Marine solar panels are photovoltaic panels designed for boats and other watercraft. These panels can withstand the harsh marine environment, with features such as waterproof ratings and corrosion-resistant materials. Rigid arrays installed on the deck or roof of the boat are the most common, but portable solar panels have also become more widespread.
The main advantage of marine solar panels is that they provide a source of renewable energy that is clean, quiet, and requires no fuel. A renewable energy setup can be particularly beneficial for boaters who spend a lot of time on the water. It’ll reduce dependence on noisy and polluting fossil fuel generators and the time spent charging up with shore power.
Marine solar panels can also extend the life of a boat’s batteries by providing a consistent charging source. It’s handy for boats with limited engine run time or that rely on batteries for essential systems like lighting and navigation.
Marine PV panels are a reliable, efficient way to power onboard systems for vessels of all types.
Find the best marine solar panels for boats here and supercharge your watercraft for 2023.
Quick Overview of the 5 Best Solar Panels for Boats:
- Best for charging boat batteries: EcoFlow 100W Flexible Solar Panel
- Best for powering boat appliances: EcoFlow 220W Bifacial Portable Solar Panel
- Best for powering boats off the grid: EcoFlow 400W Portable Solar Panel
- Best for powering boat accessories: EcoFlow 110W Portable Solar Panel
- Best rigid marine solar panels: EcoFlow 100W Rigid Solar Panel
Types of Solar Panels for Boats
Portable Solar Panels
Portable solar panels are becoming increasingly popular for boats due to their convenience. They’re easy to transport and set up, providing a dependable energy source for a vessel.
Portable panels are also a cost-effective way to power boats. They don’t require fuel and have no maintenance costs. They’re also environmentally friendly, producing no emissions or noise pollution.
When selecting portable solar panels for boats, it’s essential to consider the size and rated power output, as well as the quality and durability of the panels. Weather resistance and waterproofing are also essential qualities. Look for panels with an IP68 waterproof rating.
Portable solar panels offer a practical and sustainable solution for powering marine vessels. They’re an excellent choice for boaters who want to reduce their environmental impact while enjoying their time on the water.
Rigid Solar Panels
Rigid solar panels are best for boat owners looking for a permanent solution to powering their vessels. These panels are fixed directly onto the boat’s surface, with the arrays made from durable materials like tempered glass or aluminium.
One of the main benefits of rigid panels is their efficiency. They produce more power per square inch than their portable counterparts, which makes them perfect for larger boats or vessels with higher energy demands.
Another advantage of rigid panels is their durability. Rigid arrays can withstand harsh marine environments, including exposure to saltwater and extreme weather conditions. Just make sure that the panels you choose have an IP68 waterproof rating.
Installing rigid solar panels on a boat can be complex, so ensure the panels are mounted correctly to prevent damage or loss. This complexity allows for customisation and expansion — you can create larger arrays by wiring multiple PV panels together.
Flexible Solar Panels
Flexible solar panels are a newer, more versatile alternative to rigid panels. They consist of lightweight and flexible materials such as thin-film photovoltaic cells, making it easy to affix them to curved, irregular surfaces.
The main advantage of these solar panels is their extreme flexibility. They can mould onto various surfaces, including boats, motorhomes, and other outdoor applications. They’re also incredibly lightweight, which makes them ideal for applications where weight is a concern.
Flexible panels are also highly durable and able to withstand harsh weather conditions, including hail, rain, and high winds. Make sure to purchase panels that have an IP68 waterproof rating.
The only downside is that flexible solar panels have a lower power output than rigid panels. Less power limits their ability to meet high energy demands. They also tend to have a shorter lifespan than rigid panels and may require more frequent replacement.
Overall, flexible solar panels are best for augmenting a rigid solar panel installation and maximising available surface area for solar power generation. They are not designed to be a standalone solar solution.
How to Choose the Right Solar Panel for Your Boat
To calculate the solar panel output needed for a boat, you must first determine the total energy required by all the electrical equipment on board by calculating each device’s wattage and estimated run time.
Once you have this data, calculate the minimum panel output needed to meet this energy demand. Divide the total watt-hours required by the average number of sunlight hours per day.
For example, suppose you need 1500Wh, and your location receives five peak sun hours daily. You’d want at least a 500-watt panel array. Keep in mind that rated power for solar panels indicates the maximum amount of electricity the panel can generate under ideal conditions. It’s highly unlikely that any solar panel will consistently deliver its full rated power.
Power output also determines the solar battery and balance of system you can use since the solar power system must be compatible with the PV panels. You can’t feed electricity from solar panels directly into your boat appliances. You’ll need a portable power station or other power solution for your boat to store and distribute the energy.
One solar power solution for a boat is the EcoFlow Power Kit. The Power Kit contains all the required components — solar battery, inverter, charge controller, etc. — in a compact, space-saving plug-and-play modular system. You can mix and match the number of 2 kWH or 5 kWh LiFePO4 solar batteries and the power rating of PV panels for a customisable marine power kit.
Durability and Weather Resistance
The solar panels you choose for your boat should be resistant to impact and weather. An IP68 waterproof rating ensures that waves and rain won’t ruin your panels.
Size and Weight
The size and weight of the panels depend on the amount of electricity you need to generate and the available space on your boat. Calculate the amount of power you need to run your appliances, lights, and electronics. Then, purchase solar panels that can meet your energy demands without taking up too much space or adding too much weight.
Installation and Maintenance
The time and costs involved with installation and maintenance may influence which panels you pick. You may need to hire a professional to install the solar panels, or you may be able to do it yourself.
Not all solar panels require mounting brackets. With portable solar panels, you can skip the labour and costs of a permanent installation.
Purchase your solar panels from a reputable brand with a proven track record of quality and reliability. Read reviews and talk with other boat owners to see what they say about the brand you are considering.
As one of the highest-funded Kickstarter projects of all time, EcoFlow is an excellent example of a reputable solar brand that has been innovating and earning customer trust for years.
Solar panels vary in price depending on the size, efficiency, and brand. Consider your budget and choose panels that offer the best value for your money.
Best Marine Solar Panels
1. Best for Charging Boat Batteries: EcoFlow 100W Flexible Solar Panel
The EcoFlow 100W is a compact and portable flexible solar panel designed for outdoor use, including boating and other wet-weather activities. It provides an output of up to 100 watts of power, which is perfect for keeping your boat batteries charged.
Its flexible design makes it easy to carry and install. It mounts onto any smooth surface (including the curves of a boat). The IP68 waterproof rating means you can confidently take it out on rough waters.
- Weight: 5.1 lbs (2.3 kg)
- Dimensions: 41.5 x 24.1 x 1.0 in（105.5 x 61.2 x 2.5 cm）
- Rated Power: 100W (±5W)
- Voltage: 20.3V
- Extremely Lightweight: This is one of the lightest PV panels on the market at only 5.1 lbs (2.3 kg).
- Easy to Mount: You can affix this panel onto curved surfaces, and it does not require mounting brackets.
- Low Cost: This is one of the most affordable panels on this list.
- Low Output: You’d need a higher wattage panel to power anything besides the boat battery.
2. Best for Powering Boat Appliances: EcoFlow 220W Bifacial Portable Solar Panel
This high-performance PV panel utilises bifacial technology to capture sunlight from both sides of the panel. The design increases its energy output by up to 25%.
With a lightweight and foldable design, this solar panel is easy to transport and set up, making it ideal for carrying to and from your boat when going out on the water.
Durable materials and weather-resistant design ensure reliable performance in all weather conditions. Meanwhile, the kickstand case allows you to orient the panel for maximum efficiency.
Pair it with a RIVER 2 Pro Solar Generator, and the 220 watts of power output will support most boat electronics and appliances.
- Weight (Solar Panel): Approx. 20.9 lbs (9.5 kg)
- Dimensions: 32.3 x 72.0 x 1.0 in (82 x 183 x 2.5 cm)
- Rated Power: Front 220W, Rear 155W
- Voltage: 21.8V (Vmp 18.4V)
- Unique Bifacial Design: Improves efficiency by up to 25%
- Kickstand Case: Easy transport and adjustable angle support thanks to the unique kickstand case.
- Waterproof and Durable: An IP68 rating means it’s waterproof and water-ready.
- Cost: Innovative bifacial design makes this panel more costly than comparable single-sided panels.
3. Best for Powering Boats off the Grid: EcoFlow 400W Portable Solar Panel
This powerful marine solar panel is the rugged solution for off-grid boating. The high-efficiency panel provides 400 watts of rated power, making it suitable for houseboats, boat camping, sailboats, and other extended marine activity.
The panel is lightweight, especially when considering its 400W output. It’s also weather-resistant, making it a dependable power source in even the roughest waters. With its high power output and portability, the 400W portable PV panel is the go-to for the seasoned seafarer.
Considering the higher power output of the 400W solar panel, it’s best to pair this with a high-capacity battery like the DELTA Pro Solar Generator to avoid issues of overloading. Power Kits also work well with 400W solar panels, saving space on smaller rigs.
- Weight (Solar Panel Only): Approx. 35.3 lbs (16.0 kg)
- Weight (with Kickstand Case): Approx. 41.9 lbs (19.0 kg)
- Dimensions: 42.0 x 94.1 x 1.0 in (106.8 x 239.0 x 2.4 cm)
- Rated Power: 400W
- Voltage: 48V (Vmp 41V)
- High Output: 400 watts can power most boat systems and appliances.
- Portability: The folding design allows you to easily transport it to and from your boat.
- Kickstand Case: The case provides protection during transportation, and the kickstand allows you to adjust the panel’s angle.
- Cost: This is the most expensive panel on the list.
4. Best for Powering Boat Accessories: EcoFlow 110W Portable Solar Panel
This compact and powerful solar panel is perfect for outdoor use. The high-efficiency monocrystalline silicon cell provides 110 watts of power. It’s ideal for charging small boat accessories like navigation devices, fish finders, and lights.
The lightweight and foldable design makes it easy to transport and set up. Plus, the included kickstand and adjustable straps allow you to maximise efficiency by adjusting the tilt and orientation.
This 110W solar panel is weather-resistant, proving it’s a dependable power solution for long days out on the water.
- Weight: 8.8 lbs (4.0 kg)
- Unfolded Dimensions: 20.2 x 62.5 x 0.8 in (178.5 x 42.0 x 2.5 cm)
- Folded Dimensions: 20.2 x 16.5 x 0.8 in (42.0 x 48.0 x 2.5 cm)
- Rated Power: 110W (±5W)
- Voltage: 21.8V (Vmp 18.4V)
- Lightweight: One of the lightest panels on this list, weighing in at only 8.8 lbs (4 kg).
- Cost: The most affordable portable solar panel.
- Extreme Portability: This panel is foldable and includes a carrying case that doubles as a kickstand.
- Lower Output: Other panels provide up to 4 times as much power.
5. Best Rigid Marine Solar Panels: EcoFlow 100W Rigid Solar Panel
The EcoFlow 100W Rigid Solar Panel is similar to the 110W portable model above but lacks folding capabilities. Instead, the rigid design allows for permanent installation on your boat. You won’t need to lug panels to and from your boat for every outing.
Its rigid design makes it easy to mount and secure. Since it is mountable, you don’t have to worry about your panel going overboard. This solar panel still provides weather resistance, with an IP68 waterproof rating. The 100W power output should keep up with basic boating systems, like lights, navigation, and fish finders.
- Weight: 13.7 lbs (6.2 kg)
- Dimensions: 38.6 x 23.1 x 1.2 in（98 x 58.6 x 3 cm）
- Rated Power: 100W (±5W)
- Voltage: 20.3V
- Mountable: Fixes permanently on your boat.
- Cost: One of the cheapest solar panel options.
- Durability: The IP68 waterproof rating means it’s ready for rough waters.
- Low Output: 100 watts is not enough to power higher-wattage appliances.
Solar panels on a boat can be a worthwhile investment. To decide if you should install solar panels, consider the boat’s electrical needs, the type of vessel, your budget, and the amount of time you spend on the water. The more you use your boat, the more quickly the investment in solar will pay off.
A boat with 1000 Wh of daily energy consumption will require one 400-watt solar panel or two to three 100-watt solar panels. The exact amount of solar wattage you need depends on the boat size, battery capacity, and peak sunlight hours in your location.
Yes, a solar panel can charge a boat battery. Most boat batteries operate at 12V, the same rating as many solar panels. The voltage allows for a simple installation of renewable energy for your boat’s electrical system. You will need a portable power station or other balance of system between the solar panels and the boat battery.
Depending on the size and power needs, some boats can run on solar power or use solar panels to charge the boat’s energy storage system. You can provide ample power to the boat’s electrical system with the right Power Kit.
Saltwater is potentially corrosive and may damage solar panels not rated for exposure to saltwater. However, solar panels suitable for marine use have an IP68 rating for waterproofing and corrosion resistance, ensuring longevity for portable or fixed installations.
When deciding on a marine solar panel for your boat, consider durability, power output, and other features. An IP68 waterproof rating is a must for any sea-faring solar panel. EcoFlow is an innovator in solar panels, with PV panels, solar generators, and Power Kits that work together seamlessly to electrify your seafaring adventures.