Solar Panels for Boats: Is it Worth the Investment?


If you’re a boat owner, there’s a good chance you’ve considered adding solar panels to your vessel. After all, solar panels are becoming increasingly popular among homeowners and businesses alike. So it makes sense that boat owners would also want to take advantage of this cost-effective and eco-friendly technology, right? Well, the answer isn’t quite so simple. Whether or not solar panels are worth the investment for boats depends on several factors. Keep reading to learn more about the best solar panels for boats and find out if they’re the right option for you.

What are solar panels for boats?

Solar panels mounted on a boat

Solar panels mounted on a boat

These panels for boats are the perfect way to power your boat. They harness the sun’s energy and convert it into usable electricity, stored in batteries or used directly. Solar energy makes the boat self-sustainable by providing cheaper and clean energy. They can power everything from lights and radio equipment to navigation.

Types of Solar Power for Boats

Boats can utilize any solar panel, be it monocrystalline,  thin-film, or polycrystalline. However, before choosing any type, it is crucial to check with the manufacturer. Some exclude marine environments from the warranty, which might not be favorable considering it’s your area of operation. Thin film panels are adjustable to fit in any space. On the other hand, monocrystalline and polycrystalline require racking, so they may not be flexible. Here are some of the best solar panels you may use to power your boat.

Monochromatic silicon panels

Monochromatic silicon panels

Top solar flexible solar panel

This type of panel is flexible and reliable in charging batteries in your boat. It has an output of 100W and can generate up to 12V.  So, it is universal with almost any device you have on board. Top solar is also very durable and waterproof, so you won’t have to worry about it when it comes to cleaning. Additionally, it’s made up of monocrystalline silicon with high light transmittance and a longer lifespan.

Renogy 100W 12V solar panel

This solar panel has an output of 100 watts and can generate up to 12 volts of power. It also comes with a built-in regulator that keeps the voltage steady at whatever level you need. This type of solar panel is ideal for marine use because it has an IP65 waterproof rating and a corrosion-resistant aluminum frame. In addition, it comes with mounting brackets. So you can attach it to your boat’s roof or canopy and plug in whatever inverter you have. This makes it very easy to install in just minutes.

SunPower 170W solar panel

This particular solar panel is compact, lightweight, and easy to install. It has an output of 170W, which is more than enough to power most small boats without any problems. SunPower also offers various mounting options that make it easy to install on any boat or RV. 

Additionally, it’s waterproof, so you don’t have to worry about it getting damaged if you take a dip drive in the ocean or something similar. This is one of the most popular types of solar power available today because it works well. It’s also efficient and affordable.

Benefits of Solar Panels for Boats

Floating marine light signs with solar panel

Floating marine light signs with solar panel

Solar panels for boats are an excellent choice for those who want to reduce their carbon footprint and save on their electric bill.

Here are some benefits of installing solar power for sailboats:

  • Eliminates high fuel costs: Solar panels can eliminate expensive fuel costs as there is no need for gasoline or diesel to power your boat’s engine.
  • Reduces maintenance costs: Regular maintenance on a boat can be costly. Solar panels require little maintenance to function. This means you’ll spend less time working on them and more on your boating activities.
  • Reduces noise pollution: Generators produce a lot of noise that disturbs marine life.  Solar panels produce clean energy that does not make noise.
  • It is renewable: Solar panels provide reliable, long-term power solutions for boats. 
  • Reduces heat: Unlike gas generators, solar systems do not generate much heat.
  • Power backup: You can use solar panels as an emergency power source during blackouts or traveling.

How Do Marine Solar Panels Work?

Marine solar systems operate like any other off-grid system. When solar energy hits the panels, it activates the electrons, which produce energy in the form of direct current. You can use this electricity to power your boat’s lights, computers, cell phones, and other devices. 

The best part about these solar panels for boat batteries is that they require no fuel or water. So you don’t have to worry about running out of energy. Since most appliances use Alternating Current (AC), you will need an inverter to convert the energy produced to a usable form. Before installing a solar panel, check the energy requirements for your boat and appliances to get the right wattage.

Installing Solar Panels for Boat

Solar cells installed on a sailboat

Solar cells installed on a sailboat

Unlike rooftop solar systems, boats have limited space for panel installation. Therefore, choose an angle from which you can capture maximum sunlight from your solar panels. You can check this by looking at the sun’s position in relation to the horizon. Also, ensure the location is free from any shading or obstruction by other objects. To optimize the limited space, consider installing high-efficiency panels. This way, you will get maximum output from just a few panels.

How to choose the right solar panels for your boat?

Here are things to consider when shopping for solar panels.

Size, Shape, Space

The market for solar panels for boats is highly diverse. There are various options, depending on the size of the boat. You can find flexible thin film panels, tiny 100W monocrystalline modules, and occasionally even larger 300-400W panels. Most of the time, space is an issue. So if you have a small boat, ensure that your solar panels aren’t taking up too much space or causing problems with visibility.

Energy consumption

Before purchasing solar panels, calculate your daily energy consumption to determine how many panels you require. Note down all the gadgets’ power ratings and usage duration. After that, multiply each device’s power rating and operating hours. Add up all the devices’ energy requirements.

It would be best if you remember that solar panels operate at their optimal efficiency during peak sun hours. So, once you’ve calculated your boat’s daily energy use, divide it by the number of sun peak hours. This will give you the power of the solar array that you need.


How many solar panels do I need to run a boat?

This depends on the size of your boat and the power consumption. However, a 30-foot boat will typically require 350 watts of solar energy. 

How much do solar panels for boats cost?

Again, this varies across different brands. On average, a 100W pane costs between $150 and $200.

Which solar panels are best for boats?

Monocrystalline panels are the best for boats. They are compact, waterproof, and highly efficient in all weather.

How fast will a solar panel charge a battery?

It depends on the size of the solar panel, the type of battery, and the weather conditions.  For example, a 100-watt monocrystalline solar panel in full sun conditions will charge a 12-volt  battery in less than 8 hours. It will take longer to charge the battery in cloudy or shady conditions. If the solar panel is smaller, it will take longer to charge the battery.


Solar power for boats is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and become more energy efficient. They are also an essential backup energy source that can keep you comfortable when you need to anchor out or tie up at a dock. Whether you want to save money on fuel costs or be more environmentally friendly, there are plenty of good reasons to invest in solar panels for boats. 

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