I’ve long been a sceptic about the use of solar power on motorhomes; I couldn’t see the point in all that extra weight on the van roof just for a little bit of power. However, the use of a portable solar panel for emergency use might be a good idea. To this end, I bought a Renogy 100Watt folding solar panel and a Victron MPPT 75/15 solar charge controller, and plumbed the controller through the EBL as an ‘ancillary charger’.
The Renogy panel does not have a controller fitted as most do, which is why I chose it. The Victron charge controller that we bought has a Bluetooth interface so can be monitored at a distance, albeit short.
The first real opportunity to try the solar panel was June 10-12th, during our stay in the New Forest when it was nice and sunny.
On the morning of Thursday 10th, our battery capacity was showing as 90% so I deployed the panel.
I was staggered. The panel harvested up to 123Watts and provided a charge current of around 9Amps! As the battery charged, the current dropped off but remained around 7A for some time. Within a few hours the charger controller had dropped back to its ‘float’ mode and the batteries were fully charged. Although, when on ‘float’ charge the panel only harvested around 70W.
The way in which the controller is connected to the EBL means that I can only charge the habitation battery. A modification I will make is to fabricate a splitter cable that allows the charger to connect to either the habitation battery or the van starter battery.
I really must say that I am hugely impressed with the panel/charger combination but am still not going to have solar panels fitted on the van roof.