...to this highly functional and strong solar panel arch. Only took 14 months of planning!
It's funny for those of us not architects or builders or carpenters to actually see a product of the mind come to material fruition... to actualize, as it were. While I've been an on-and-off professional writer for many years now (a paid one, at that), seeing my deathless prose-for-hire has rarely given me the satisfaction I felt today.
And the damn thing's not even done yet.
The "thing" is an arch, a welded set of tubes carefully bent by a clever welder (the hereby heartily endorsed Greg Misko) with a very good eye and a very good understanding of what I wanted.
The arch holds the four solar panels I mentioned lo, those many months ago. The idea was to use the solar panels not just as a means to make power, but as a large shade-casting object in its own right.
As the idea developed, I indicated to Greg that I wanted each panel slightly cambered or tilted to compensate for the fact that boats are frequently heeled. In addition, a panel slightly angled off dead flat will get more photons in the early morning and the later afternoon in some boat positions, and will shed water more easily. The wiring will see Panels 1 and 2 wired together into a device known as an MPPT (which alters the voltage and current to the optimal preset point for charging batteries), and Panels 3 and 4 likewise generating juice on a separate circuit.
High noon, of course, will see them at maximum output. Fire up the water heater, Skipper needs a bath.
The clever bit, to which I must credit Greg the Welder, was to weld larger galvanized pipes to the rails of the aft deck, and them to slip the precisely bent stainless steel arch assembly into those supports, which feature three Allen key-style bolts to fix them strongly. This means that I can actually take the thing off (if not down, as such) if needed, without sawing or torching it to bits.
Once the arch "legs" were in (and they went in smoothly thanks to Greg's construction of a tack-welded jig),
we used a sort of insert-thingie that was like a threaded rivet, if that makes any sense. Drill a hole in the frame, pop-rivet this fastener and you can bolt it onto the arch support plates without trying to hold onto a nut in a tight spot. These things could be very handy on a mast or mounting eyestraps, say.
When it was up, it proved as strong as expected, but the question arose "where do we run the wires?" It was decided that once I tear apart the aft cabin to determine where best to put my power cable runs and my SSB coax cable runs, we will drill two holes in the deck and weld a truncated "H" in galvanized pipe (see drawing on picture of crew enjoying the aft deck shade).
|Yes, he was too young to helm here, and let's face it, we were in a parking lot.|
Then we will put two angled pieces of SS in there, welded at the top. This will increase the support aspect of the whole assembly, will give me a mounting bar for any helm instruments I care to install, will conduit the panel wiring straight into the boat and out of the weather, will give us a place to snap on tethers for safety, and will not get in the way of the main.
Wow. Long sentence. Long day. Good job.