Wind Generator or Solar Panel?
If you are thinking of installing a marine wind generator or solar panel on your vessel consider where you live or where you cruise, or more accurately on the weather where you live or where you cruise. Wind generators need plenty of wind and solar panels need lots of sun.
The most important decision when considering a wind generator for boats is determining whether or not there is generally enough wind to generate the power to satisfy your needs because it takes a lot of wind to charge your batteries. In saying that, a wind generator has the potential to produce power 24 hours a day. Even if a wind generator produces only 20 watts, it can do it 24 hours a day, depending on wind of course.
The positives on solar panels are that solar panels require little maintenance, last 25 years or longer and are completely safe. There is no noise factor to contend with and panels can stay out in any weather condition. Generally most people only go boating on nice sunny days so a solar panel may be all you need.
Consider a Blended System
If you are a serious boatie, the best alternative may be a blended system with both a wind generator and a solar panel. When cruising for a week you may have five cloudy days with little direct sun but the wind constantly blowing 15 to 20 knots or a week of no wind and hot sunny days. Having both would protect your independence from having to continually charge your batteries by running your engine.
A wind generator or a solar panel can also save fuel. The engine in a boat drinks almost as much fuel while just charging batteries as when motoring. Instead of revving up all those RPM’s just to charge batteries, it is much better to charge batteries with a wind generator or solar panel, or both.
A wind generator or a solar panel can also be a safety backup. If your engine is disabled or you have an outboard without charging ability and your batteries run down, at least you have power to run a radio or other instruments. After a few hours, you may have enough charge to start the engine.