Saturday, September 6, 2014

Wind power working

Since we started living aboard we been struggling with power issues. Initially we had problems with the batteries, which all had to be replaced. In total there were six deep cycle batteries that gave us, or should give, 115amp each, two are for the starter bank and the remaining four for everything else. Unfortunately, from the beginning, and even after changing all batteries purchased (still under warranty), were never able to keep enough energy, always lingering near the 12 volts and, at the end of the night, even below 12 volts, which is not good for the batteries.
In terms of production we have the alternator, a 115amp Powerline equipped with regulator that generates enough for the batteries but forces the engine to work. We do this once a day for one hour at the end of the day, making use of it to use the watermaker. Even before we started our trip we tried to minimize the dependence on the alternator installing a solar panel, we opted for a large unit that offers 250Watts and, on sunny days, makes the batteries completely full even with the fridge running. However, despite the solar panel, we continued to have problems to generate power, especially on days without sun.
There was, or rather, there is still a KISS wind generator on board but that never worked. Needs to be completely rebuilt. Due to my limitations in terms of electrical knowledge, we opted not to rebuild but to purchase a new unit.
With the known budget constraints we started researching, trying to keep in mind to buy something made in Portugal. With the secret hope that the producer would decided to offer the unit in exchange of brand promotion and as a way to support our efforts to promote the culture Portuguese.
Contacted was the producer of SilentWind brand, to our knowledge the only marine wind generator made in Portugal, but the response we received was with the offer of 20% discount on an invoice that surpassed one thousand Euros. I politelly said thank you and refused due to lack of resources. Now I can say that here in St Thomas we could have the same unit with a higherdiscount than the one offered by the manufacturing house in Portugal in exchange of positive comments to the product!
But after much searching and because we had to find something that fitted our budget, we decided to purchase the unit Sunforce 400watts. This is not exactly a maritime version but seems to offer all the necessary requirements to endure some time in this environment.
Was ordered through Amazon and in four days was on our boat without any additional shipping charges. One day later was installed and working. This is a unit with internal controller without passing through our solar panel regulator, so the link goes directly to the bank of batteries used for the electric equipment on board. The experience so far, seems to work well and when the wind helps, actually charges the batteries, helping to keep the load above 12 volts even on sunless days.
The installation, in our case, was fairly easy since we took the opportunity to replace the KISS unit, which will now wait until some benefactor decide to support us with the rebuilt. The electrical connections were in place, the pole was already installed. Was only necessary to extend the power cable from the engine compartment to the battery bank, taking advantage of this link to install a 50amp switch to turn off the wind generator when it is not necessary to make it work or for maintenance in the future.
In the future we will install one or two solar panels and replace the batteries when needed, possibly will opt for lithium batteries. But for now and until we reach Asia, we have to live with this system.


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