Solar Power Blog
Marine Wind Generators: Wind Turbines for Boats (Guide)
Out on the open water, there are essentially three great options for generating renewable electricity: wind, hydro and solar. If you are looking for some assistance on how to continuously produce electricity on your boat, then you’ve come to the right place.
In the Solar Us Shop, we’ve named ourselves after the process of generating energy through sunlight and continue to focus on offering high quality solar products. However, we are also firm believers in wind power as well, especially when it comes to marine applications.
We are constantly asked questions about marine wind generators, so we figured that it may be about time to put together something as a helpful resource for those in any stage of the installation process. In this article, we will outline why wind turbines are great for boats, detail some instructions on how to set up a marine wind generator, and address some of the most frequently asked questions on the subject.
Why Use Wind Power for Marine Generators?
For sailing purists, the idea of using the wind to power a boat is almost second nature. In addition to navigating with the hoisted sail, wind turbines can also capture and generate usable electricity onboard. Installing a wind turbine and storage system opens the doors to charging:
- Phones, Laptops, etc.
- GPS Systems
- Speakers and Entertainment
- Lights (Interior and Exterior)
- Kitchen Appliances
- SCADA Systems
- Telecom Systems
- Cathodic Protection
- And More
Compared to solar energy, wind power has a few distinct advantages for marine applications. These include the ability to generate electricity when the sun is down or on a partially cloudy day. Of course, solar energy can still be a great source of electricity and is often used in conjunction with wind turbines for boats.
Marine Wind Generator System: the Components
Marine wind generators can be used to convert wind energy to electric power while completely off of the grid and on the water. Although they may look intimidating to first time users, marine wind generators are actually extremely simple. In general they are made up of:
- A Wind Turbine
- A Turbine Tower / Mounting System
- A Regulator or Charge Controller
- A Battery
- An Inverter (optional)
Marine wind generators are sometimes built as standalone units or as a part of a boat’s existing electrical system. By installing a green energy production system to your boat’s existing battery, less parts need to be acquired and it may be easier overall to run your necessary electricity components.
On the other hand, a wind turbine kit can be installed with all of the parts temporarily or permanently installed on the boat. Portable kits may cost a bit extra, but can be used on shore as well.
Do I need an inverter for my marine wind generator?
If you are planning to power any AC electronics (traditional 2-prong or 3-prong wall outlets), then you will need to install an inverter. Within a battery, electricity is stored in DC power. For most people, DC power is often used in the “cigarette lighter” of the 12V DC power outlet in a vehicle. In order to convert that energy to AC power (which is what is primarily used in homes) an inverter must be installed.
For boats that already have a battery and wall outlets, then it is very likely that an inverter has already been installed. Inverters can be expensive and can be avoided if there is already one aboard, or if all of your electronics can run on DC power.
What is a regulator for marine wind generators?
A regulator, which is also commonly known as a charge controller, is used to regulate the amount of charge generated by a wind turbine and sent to a battery. Regulators are necessary in that they limit a battery from being charged past its potential capacity. Overcharging batteries can lead to permanent damage which require component replacement.
There are two types of regulators: Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) and Maximum Point Power Tracking (MPPT). PWM technology is older and generally cheaper to adopt. MPPT charge controllers are generally seen as the more premium and efficient option. With that said, MPPT charging is much more valued in photovoltaic solar applications than in wind generation.
Many wind turbines come with a regulator pre-installed in the system. These are great because they are purposefully matched with the expected electricity generation of the wind turbine in which they are installed. If you purchase a wind turbine without a regulator, this can be purchased separately. Here, attention to detail is important for choosing the right regulator for your specific green energy system.
What size wire should I use for my marine wind turbine?
Above all, one of the most common mistakes to make when installing a marine wind turbine is using the wrong wire size. Think of your wires as pipes in which water flows, you will want to have a large enough radius so that everything can flow smoothly. With that said, larger gauge wire can be expensive, so you will not want to waste money on premium components that do not actually increase efficiency.
Whenever you purchase your wind turbine, check the manual to see if there is a recommended wire gauge. If there is not, consider consulting an electrician. However, what is also important to remember is that less wiring means less loss of potential electricity. No matter your setup, your electricity generation and storage efficiency will increase as the length of the wire through which it travels decreases.
How to Choose the Best Wind Turbine for your Boat
As an ever-developing technology, choosing the best wind turbine for your boat can be a difficult road to travel down. There are many things to consider when analyzing your options, with many different price points to purchase from. Above all, here are the factors that will influence your decisions as to what your best wind turbine purchase will be
- Maximum Power
- Operating Noise
- Number of Blades
- Tip Speed Ratio
- Regulator Inclusion
- Monitoring Technology
- Ease of Use & Installation
So clearly, there is a lot to mull over here. We’ll make it easy for you by recommending what we believe to be the absolute best marine wind turbine. The Primus Wind Power Air X may in fact be the best overall wind turbine for marine wind generators. Here’s why it’s ideal for nearly every boat:
- Durable for speeds of up to 110 mph
- Highly reputable manufacturer
- Alternator Included
- Comes with a five year warranty
- Very lightweight, easy to install
- Works well in conjunction with solar and battery storage
Essentially, we believe that the tough and lightweight (5.9 lbs) Primus Wind Power Air X is one of the best wind turbines for marine wind generators. If you are interested in exploring your options a bit further, feel free to explore additional wind turbines on our website.
How to Install a Wind Turbines on a Boat
In order to begin generating electricity with a wind turbine, it must be installed and wired to the rest of the system components. In marine applications, some wind turbines will come with all of the necessary components for installation, while others must be sourced separately. Although an expert can certainly do a good job, many wind turbines are becoming more user friendly and can be installed by any DIY enthusiast.
How to Mount a Marine Wind Turbine
In order to install a marine wind turbine, you must acquire lightweight and durable materials that can withstand heavy winds and exposed weather conditions. There are many marine wind turbine tower kits that have been specially designed to be easily installed on a boat. For the absolute best results, you should ensure that your marine wind turbine:
- Can be titled down or easily accessed
- Installed with self-locking nuts
- Is made of weather resistant materials
- Is adjustable and secure
Of course, there are many different shapes and sizes of boats in the world's lakes and oceans. For those who need to hoist the turbine a little bit higher, there are a few solutions. For one, many boat owners will choose to acquire additional turbine mounting poles to install a wind turbine a bit higher.
Where should I install a wind turbine for a boat?
Although every renewable energy system is created on an individual case to case basis, in general, the best place to install a wind turbine on a boat is overhead, above the cockpit. Obviously, the turbine should be placed high enough so that it is out of the way and able to receive a lot of direct wind. With this in mind, installing above the cockpit will generally lead to the least amount of hassle if you need to access, remove, or repair your turbine.
Alternatively, there are many boats out there with full functional wind turbines mounted to the stern or bow of a ship. Whereas direct overhead installation may be the best for precarious watercrafts, large ships like catamarans and pontoon boats may not need to incorporate weight or balance as much as others. What’s important is to mount your turbine safely so that it can operate and be easily accessed.
Installing the Rest of the Components
Once your marine wind turbine is securely in place, then it is time to install the rest of the components. To start, take a look at the wiring diagrams for your wind turbine. Most modern systems should be pretty straightforward, with simple positive and negative terminals connecting to your systems battery. In a marine application however, every component must be not only securely installed, but also waterproof.
If you are not comfortable with the wiring and mounting of your marine wind generator, do not hesitate to contact a professional to help you install the system. By working with an expert, you can also easily have safety features such as an emergency shut off switch installed in line with your electricity generator.
Ultimately, if you spend a lot of time out on the water, you may want to consider a marine wind generator for producing a little extra electricity. Whether you use a wind turbine in conjunction with a solar panel or not, there is ample opportunity to generate usable, and renewable electricity while aboard your boat.Today, wind turbines have become more affordable and easier to install than ever. At Solar Us Shop, we are renewable energy experts focused on helping people adopt green technologies for functional and financial sustainability. We hope that this guide was helpful to you in exploring wind power for boats. Feel free to contact us today about any questions you may have regarding marine wind generators.