Systems+Engines

Power packs

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Jim Taylor, CMR 435, U.S. Army, Germany, asks:

"I’ve purchased a 15-year-old Nauticat 38 that is being overhauled in the Caribbean. I have a long list of items I plan to replace and have a specific question about power generation. I need a new 12/110-volt inverter and am considering a Xantrex Prosine 2000 inverter-charger. Is that unit compatible with a wind-powered generator and a solar panel? The boat now has a 12-volt system that uses 6-volt golf-cart wet-cell batteries."

Nigel Calder replies:

Any marine inverter will work with any wind generator or solar panel. Speaking of wind generators, I find the newest Air Breeze Marine wind generator from Southwest Windpower (windenergy.com) has excellent output for its size. The unit is easy to install and can be shut down from inside the boat. However, make sure the installation’s output cables are as large as, or larger than, the ones specified by the manual. You might also want to consider getting a wind-generator dampener from Hotwire Enterprises (svhotwire.com) to minimize the vibration that would otherwise be transmitted to the boat.

As for solar panels, solid glass-faced panels produce considerably more output per square foot than flexible panels, but they are harder to install. If a panel’s rated output will be greater than 1 to 2 percent of the capacity of the connected batteries, you need to install a voltage regulator. Get a unit that has maximum power point tracking (MPPT), which will give you the most output from the panels. Also include the appropriate fuses at the connection points of the positive cables leading from the wind generator and the solar panel to the DC system. Finally, make sure to get a marine-specific inverter. Safety standards require that a marine inverter have a special neutral-to-ground switch on the AC output.

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