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Case Study: Hinterhoeller Niagara 35' | 380W

'Plaintiff's Rest' is a 35-foot Hinterhoeller Niagara built in 1985, a classic sailing vessel fit to satisfy any sailor’s thirst for blue water and run by Annie & Phillip. They've been helping cruisers, one dreamer at a time, by sharing their story through books, blogs and videos (check out their YouTube channel). They're currently in Pensacola, Florida and after surviving a hurricane they set about upgrading their solar panels (well they had blown off in the hurricane!)

Here's a quick summary and you can read their full post at

Upgrade from 100W to 380W

After previously having a 100W & 50W flex panels Annie & Phillip were familiar with how much power they were using aboard and decided to up their total wattage. This gives you more freedom from counting amp hours all day and gives you more of a buffer for the cloudy days that will affect solar production. By going from 150W to 380W was an increase of 153% and would allow them more time on the hook away from the dock and less time listening to a noisy engine!

Often on boats with a limited roof space it's a case of maximizing how much solar you can fit aboard. You will often find boaters adding more panels to their system but we have yet to hear of anyone saying their next boat project is to remove a solar panel because they have one too many!

Existing controllers

As they had previously had solar with a few work arounds it was possible to keep using their existing MPPT charge controllers with their new SunPower E-flex panels. All MPPT charge controllers are designed to accept a maximum amount of solar (PV) on the input side. If you do plan to use your existing controllers be sure to dig out the manual/spec sheets and check the data. In particular it's very important not to exceed the max PV input voltage.

PV Wire - Something that Annie experienced was finding the wire run was a little further than expected. Although they could keep their existing wiring but had more panels to run new wires for. There's nothing worse than spending time running wires from the solar panels down into the boat to find that you come up 2ft short of the charge controller! The PV extension wire in our store comes in lengths from 3ft -100ft so always better to size up and have a little wiggle room.

Job done - We're power rich!

Here's a summary/quote straight from Annie's story to wrap things up. "Once those tasks were knocked out, Phillip and I were ready to plug the new panels in, turn their switches on, and watch the juice pour in...we came back on a super sunny day with the batteries needing juice, and we were tickled pink to see our new 380W bank putting in almost 14 amps an hour!

My mind immediately began calculating. We spend about 50-60 amps a day. 14 times 6 peak hours equals … 84 amps?! Meaning, on a good sunny day, we would be putting in MORE than we used. Meaning, adding “cushion” for cloudy days. With this much solar, Plaintiff’s Rest could, in theory, stay on hook as long as she wanted. What an incredible thought! Needless to say Phillip and I were thrilled. Feeling a little dumb that we hadn’t installed a bigger panel on the dodger years ago, but hey, we’d never felt super power-starved before. And, now, we were power rich baby! All thanks to the sun. And Lyall, my Sun Sensai!

(Editor's note: Hey Annie, don't forget to look into the Federal Tax Credits at 26% on the total system cost it's worth taking some time to investigate.)

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