BenQ Solar provided a remarkable donation of six EcoDuo PM220 Multi-crystalline 250 watt panels, and after some welding of a steel frame we now have a solar farm installed on the flybridge of Thunderbird 2. These solar panels will allow up to 1.5 kW of charging for our ship's batteries for around 8 hours per day in sunny environments.
The panels have a 30 volt output. To charge two battery banks of twelve L16 6 volt cells series-parallel to 12 volts, which is typical for boats, we needed to find a way to step down the voltage into the optimum charging voltage and current. Our resident solar expert Matt Murfin recommended Outback Power, so we called for help. Outback came back almost immediately with an offer to send us two donated FLEXmax 80 Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) Charge Controllers, absolutely perfect for the job.
Outback's press release February 27th 2013 quotes “After tsunamis, hurricanes or other catastrophic events, International Rescue Group volunteers enter coastal areas on our repurposed Thunderbird 2, which runs on a diesel-electric hybrid drive engine and solar power via OutBack Power equipment, to deliver medical help, supplies, fresh water and food to disaster-hit coastal communities. With OutBack’s FLEXmax 80 charge controllers, we can reduce fuel consumption and rely on renewable energies as our main power source to keep our environmental footprint as small as possible. We aim to extend this success throughout our fleet and to the additional boats we plan to acquire this year,” said Ray Thackeray, executive director at International Rescue Group.