The solar-powered sardine

The solar-powered sardine

Yes, that’s right, The Sardine News has gone completely solar!

Our mobile office and studio, only really consists of a few laptops, tablets, chargers, routers, speakers, microphones, cameras and the like. All 100% powered by 100% sustainable solar energy – for over a month now!

And so, on the roof, we have three 5 amp solar panels. These go through a 20 amp solar charge controller. Which pumps 15 amps into my battery bank.

That is some useable power.

The TSLA Turtle

On our boat – the TSLA Turtle – we are also completely solar-powered. A 5 amp panel mounted upfront across the bow rails keeps the battery bank of three 105 amp-hour monsters alive and well no matter what. These batteries power through a same 20 amp charge controller and into an 800-watt inverter that charges the boats onboard computer, communications and camera system.

AND THE MOTORS!

That’s a neat 5 amp solar panel mounted up front. One battery is always on charge. The others are kept isolated but at the ready for use at any time. This boat can literally keep going and going. It hardly needs any sun and also charges a bit on overcast and rainy days.

Yes, thats right. Our little estuary boat the “TSLA Turtle”, also runs on solar. And if I run the motor through the charge controller on a hot day, I can get number 2 setting before the systems auto-shuts down to due to overload. This means that, I am drawing less amps than the sun is putting in and I am literally 100% solar-powered! You need at least 15 amps of solar panels to make this work ok. But if you had more panels, like say 50 amps worth (the entire roof of our big river cruiser), then we would easily be running all day on the suns power. Through the batteries and charge controller.

At maximum speed, the electrics we use draw about 50 amps per motor. So a 100 amp hour battery will last two hours before you need to stop using it.

Battery management

Make no mistake, running a battery flat, as in below 10.8 volts, destroys both the battery and your warranty. 11.8 Volts is actually dead flat and you need to immediately swop out a new battery at this number.

Never go below 11.8!

Replenish immediately. Which sometimes means charging two batteries in parallel, which is way better than no charging at all. Do not leave them flat.

It is not a great plan to charge a charged battery with a flat battery as the flat battery will just suck all the power out of the charged battery until they balance out and charge together again.

The TSLA Turtle is powered by various configurations of electric outboards. Giving a total maximum hp of around 10. Useable for about two solid hours before a battery change is necessary. The boat carries three monster 105 amp hour batteries.
The TSLA Turtle is powered by various configurations of electric outboards. Giving a total maximum hp of around 10. Useable for about two solid hours before a battery change is necessary. The boat carries three monster 105 amp hour batteries. Making for all-day fishing (and enhanced by charging on the solar panels at the same time).

Proof of the Pudding

And so, almost as if to prove the point to ourselves, Chelsea Dog and I took the TSLA Turtle on a secret mission down into the Transkei. Where part of our deployment included living on a secluded and pristine estuary.

On the Turtle!

For 30 days Chelsea and I battled storms and bad weather characteristic of a drought breaking rainy season. For 22 of those 30 days it rained. We were wet right through most days.

BUT!

We had power. Lots of it. And we were able to charge and stay charged for the entire 30 days. Phones, power banks, lights, two-way radio set, laptop, tablet…all stayed alive no problem. The charge controller has four 2 amp USB outs. Which really make life easy.

The inverter we had was rated 800w and even made fruit-shakes whilst we were out on the water with my smoothie machine (400w)!

And the motors remember!

Reliability

An outboard that starts first time every time – without the need for a starter motor or starter rope! Because that is another big take-home from all of this experimentation and trials. Ultimate reliability. The engines don’t even have gears!

And then the safety of course. You will easily teach someone how to drive the TSLA Turtle. Powered by a 54lb electric. The plastic propellor. Lowish speeds. Ease-of-use. Zero emissions. Easy up and down. No Oil pollution (two strokes pour half their unburnt oil directly into the ocean via the exhaust). Makes for a completely harmless package, when compared to any petrol outboard.

Scaleability

Just add more…motors and batteries…and you can push anything at all!

Yip, we poweredthat big ole river cruiser with three 54 pounders and took 17 people for a transfer across the waters pictured above, on one challenging occasion. Amongst many!

The reliability of the configuration is something that stays with you as never have to worry about trying to start a cold motor ever. Sweet dreaming!

This boat, The Umzimkulu, is back on the Umzimkulu Estuary in Port Shepstone doing solar-powered boat cruises right now!

These solar-powered boat rides are incredibly quiet and encounters with marine wild life occurr far more plentiful these days.
These solar-powered boat rides are incredibly quiet and encounters with marine wild life occurr far more plentiful these days.

Reality check

But ok. Warning!

When the winds got up and over 20 knots, the big boat lost all steering as the sheer bulk of it was overtaken by the wind. We could have put another two on to make 5 motors at about 12hp. Would have done the trick. BUT, luckily we had a 15hp petrol as the main source of propulsion in the flood conditions that came at us continually. And that we had to work in. Mainly at night!

That all said…

Change to solar at your earliest opportunity. Aside from feeling really good that as I write this since I am powered by the sun – but it really does make the biggest difference to operating costs and bottom line.

And reliability! And…

Stealth

So ok, you can do this. For your river cruiser. Your small RIB. And even on your ocean-going boat. Imagine a silent slow troll along the backline with live baits out!

It’s a whole new dimension in stealth too!

This is how I fished up in Tofo with the inimitable Dave Charley…last season!

Dave put an electric motor and battery on this big old plastic kayak and we trolled for 6 long hours every day!

And here is that video, shot over a year ago, and finally out of the edit-suite this very morning!

These are the kind systems we promote and sell. They are really all DIY installations actually.

https://thesardine.co.za/product-category/solar/

The Sardine News on YouTube.

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