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The best marine solar panels can keep boat batteries topped off so that your bilge pumps, navigation lights, GPS systems, depth finders, and other electronics continue to run smoothly and efficiently. By combining marine solar panels with a charge controller that can regulate the sun’s energy into a deep cycle or lithium battery bank, you can create your own electrical grid for those long days spent at sea.
Or, you can use solar panels to supplement shore power when you’re docked in a marina to help cut back on costs.
There are two main types of solar panels that can be utilized on boats: Flexible and fixed, which come in a variety of different sizes and power wattages. Depending on factors like usage and the size and type of your boat, the best marine solar panel will vary.
To come up with our list of the best marine solar panels, we looked at dozens of options from well-established solar companies. We considered their efficiency, wattage, size, customer reviews, and ratings, pricing, and even compared top picks with our own first-hand experience. Ahead, check out our recommendations.
Our Top Picks:
- Our Top Pick: Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Panel – $99.99 at Amazon
- Best Flexible Marine Solar Panel: Newpowa Flexible Solar Panel 100 Watt 12 Volt – $99.99 at Amazon
- Best Budget Marine Solar Panel: HQST 100 Watt 12 Volt 9BB Monocrystalline Solar Panel – $69.99 at Amazon
- Best Rigid Marine Solar Panel: SUNER POWER 50 W 12 V Solar Battery Charger – $119.95 at Amazon
- Best Portable Solar Panel: DOKIO 160 Watt 18 Volt Portable Solar Panel Kit Folding Solar Charger – $159.77 at Amazon
Reviews of The Best Marine Solar Panels
1. Our Top Pick: Renogy 100 W 12 V Monocrystalline Solar Panel
Our top pick for the best marine solar panels comes from Renogy, perhaps one of the most well-known brands in DIY solar panel installation. Renogy’s 100-watt monocrystalline solar module is proof that a simple design can sometimes be the best. Although it doesn’t include built-in controllers, it excels at all the basics.
The panel has an impressive 22% efficiency (the typical solar panel range is between 18% and 23%) and a guaranteed positive tolerance, which means users can expect a minimum output of 100 watts. It’s also made from high-quality materials like corrosion-resistant aluminum and boasts notable industry certifications from TUV Rheinland and Intertek. That said, the waterproof rating of the junction box is not well suited for total immersion (but is protected against rain or waves), so just make sure you securely mount these panels.
- Power Rating: 100 W
- Claimed Efficiency: 22%
- Weight: 14.1 lb
- Dimensions: 41.8″L x 20.9″W x 1.38″H
- Waterproof Ratings: IP65 (junction box), IP67 (connectors)
- Mounting Options: Clamp using mounting holes
- Excellent build quality
- Guaranteed positive tolerance (0-4%)
- Great ratings
- Moderate price
- Basic design
- Mounting can be difficult for inexperienced users
What Others Are Saying:
Buy the Renogy 100W 12V Monocrystalline Solar Panel:
2. Best Flexible Marine Solar Panels: Newpowa Flexible Solar Panel 100 W 12 V
This pick from Newpowa is easily one of the best flexible solar panels for boats. Weighing in at a little over four pounds — about a third of a rigid solar panel of the same size – the module uses high-quality SunPower solar cells and sturdy ETFE binding for durability. Its thin design allows it to easily be mounted on biminis or directly on curved deck surfaces, and the MWT (metal wrap through) technology eliminates bus bars on the front side, improving power output.
It’s worth noting that flexible marine panels are often slightly less efficient than rigid panels, but this 100-watt panel from Newpowa maintains a 20% efficiency – one of the highest available for flexible panels. The waterproof rating of the junction box is an impressive IP68, meaning it can be immersed in water for long periods.
- Power Rating: 100 W
- Claimed Efficiency: 20%
- Weight: 4.19 lb
- Dimensions: 41.34” L x 21.26” W x .12” H
- Waterproof Ratings: IP68 (junction box), connectors not specified
- Mounting Options: Tie-down using grommets; caulk/paste to hull
- State-of-the-art MWT technology
- Lightweight and compact design
- Durable construction
- No adhesive back surface for pasting
What Others Are Saying:
One of the best marine solar panels for flexibility, the Newpowa 100 W panel has a 4.6-star rating from more than 1,200 Amazon shoppers.
Buy the Newpowa Flexible Solar Panel 100 W 12 Volt:
3. Best Budget Marine Solar Panel: HQST 100 W 12 V 9BB Monocrystalline Solar Panel
This 100-watt solar panel from HQST has a ton of great features for a decently affordable price. It comes with a 9-busbar construction that helps to achieve an efficiency rate of up to 23% – the highest we’ve found. For some, the square-shaped design may be more helpful for installation, especially in compact spaces.
The panel is also made with top-quality materials, like high-purity silicon cells and multi-layered sheet laminations. It’s rated to IP65 to protect against low-pressure water jets from any direction (like hard rain), but cannot be fully immersed in water.
- Power Rating: 100 W
- Claimed Efficiency: 23%
- Weight: 14.82 lb
- Dimensions: 32.5″L x 26.4″W x 1.18″H
- Waterproof Rating: IP65 (junction box and connectors)
- Mounting Options: Clamp using mounting holes
- High efficiency
- Compact, wide-body design
- Basic design
- Wide-body design may be difficult to mount in elongated spaces
- Some reviews mention it didn’t achieve the advertised maximum efficiency
What Others Are Saying:
The HQST 100 W monocrystalline solar panel is one of the best marine solar panels: It was featured as a runner-up in Futurism’s list of best marine solar panels. It is also among Electric Rate’s picks for best marine panels.
Buy the HQST 100 W 12 V 9BB Monocrystalline Solar Panel:
4. Best Rigid Marine Solar Panels: SUNER POWER 50 W 12 V Solar Battery Charger
Very few rigid solar panels on the market come with an integrated MPPT charge controller and adjustable mounting bracket, especially at the price of the Suner Power 50 W panel. While the solar panel itself is a basic, monocrystalline module, the built-in controller eliminates the need for buying, mounting, and connecting another electronic device.
Another major standout is the adjustable bracket that can allow for more direct sunshine throughout the day, improving power production. However, the cables and controller are not waterproof (only splash/light rain resistant), so you may want to add extra protection if it’s angled in a manner that can expose the controller to heavy rainfall.
- Power Rating: 50 W
- Claimed Efficiency: 21%
- Weight: 7.7 lb
- Waterproof Rating: IP54 (Controller and cables)
- Dimensions: 23.4″L x 20.5″W x 1″H
- Mounting options: Clamp using mounting holes
- Integrated MPPT charge controller saves hassle
- Integrated adjustable bracket improves output
- Adjustable brackets can be bulky on certain areas of the boat
- 50 W rating may be insufficient for some
What Others Are Saying:
The Suner Power 50 W Solar Panel has a 4.4-star rating from more than 1,300 ratings on Amazon.
Buy the SUNER POWER 12 V 50 W Solar Battery Charger:
5. Best Portable Marine Solar Panels: DOKIO 160 W 18 V Portable Solar Panel Kit Folding Solar Charger
Weighing just 9 pounds, the Dokio 160 W foldable kit was designed for portability. It can be easily carried like a suitcase, but setting it up is just as easy and usually takes less than a minute. Its 160 W rating offers enough power to run several appliances on the boat, plus, it comes with a decent-quality charge controller and cabling accessories.
This portable panel is a great choice for anyone who wants to use it on short fishing trips on the lake, day sailing, or even camping, plus, it’s also good to have around as a backup during power outages. That said, if you plan on using the boat as a liveaboard or for frequent, multi-day boating trips, you’ll probably want to purchase fixed solar panels instead.
- Power rating: 160 W
- Claimed Efficiency: 22-23%
- Weight: 9 lb
- Dimensions: 20.9″L x 19.3″W x 1.1″H
- Waterproof Rating: IP65 (panel)
- Mounting options: Lay flat or rest on brackets (sold separately)
- Highly portable
- May be difficult to mount on some surfaces
- Need to purchase brackets separately
What Others Are Saying:
Buy the DOKIO 160W 18V Portable Solar Panel Kit Folding Solar Charger:
Other Marine Solar Panels to Consider
Atem Power’s flexible, all-black solar panel is one of the sleekest-looking marine solar panels on the market. If you have a modern boat or yacht, the Atem Power 100 W Panel will certainly preserve its aesthetic. It also has a low weight of 7 lb and a noteworthy efficiency of 22%. The only downside is that some customers mention a relatively faster rate of degradation, so you probably won’t get full power from it after a few years. The ATEM POWER Monocrystalline Flexible Solar Panel 100 W 12 V is available at Amazon for $119.99.
Renogy’s bifacial solar panel has an innovative design that generates power from both sides. While bifacial modules aren’t super common for marine applications, boats with white hulls reflect enough sunlight to allow the Renogy Bifacial 115 W to generate up to 30% more energy than a traditional panel of the same size. Unfortunately, the Bifacial 115 W Solar Panel isn’t popular among boaters, leaving us with a very small number of first-hand experiences. Since there aren’t a ton of reviews, we didn’t feel comfortable including it in our list of the best. The Renogy Bifacial 115 W 12 V Solar Panel is available at Amazon for $129.99.
If you’re looking for a full-fledged solar panel kit that’s capable of powering large boats, the Xinpuguang 400 W kit is a great option. It includes four high-efficiency flexible solar panels, a charge controller, wiring, and connectors. However, if you have some working knowledge of solar panel component selection, you can create your own kit for cheaper — especially because this is one of the priciest options we found at over $400. The Xinpuguang 400 W Flexible Solar Panels Kit is available at Amazon for $469.90.
Not everyone is looking to power fridges and computers on their boats — some folks just want to keep their phone battery charged or power a small fan on a hot fishing trip. The Topsolar 20 W kit is a good choice in such cases since it comes with a compact, high-efficiency solar panel, a charge controller, and some cabling. However, because it doesn’t have separate positive and negative terminals with MC4 connectors, wiring is a bit tough. The Topsolar 20 W Solar Panel Kit is available on Amazon for $29.99.
Why You Can Trust Us
Hi! My name is Aniket Bhor, and I’ve been passionate about solar energy for the past decade or so. Over the years, I’ve worked at solar power companies on three different continents and written for sites from a dozen countries worldwide. I love using my experience in the solar panel manufacturing, design, and installation sectors to recommend the best products for Go Downsize readers.
Go Downsize, started by Morten and Maria, is a highly reputable source of information related to downsizing and space optimization. With over 20 million YouTube video views, Morten and Maria’s blog is one of the most trusted platforms on the web for downsizing content, whether it’s related to RVs, boats, or trailer homes.
To come up with our list of the best marine solar panels, I worked with Morten and Maria to consider different factors like efficiency output, power, features, and pricing. We utilized our first-hand experience and discussed our favorite features, ultimately narrowing our roundup down to six of the best options on the market.
What to Know About Marine Solar Panels
Things to Consider When Choosing a Marine Solar Panel
Finding the best marine solar panel will vary. To choose a good option for your needs, you should think about a few different details.
The most important specification to consider when looking at solar panels is their power rating. The rating of a solar panel will tell you how much energy it can generate throughout the day. Naturally, boats with a greater number of appliances will need one or more solar panels with a higher rating.
Typically, most boats need anywhere between 150 and 300 watts to power a few basic devices such as phones and laptops. Buyers can also use a solar calculator to figure out the correct solar panel size for their needs. This will also vary on the type of batteries you use (deep cycle vs. lithium), and also whether you recharge your batteries with your boat’s high output alternator.
It is also important to note that the required power rating will change with the location of the application. For instance, solar panels on a boat in Florida or California will generate more power than those on a boat in New York.
While the power rating of a solar panel signifies how much power it can generate, its efficiency will tell you how much power it can generate per unit space. High-efficiency panels can generate more energy in a smaller space.
Higher efficiency is important particularly for marine applications since there is limited mounting space on a boat. High-efficiency solar panels are typically also built using Grade A or A+ solar cells, which have a low rate of degradation and more reliable performance.
Most boats or yachts aren’t designed with solar panels in mind. As such, mounting traditional solar panels on the hull can sometimes be challenging. For boats with sufficient mounting space, traditional solar panel designs are perfect, since they’re also cheaper. You can simply clamp the panels on any flat surface with nuts and bolts.
But for boats with uneven surfaces, flexible solar panels can be a great option. Many flexible panels come with adhesive back surfaces — all you need to do is peel off the sticker and paste the solar panel on the hull. If you own two boats that you use alternatingly, you may even want to consider portable solar panels that can be laid down on the boat and packed and moved again within a few minutes.
The best solar panels can last 25 or more years. But on the opposite end of the spectrum, there are solar panels that stop working within two years. Solar panels are complex, sophisticated electronic devices, which means building a good-quality solar panel isn’t an easy feat.
This makes it important to use products from reputable brands. Top-quality solar panels have a low rate of degradation. For example, a good solar panel will still generate 80% of its rated output after 20 years of operation. Many companies also offer a power production guarantee like the one mentioned above. It is also important to check the warranties on marine solar panels. A panel with a 10-year warranty is obviously a better choice than one with a 2-year warranty.
Solar panels are designed to be left outside in the rain, but when it comes to the cables or junction boxes, waterproof ratings vary dramatically. When shopping for a marine solar panel, be sure to check the IP ratings on the connectors, because you may want to add additional protection for heavy rain or waves.
Are Solar Panels Worth it on a Boat?
Yes, solar panels are certainly worth it on a boat. Solar panels are quiet and clean, and there are no hassles of running out of fuel or frequent maintenance. With the right equipment, boat or yacht solar panels can power pretty much anything on a boat, and last for significantly long periods. Moreover, modern solar panels are also much cheaper than their older versions, making them a must-have on any boat.
If you’re keeping a boat in a marina as a liveaboard, electric power can be notoriously expensive, and solar panels can help reduce the overall cost. For liveaboards on a mooring or anchorage, they’re necessary for keeping things charged (constantly running an engine or generator to charge batteries isn’t really a viable long-term option). Or, when you’re underway on day trips or longer adventures, solar panels can provide backup power in remote areas, so they are an excellent investment for any vessel.
How to Charge a Marine Battery with a Solar Panel
Charging a marine battery with a solar panel is pretty straightforward. Solar panels generate direct current, which can be sent straight to the battery for storage, so you only need a charge controller to optimize the charging and improve safety. Just connect the solar panel’s terminals to the “PV” ports on the controller and connect the “battery” ports on the controller to a battery using another set of cables. From there, the charging begins.
The size of the battery will dictate the required size of your solar panel. If you have a 50 Ah, 12 V marine battery, this means you have a 600 Wh storage capacity (50 x 12 = 600). A typical, 160 W panel will generate around 600 Wh on a decently sunny day. You can also use a solar battery calculator to figure out the exact combination of solar panels and marine battery you’ll need.
How to Install Solar Panels on a Boat
There are several ways to install solar panels on a boat. You can do a hard mount by drilling holes and securing the panel with nut bolts, or use a bimini-mounting system. Some solar panels can also be tied down to the boat with ropes or cables.
When installing wiring, you’ll want to invest in through-deck wire seals if you’re drilling holes through into the deck. These help to protect the core of the boat from water intrusion. If possible, it’s best to utilize existing tubing in the pulpits and stanchions to minimize the amount of exposed wiring.
Thin, flexible solar panels can be pasted to the boat’s surface with an adhesive. However, if not pasted/caulked properly, these panels can catch wind and get damaged or come off entirely. Some good brands of durable adhesives/sealants are Boat Life, 3M, and Sikaflex.
Solar panels can also be mounted on a pole using the correct mounting brackets. In places where the sunshine isn’t strong enough, it even makes sense to use adjustable brackets which allow you to change the orientation of the panel, helping it absorb more sunlight and generate more energy. These could also be mounted on the sides of the stern pulpit, and fold down or collapse when not in use.
You can also utilize flexible panels on biminis, or create a solar arch structure that, with fixed or flexible panels, can be combined with wind turbines, antennas, and davits — but it takes some thinking outside of the box and creative designs. Before installing the panels, it might be helpful to map out a few ideas for ways to maximize space options and capture the most sunlight possible.
How Many Solar Panels Are Needed to Power a Boat?
The number of solar panels needed to power a boat depends on the size of the boat, the number and wattage of the appliances on board, and the power rating of the solar panels. Typically, 200 to 300 watts of panels are sufficient enough to power a small to medium boat if there aren’t any power-hungry appliances on it. Considering the most popular panel size of 100 W, you would need two to three solar panels to power electrical equipment on a boat.
Are There Solar Powered Boats?
It is possible to build a boat that operates entirely on solar power, and several prototypes have already been built and demonstrated. However, to propel an entire boat will need a large number of solar panels. Usually, there isn’t enough space for this on traditional boats or yachts.
Most solar-powered boats today are engineered to have extremely light structures and aerodynamic designs to minimize the number of solar panels needed. On the other hand, the energy density of gas or diesel is much higher, meaning a small fuel tank and motor can power the entire boat more easily, even if the boat is relatively heavy. Thankfully, marine and sailing yacht solar panels are becoming more efficient, and soon solar-powered boats may become mainstream.
Prices were accurate at the time of publication.