When I was running on the trolling motor I could use the pedal drive & watch the amps go down as I pedaled. Using the pedal drive in conjunction with the trolling motor is more efficient than trying to charge a battery with pedal power.

However, the trolling motor is much quieter (for fishing) than paddling or pedaling, so the pedal drive was removed. Since most fishing (including trolling) requires speeds of 2mph or less, a 35AH battery & PWM drive easily allows fishing dusk ‘till dawn.

The only reasons I now use a pedal drive or paddle is for exercise or enjoyment.

The problem with trying to go fast using an electric motor is hull speed. Most yaks (and pretty sure this applies to canoes & pedal boats) have a hull speed of less than 5mph. The only way to overcome hull speed is to get on plane and this would require a tremendous amount of amp consumption (lots of batteries, lots of weight).

If you pour enough time & money into making a fast electric boat, it just might work (e.g. 48v trolling motors, lotsa' batts).
However, does it really make sense economically?
 

newplumber

Senior Member
Hmmm. How's your math. (I may be wrong in this, but) I take "100W" panel to mean that in good sun, in an hour your panel will charge your battery with 100 watt hours (.1 kilowatt hours) of power (disregarding inefficiencies). 100 watts divided by 60 minutes is 1.666 watts per minute.

I don't even understand what you're trying to say with the rest of that calculation.

What model panels do you have? What physical dimensions?
my math is horrible and everyone knows ...thats why I have picaxe....and the IRS correcting me (of course with a fee! jk)
okay so now i am understanding more of what the solar panel is dishing out in a watt kinda view
the panels are these
13" by 39" = 25 watt a piece (very over rated but good for testing)
I used 3 panels of them and pretty much tested everything with a wire (the other one is running a sign different project)
but I am going to get 250 watt panels which are 34" by 68" for my project



For what-it’s-worth:

I had a pedal drive on my yak before adding the Picaxe PWM drive & trolling motor. When I was running on the trolling motor I could use the pedal drive & watch the amps go down as I pedaled. Using the pedal drive in conjunction with the trolling motor is more efficient than trying to charge a battery with pedal power.

However, the trolling motor is much quieter (for fishing) than paddling or pedaling, so the pedal drive was removed. Since most fishing (including trolling) requires speeds of 2mph or less, a 35AH battery & PWM drive easily allows fishing dusk ‘till dawn.

The only reasons I now use a pedal drive or paddle is for exercise or enjoyment.

The problem with trying to go fast using an electric motor is hull speed. Most yaks (and pretty sure this applies to canoes & pedal boats) have a hull speed of less than 5mph. The only way to overcome hull speed is to get on plane and this would require a tremendous amount of amp consumption (lots of batteries, lots of weight).

If you pour enough time & money into making a fast electric boat, it just might work (e.g. 48v trolling motors, lotsa' batts).
However, does it really make sense economically?
okay I get it....do you by chance have any idea the speed you could get with pedal drive on your yak of course probably for short periods
and yes i am hitting a weight vrs plane ratio ....but i'm staying steady with cost going up ratio
 

mikeyBoo

Senior Member
....do you by chance have any idea the speed you could get with pedal drive on your yak of course probably for short periods
and yes i am hitting a weight vrs plane ratio ....but i'm staying steady with cost going up ratio
[/QUOTE]

With my fishing yak, ~4mph max pedal-powered
(note that a long narrow hull is best for speed in a non-powered boat)
hull speed calculator
https://www.omnicalculator.com/sports/hull-speed#:~:text=The formula for hull speed,= 1.34*√Lwaterline

A Catamaran with a trolling motor at the rear of each hull might be a way to get more speed but this might be something that needs to be left on the water. The area between the hulls would give a space for solar panels & batteries.

A pontoon boat might be an option. The batteries could be mounted under the deck. Solar panels could be mounted on hinged panels off the side rails & connected to a linear actuator so they could track the sun for best output (use a Picaxe to monitor the panel current to auto-adjust). A little solar pump could use lake water to cool the panels.

Take a look at how these guys did it (albeit very pricey). May give you some ideas.
10 Solar Powered Boats and Electric Watercraft making a Splash

Good luck with your project!
 

mikeyBoo

Senior Member
Hey, check this out (might have to try this myself):
Boat gas cruiser conversion to solar electric with 2 Minnkota E-Drive motors 48V
 

lbenson

Senior Member
That is +way+ cool. 8 big marine batteries @ $135--not cheap. Quiet, though, and no $500 fill-up--love it.
 
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mikeyBoo

Senior Member
The thing that could get interesting with a pontoon is that the solar panels could be hinged & hung off the side rails.
Linear actuators could be used to lift the panel support surfaces when on the water to get the maximum amount of sunlight (think of a bird spreading it’s wings).

Even more interesting is that by adding a 2nd axis (linear actuator), the panels could be tilted in the direction of travel to use the panels as a sail if wind is behind you (or as a baffle to slow down or correct for crosswinds).

The above would make a fun & useful Picaxe project. I may have to put this on my list since using my big pontoon boat on the water is costly ($gas for the boat & tow vehicle). One of the reasons for my old Picaxe kayak project.

some examples of ready-to-go electric pontoons https://directboats.com/pontoonboats.html
 

newplumber

Senior Member
The thing that could get interesting with a pontoon is that the solar panels could be hinged & hung off the side rails.
Linear actuators could be used to lift the panel support surfaces when on the water to get the maximum amount of sunlight (think of a bird spreading it’s wings).

Even more interesting is that by adding a 2nd axis (linear actuator), the panels could be tilted in the direction of travel to use the panels as a sail if wind is behind you (or as a baffle to slow down or correct for crosswinds).

The above would make a fun & useful Picaxe project. I may have to put this on my list since using my big pontoon boat on the water is costly ($gas for the boat & tow vehicle). One of the reasons for my old Picaxe kayak project.

some examples of ready-to-go electric pontoons https://directboats.com/pontoonboats.html
ya I was planning that when i end up with a extra bag of cash
( making a catamaran that folds up in the middle so to hull under 8' wide )
but thanks for the boat video ....its kinda exactly what i was planning on doing only alot more solar power
my boat weighs about 1000 and after i strip it with most of the inside wood and refinish the exterior
I am "calculating" maybe possible to get it up to 6 mph downhill :)
here is the yacht pic with a approved preliminary plan of panels
or I might do like the guy in the video and put them at boat wall height then you wont worry about wind
what i am still learning to do is make picaxe 20X2 control the direction of the trolling motor
and speed all with a small joystick ....I have stepping motors but maybe servos would work better for a 360 rotation
also I should put life jackets on the solar panels/trolling motor.... incase we hit a iceberg during trial runs :)
 

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newplumber

Senior Member
Update 1.0
I cleaned my shop out (2.5 days no pay) and put the boat inside it .....
and yup that is snow we had a snow storm which someone ordered! maybe if i get enough solar on this boat i can plow the driveway too
I am going to try to get the boat and me on a diet....maybe lose 600 lbs of course mostly the boat!
Someone asked (since they know I love LEDS) is any leds going to be on it? maybe 1 or 2 .........................thousand!
the new plan is to fold up the solar panels while docking in some light weight way so they don't get damaged
 

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