Alternative Energy and Watermaker

You might remember that after our Yucatan trip both Joy and I said we would not take off on another long cruise without some level of energy independence and a water maker. Deciding what equipment to purchase, then how and where to install it is a mind bending exercise. At one point we considered a stern arch to mount the wind and solar; we went so far as designing the arch, mocking up the arch, and meeting with a fabricator to get a quote. Oh my goodness! Back to the drawing, uh, mounting boards.
I’ll condense month’s of work into a few lines to say we chose the following energy equipment: a KISS wind generator, two Kyocera KD135 solar panels, a Blue Sky S2000 solar controller, and a Trace C40 power diverter. Now I’ll explain a little.

KISS Wind Generator
KISS Wind Generator

We purchased all the alternative energy equipment from Hotwire Enterprises, right here in Florida, – great people. The KISS wind generator is a simple, brushless, 12 volt alternator capable of sustained output in the 20 amp range with bursts to 30 amps. After all the hoopla, none of the other units will consistently put out as much power as the KISS, and only one or two others are as quiet. Not to say the KISS is without issues; all wind units have issues. The one and only thing we don’t like about the KISS is what I call “half-power mode”; it makes a lot of noise when it reaches this mode, output drops by half, and I have to feather the unit into the wind as we can’t stand the noise. Our unit had a defective thermal limit switch which was replaced at no cost under warranty.

Kyocera 135 Watt Panels
Kyocera 135 Watt Panels

The Kyocera panels were a new model in 2010, and they are amazing. No noise; no maintenance, and lots of power – almost 15 amps between the two of them in direct sunlight. Now, if both the KISS and the Kyocera panels are kicking up a storm, we have more power than we can use, so that’s where the Trace C40 comes in. It diverts excess power to a dual voltage (12 and 120) water heater element that I installed, and we make hot water instead of wasting the power. This only happens with direct sun, lots of wind (20 +/- knots), and fully charged batteries. But, it happens, and it’s pretty hot stuff.
Here’s the solar mounting; I designed and built it to be sturdy and effective. Not too ugly either. Below is the Blue Sky MPPT solar controller, that’s a Multiple Point Power Tracking solar controller. I’ll let you do the research if you are interested, but this little thing really works. It more or less boosts the solar output to more than its maximum, shuts it down when there’s too much, and tells you what it is doing. Cool stuff.

The enclosure shown below sits under my top companionway step where I have it pretty well water proofed. If weather gets really nasty, I add a vinyl layer between the top step and the box. Behind the little door is all the wiring and a Balmar Max Charge regulator. The regulator got too hot in the engine room and did not work properly. Here it stays cool and I can easily access it to change settings. Controllers024
The Trace C40, the unit that diverts excess power, is hidden away in my water equipment closet (protected from any spray) and the dual element water heater is inside the water heater right where it belongs.
Last to be added was the water maker. After much research I chose a Spectra Ventura 200T – for Tropical. Lots of people tried to convince me not to buy Spectra; too many problems, they said. Well, the Clark Pump, that’s the RO recovery pump, is guaranteed for life. Hmm. Can’t go too wrong there. Then I talked to a friend of mine, the manager of our local West Marine store. West doesn’t carry the Spectra, but my friend Ray just happens to have one on his boat, has had it for ten (10) years and has done nothing but change filters and flush weekly as required, a 3 minute job. He has never replaced a reverse osmosis membrane. Pretty strong recommendation. So that sold me.Spectra167 Spectra166
With 78 degree clean water in the Bahamas, we made close to 10 gallons an hour while consuming only 8.5 amps. That’s water making! We love it – the best tasting water in the entire world. All we could use. Awesome.
Peterson Marine is our Florida Spectra dealer, and they were great, especially Harry. Thanks Harry, for getting me up and running.
When we’re tied to shore power, maintenance of our batteries is provided by a Xantrex 2500 Inverter / 100 amp charger. This unit is monitored and controlled by a Link 2000 shown above. Both pieces of equipment were installed in 2008 and have been completely reliable.
As mentioned elsewhere our batteries are: House bank of 4 Lifeline 6 volt AGM batteries wired in series for 12 volts that were new in 2014 for a total of 600 amps and an Engine starting bank consisting of one AGM – 12volt -100 amp battery that was new in 2013. All five batteries are strongly secured in place.

On to Safety Equipment