Solar-powered panels are increasingly becoming a popular energy-producing option for many inland uses such as homes, campervans, and cars. But do you know that solar panels can also be used to power up your life out at sea? A good marine solar panel system can power up your onboard appliances and devices.
Things to Consider When Buying Marine Solar Panels
Choosing the right marine solar panel for your vessel can be challenging, especially because there are so many choices out there. Here’s a list of specific features to look out for to help narrow down your choices.
This is generally the first thing you should consider when buying marine solar panels.
What do you plan on powering? If it’s just your sat nav, you probably need a lower-powered panel. However, if you plan on including the refrigerator, the water heater, and other appliances, then a larger one would be needed.
Will you be relying solely on your solar panels for your energy needs, or would you split this with the engine? Again, your answer to this determines the power you need. The type of vessel also plays a role in your solar panel power choice. Is the boat primarily used for leisure, or do you actually live on board?
Size and Number of Panels
Choosing your panels’ size can be related to the power output, but this is not always the case. For example, if you need at least 400 watt-hours a day, you don’t necessarily have to get a large 400-watt panel. You could mount five 100-watt panels around different areas of the boat instead.
Ultimately, your solar panel’s size depends on the actual space you have for it on deck. So if you have limited space for a wide and tall solar panel, try going for smaller ones instead.
This feature relates more to your vessel type and how much time you spend on deck. Permanently mounted fixed panels are great for cruising and liveaboard vessels.
Flexible solar panels ideal for marine life is also available, which can also be permanently or temporarily mounted. These types of panels are relatively easy to remove from their mountings and, due to their flexibility, are easier to store in compact spaces.
On the other hand, foldable solar panels are best for temporary mounting as they are less weather-resistant than permanent ones.
Marine Solar Panels Frequently Asked Questions
What marine vessels can use solar panels?
Generally speaking, all boat types can use solar panels. The difference lies in the type and power of solar power used. Solar panels can help maintain small boats at full charge when they are on a trailer, the slip, or a mooring.
Large vessels, such as racing and cruising sailboats, would use solar panels as alternative energy sources for onboard devices and appliances. Having an alternative source of energy means that the large vessels’ engines can be used for longer.
What is a charge controller, and do you need one for a marine solar panel?
A charge controller is also known as a charge regulator. The function of the charge controller is to regulate voltage and keep batteries from overcharging.
The general rule is that charge controllers should be used once you have two or more large panels connected to your batteries. It is also best to have a charge controller if you aren’t always on board to monitor the electrical system.
What can I do to maximize the power production of my marine solar panels?
While it may not always be possible, keeping panels perpendicular to the sun’s rays ensures optimum solar absorption.
You also want to avoid shadows. These shadows can be in the form of radar scanners, mast stays, or a large boom. If a small part of your panel is under a shadow, this can drastically reduce your production to over 50%.
Panel output tends to go down as temperature increases, so providing ventilation behind your panels, if possible, can help to mitigate this decrease.
Marine Solar Panels Reviews
1. Newpowa 200W Monocrystalline Marine Solar Panels
Newpowa is an American manufacturer of off-grid solar solutions. The Newpowa has a wide range of solar panels, but the 200W ones are best suited for the marine environment.
The Newpowa 200-watt monocrystalline panels are packed with power and extreme conversion efficiency. Most solar panels have actual power outputs that are over 20% off the advertised wattage. However, when testing the Newpowa 200-watt panel, we found an output range between 165-175 watts.
Although not perfectly match the claimed wattage, it falls below the 20% difference, which is very impressive. The monocrystalline panels also help with its efficiency and output, allowing it to work efficiently in all light conditions.
The Newpowa 200W comes as a single panel measuring 64.5×26.5 inches, so it would suit boats with large areas on deck.
Mounting-wise, the Newpowa 200W was designed for versatility in installation. It supports a few mounting options, from flat surfaces to poles, hardtops, and decks. There’s also an option of mounting on angled brackets to maximize solar power absorption. Installing them is also easy, thanks to the pre-drilled holes on all four corners of the panel.
Water and other rough weather types wouldn’t be a concern when out at sea with the Newpowa. This solar panel brand has a rigid design and an IP65 waterproof rating, ensuring it withstands hail, rain, wind gusts, and snow. The solar panels are also reinforced by sturdy heavy-duty anodized frames to withstand even the roughest of waters.
Finally, the Newpowa 200W is equipped with high-performance solar cells covered with EVA coating to ensure long-lasting service life. The same EVA material also protects the solar cells from air entry, sunlight degradation, and moisture formation.
You also don’t need to worry much about the panels losing power due to overheating. This is because the Newpowa has a TPT back sheet that dissipates heat for excellent performance and optimum power output.
Our only issue with the Newpowa panels is that it doesn’t come with mounting hardware. If you chose to permanently mount it on your vessel, you would have to separately purchase the mounting brackets.
Price-wise, it is not too expensive, although don’t expect it to be super cheap too. Let’s just say the price is reasonable when all the features are considered.
Overall, the Newpowa is a clear top pick for a marine solar panel that ticks all the necessary features.
- Powerful and highly conversion efficient monocrystalline solar panel – less than 20% difference between actual and claimed wattage.
- Versatile mounting options.
- Durable, water, and weatherproof with an IP65 rating.
- Long-lasting service life – EVA coated cells and TPT back sheet.
- Reasonable price point.
- You have to purchase mounting brackets and other mounting hardware separately.
2. Renogy 800W Marine Solar Panel kits (Premium Pick)
Renogy is a company focused on renewable energy solutions. A fun fact about the brand is that it started out as a group project by Louisiana State University students.
Heads up – this is the most expensive marine solar panel on this list. But if you read through the features below, you’d probably agree the price is justified.
One reason for the price is that it comes as a kit with everything you need to set up your marine solar panel. Another benefit to buying a kit is that it saves you from figuring out what other components you need to purchase.
This is especially true if you’re new to solar panel setups. The kit includes solar panels, charge controller, mounting brackets, connectors, a Bluetooth module, connectors, adaptor kits, and more.
Yes, you read that right – it has a total of eight 100-watt panels. Your math skills are also on point – yes, that totals to a massive 800 watts of power output. It’s, therefore, a clear option for powering a large boat with many onboard appliances.
Another unique feature is the Bluetooth module. This is a new addition and is connected to a BT app compatible with most mobile phones or tablets. The app enables you to monitor and change your solar system’s parameters.
In terms of reliability and durability, you get your money’s worth with the Renogy premium kit. The panels come with corrosion-resistant aluminum frames, so it’s definitely a good investment, especially when you’re often out on your boat.
And because you are constantly exposed to water, you’d be glad to know the Renogy’s entire component is IP65 certified. This means it is completely protected against rain, frost, and even heat.
We probably don’t need to mention that price can be a discouraging point for the Renogy premium kit. But then again, if you spend so much time onboard and you have the money to spare, it is probably worth the investment.
Another tiny issue is the screws that come with the cables. They’re not entirely the strongest, and they do look extremely fragile and tiny. But this is a negligible issue, and you can probably just purchase better quality ones for a tiny price.
In summary, if you have the money to invest and a large boat to power, the Renogy Premium Kit is a top option.
- Comes as a complete kit with all you need to set up.
- An extremely powerful total output of 800 watts – 8 x 100-watt panels.
- Bluetooth module and APP that allows you to control and monitor solar system parameters.
- Heavy-duty, reliable, and durable.
- Relatively expensive.
- Could do with better quality screw inclusions for the cables.
3. ECO-WORTHY 10 Watt Solar Battery Charger & Maintainer (Value Pick)
ECO-WORTHY is an established brand in the portable renewable energy industry, having been around since 2002.
This ECO-WORTHY range comes as a kit, so it’s also great for beginners to solar systems as it has everything you need for setting up. The better news is, it’s the value version, so it’s significantly more affordable than our premium pick on the list. Of course, that comes as no surprise, seeing that this panel is small and only has a 10-Watt output.
But the small size is actually a good thing. First, it makes it super easy to install. The small size is also great for maximizing small deck spaces. Another plus to its small size is if you’re only occasionally out on the water. You have the freedom of bringing it with you on and off the deck.
Despite its relatively low 10-watt output, this solar panel is packed with efficient conversion technology. It has an integrated module conversion and a built-in blocking diode. This prevents reverse discharge and ensures great performance despite lower lighting conditions.
It works best as a trickle charger, which means it’s great to maintain your boat’s battery status while it’s on the trailer or at the mooring or slip. It comes with an SAE connector, a cigarette lighter socket, and an alligator clip adaptor for easy plug-and-play use.
It’s also shock-proof, dust-resistant, and durable, which makes it even more valuable for money.
Apart from its small size, one downfall of the ECO-WORTHY is it’s not waterproof. This is not ideal for marine use but is acceptable if using on your marine vessel only as a trickle charger.
Overall, the ECO-WORTHY is the most value-for-money marine solar panel option for occasional trips at sea.
- Comes as a kit with everything you need for operation and setup.
- The small size makes it suitable for limited spaces on the deck and contributes to installation and portability.
- Efficient energy conversion with a built-in blocking diode.
- Ideal as a trickle charger with an SAE connector, cigarette lighter socket, and alligator clip adapter.
- Affordable and durable – shock-proof and dust-resistant.
- Small size not ideal for powering multiple appliances and larger vessels.
- Not waterproof.
4. RICH SOLAR 100 Watt Marine Solar Panels –Pieces
Rich Solar is a California-based supplier of solar equipment, specifically for the off-grid market. They specialize in solar panels for use in agriculture, RV, marine, and many industries.
The Rich Solar 100-watt polycrystalline panel is available either as a single or double pack. This is always a great option because it allows you to pick the quantity that would suit or fit your vessel size and available deck space.
A great feature of the Rich Solar 100-watt panels is their IP65 waterproof certification and durability. The panels are designed with highly transparent, anti-reflective, and low iron tempered glass with enhanced impact resistance and stiffness and a sturdy, anodized aluminum frame. The combination of these high-quality materials makes the unit extremely strong and can withstand various harsh environmental elements, including water pressure jets.
The Rich Solar is also impressively efficient, despite being a polycrystalline panel. It comes with a bypass diode, which helps maintain the stability of your solar power despite low-light conditions.
These panels are ideal for permanent mounting, and installation is relatively quick and easy. The panel comes with 14 pre-drilled holes that work with Z-brackets and various mounts.
The downside to the Rich Solar comes in the pigtail wires. They are installed with a crimp connection that, unfortunately, can easily pull out and becomes difficult to repair. If you are comfortable soldering, however, this does resolve this minor flaw.
In short, Rich Solar is your top option for a marine solar panel composed of polycrystalline cells.
- Comes as a single or double pack of 100-watt panels.
- IP65 waterproof and durable – high-quality materials.
- Efficient polycrystalline panel – built-in bypass diode.
- Easy installation – 14 pre-drilled holes and various mounting options.
- Crimp connection of pigtail wires is easily pulled out and hard to repair.
5. Renogy 100 Watt Marine Flexible Solar Panel
The next one on our list is another 100-watt monocrystalline panel from Renogy.
What makes this different from the first solar panel on this list is its flexibility. It weighs almost a quarter of the traditional 100-watt panels. The lighter weight allows it to flex to up to 248 degrees. This flexibility enables easy installation on curved surfaces, an ideal option for marine use.
Another difference is that this Renogy panel has a higher IP waterproof certification. It currently sits at IP68, which is the highest in the solar panel market currently. This means not only are the panels waterproof, but they are resistant to water submersion up to 1.5 meters deep up to 30 minutes.
These panels were also designed to be super durable, with rough sea winds in mind. In fact, the brand claims it has been rigorously tested to stand up to extreme wind gusts of up to 2400Pa.
Installation-wise, these flexible panels are recommended to be mounted using structural adhesives behind the panel. Once you get that, setup is relatively easy from there.
This brings us to our criticism of this brand of the marine solar panel. Installation is not too DIY-friendly, especially if you’re new to solar panels and structural adhesives. To be on the safe side, you probably have to consult a local contractor to install for you, which is an added cost.
In summary, the Renogy is the best option if you’re after extremely flexible marine solar power for mounting on a curved surface.
- Lightweight and extremely flexible – flex up to 248 degrees.
- Suitable for mounting on curved surfaces.
- IP68 certified – water submersible for up to 1.5 meters up to 30 minutes.
- Durably – designed to withstand wind gusts of up to 2400 Pa.
- You may need to consult a contractor to install the unit using a structural adhesive.
6. TP-Solar 100W Monocrystalline Marine Flexible Solar Panel
TP-Solar is an Amazon retailer of solar-powered products and their accessories. This 100W flexible monocrystalline panel is TP-Solar’s version of Renogy’s flexible panel.
The selling feature of the TP-Solar 100W is also flexible. Although it is less bendable than the Renogy version, it’s still pretty good at a maximum curved arc of 30 degrees. This flexibility gains this type of solar panel the edge over the aluminum and glass models. Compared to these traditional rigid panels, the flexible panels are easily mounted on tight spaces, crowded areas, or curved surfaces on deck.
It’s also super slim and lightweight, which again helps with ease of installation. The panel itself is only 0.1 inches thick, and the entire system weighs an extremely light 3.72 lbs. The design also incorporates six stainless-steel eyelets along the panel’s edges, helping with a straightforward mounting and installation experience.
This TP-solar range of solar panels is also as durable as it is flexible. The solar panels are made of advanced water-resistant material, ensuring it withstands the external elements it may encounter at sea. The same high-quality materials ensure that the panels last a long service life.
This TP-Solar product has an extremely high conversion efficiency of up to 50% in terms of power. The panels are equipped with bypass diodes that work to minimize any power output drop caused by dim lighting conditions. The same diode also prevents your panels from going into a reverse current drain at night, again helping with power efficiency.
If there is anything we could improve with the design of this solar panel, it’s the location of its cable connectors. The connectors are currently located on top of the panel, potentially putting it at risk for UV damage and corrosion. However, this is long-term damage, so you can probably prevent it by taking extra care of your panels.
Overall, the TP-Solar 100W Flexible panel is a good marine solar panel choice for mounting onto the deck surfaces.
- Flexible with a max curved arc of 30 degrees – ideal for curved surfaces.
- Slim, lightweight, and easy to install l– 0.1 inches thick and 3.72 lbs.
- Durable – high-quality, water-resistant material.
- The extremely high conversion efficiency of up to 50% with built-in bypass diodes.
- Cable connectors are located on top of the panel, putting it at risk for UV damage and corrosion.
7. WindyNation 100 Watt Marine Solar Panel Kit
WindyNation is a US-based manufacturer of solar and wind generator components. They also offer related accessories, such as charge controllers, diodes, batteries, inverters, dump loads, rectifiers, and more.
This WindyNation product comes as a full kit with most of what you need to for your marine solar setup. It comes with a single 100-watt monocrystalline panel, charge controller with LCD, cables, connectors, mounting brackets, and more. It’s a great option for those new to solar setups or if you simply want a fuss-free marine solar system purchase.
The completeness of the kit makes installation super easy. Apart from the necessary hardware and mounting brackets, it also includes an installation manual to guide you through the process.
The presence of an LCD and adjustable settings on the charge controller is also a major plus for this product. The screen is a great way of monitoring system amperage and amp-hours, temperature, voltage, and the DC load draw.
Power-wise, this 100-watt kit is relatively power-packed, with an average output of 350-watt hours or 33-amp hours of charge a day. If that wasn’t enough for your onboard power needs, simply add a few more panels. The charge controller included in the kit allows you to use up to four 100-watt panels for a 12-volt system. Again, if that wasn’t enough, the controller also allows up to eight 100-watt panels for powering a 24-volt system.
The setback of the Windynation boils down to it being marketed as a kit. If you notice, we mentioned earlier that it comes with “most of what you need” instead of “all.” The reason for this is that you will need to separately purchase an in-line fuse and lugs.
Besides needing to purchasing a few pieces, the WindyNation is another good option if you’re looking to purchase a marine solar panel kit.
- Full kit with most of what you need for setup.
- Easy installation with an installation manual included.
- LCD and adjustable controller settings.
- Extendable panel power to up to four panels for 12V systems and up to eight panels for 24V systems.
- You would need to purchase in-line fuse and lugs separately.
8. POWOXI 7.5W Solar Battery Trickle Charger Maintainer
POWOXI is another Amazon store that offers portable solar power solutions.
The POWOXI 7.5W solar panel is extremely compact and portable. It’s a great option for a marine solar panel if you’re only using it to power small devices while on deck. It’s a great handy “power pack” for those day trips out on the water.
Despite its size, this portable solar panel actually has an impressive conversation rate of 20%. It’s powerful enough to convert into a DC current to charge your 12V batteries. It also has an integrated back current protection that prevents the battery from draining at night or in dimly-lit conditions.
A unique feature of the POWOXI is the presence of the blue LED indicator. This is located along the panel’s side and lights up when your panel is receiving sufficient energy. It’s a great way of indicating if there is a short circuit. The light not on despite being under the sun is a good prompt for checking the system checked. So, although a very tiny feature actually serves a good purpose in terms of your panels’ safety and maintenance.
Finally, this seemingly tiny solar panel unit is durable and waterproof with an IP65 rating. The panels are also covered with tempered solar glass that provides high light transmittance, so the cells absorb more sunlight. This tempered glass makes also adds to the entire unit’s durability and longer service life.
Needless to say, the setback of the POWOXI is its relatively limited wattage of 7.5 watts and its size. However, again, it’s the ideal solar panel if you’re only out on the water for a day trip.
In summary, include the POWOXI in your options list if you’re after an extremely portable and compact marine solar panel.
- Extremely compact and portable.
- A high conversion rate of 20% despite its size.
- Blue LED indicator lets you know if the panels are working properly.
- IP65 waterproof with a tempered glass cover for added durability.
- Size and wattage may be inadequate for use in larger boats.
9. TP-Solar 10W Marine Solar Panel Kit
The next marine solar panel product on our list is another one from TP-Solar. This time, it comes at a lower wattage of 10-watts but is more complete and packaged as a full kit.
A standout feature of this compact TP-Solar kit is the smart features integrated into its charge controller. The controller was designed to automatically shut off once the battery voltage drops below 9V. This ensures the integrity of your battery as well as protects its long lifespan. The solar charge controller is designed to sufficiently protect your system from short circuits, overloads, and more.
Another plus in terms of the charge controller is its LCD screen that allows you to monitor your system’s status. The entire controller unit has straightforward, functional buttons with an easy operation interface, so controlling your solar unit shouldn’t be too complicated.
Power-wise, this monocrystalline panel has a maximum output of 10watts suitable for use with 12V batteries. Its energy conversation rate is also very efficient, despite its relatively small size and low-wattage.
Because it is compact, it’s easy to install. The package also comes as a kit with alligator clips and cables and O-ring terminals to make setup super quick and easy. Mounting should also be super-fast, thanks to the pre-drilled holes behind the solar panel.
If you’re new to solar setups, a word of warning is that this kit does not come with an instruction manual. It’s such a bummer as it would have been the perfect small solar setup kit if it did have the manual.
Overall, if you don’t mind having Googling setup guides, the TP-Solar 10W kit is a good small marine solar panel choice.
- Charge controller with smart protective features.
- Easy operation interface and LCD screen.
- Relative powerful, and efficient considering the compactness.
- Easy to install with pre-drilled holes and included clips and cables.
- Does not come with an instruction manual.
10. ECO-WORTHY 25W Marine Solar Panel Kit
The last, but definitely not least, the product on our best marine solar panelist is the ECO-WORTHY 25W kit.
Easy and quick installation is the key feature of this kit. It comes with everything you need: a 25W monocrystalline panel, controller, cables, clamps, and rings. The best part is, the connectors and components operate on “plug-and-play.” This means no complicated setups, simply connect and plug the appropriate components together, and your marine solar system is ready to go.
The design of the components also contributes to ease of installation. The solar panel comes with pre-drilled holes or easy mounting and a pre-attached extension cable. The solar charge controller also comes with the same pre-drilled holes, so all that’s left is to actually mount it.
Other notable features are the user-friendly LED light indicators on the controller panel. One lights up to indicate charging and the other for discharging. It’s also a relatively good quality controller, protecting your unit from short circuits, overloading, and similar electrical issues.
Another great feature comes with the product’s one-year warranty and free maintenance. Apart from that, they also offer 24/7 technical support, allowing you to easily contact them for any concerns. These are definitely great features, especially when you’re out in the water. You need assistance with your solar system.
Despite the kit being plug-and-play and the units designed with pre-drilled holes for easy mounting, it does not include mounting brackets. These brackets are easy to find and relatively cheap to purchase. However, the ECO-Worthy does lose a point from us for not including it in their kit.
- Easy and quick installation with plug-and-play features.
- Panel and controller come with pre-drilled holes and pre-attached cables.
- Two LED lights to indicate charging and discharging.
- One-year warranty – free maintenance and 24/7 tech support.
- The kit would have been perfect if it included the mounting brackets.
Marine solar panels are good investments for providing you that extra source of energy when you’re out on the water. Our favorite and top pick for the best solar marine panel is definitely the Newpowa 200W Monocrystalline Marine Solar Panels. This range of solar panels simply has all the features important for a marine solar energy source.
It has an extremely powerful wattage with a high conversion efficiency, supplying enough output for your onboard needs. The size suits medium to large areas on deck, and the mounting type is super versatile. The price definitely justifies its extensive features, making it truly value-for-money.