Solar Panel Mounting

In most cases your solar panel is going to be used for between 10 and 30 seconds.  For model boats it is at the lower end of the scale and for designed car's it is at the higher end.

In all cases the last thing that is desired is for a solar panel to fall off or for it to be dislodged and hinder the vehicles movement.

The solar panels are known to be relatively brittle and any damage to the cells results in a drop in panel power.  Cracks in cells at to increase the electrical resistance and hence losses within the cell and this means less power available to provide to the electrical motors.  So in all cases it is desirable to use some mechanism to mount the solar panel to the vehicle so that it is secure and safely attached and can not move.easily.

One of the unfortunate attributes of the solar panels is that they vary with temperature, each cell of the panel generates about 0.5 volts at 25°C.  Maximum power voltage falls as panel temperature increases and the 0.5 volts per cell is an average value.  This means that you do not want to have your panel temperature high.

With both Boats and Sheridan kit cars any additional weight should be avoided hence it is common to run the panels with no support other than the minimum framework to stop the panel from falling off, many times this is just Velcro attached to back of the panel substrate material.  The designed cars have a little more room for panel mounting as the use a ballasting formula to address variation in panel power and to put more focus onto the accurate building of the vehicle.

One thing that should be avoided at all costs is placing an insulator as the backing for a solar panel, this acts to retain the heat in the panel rather than allow for dissipation.  Corflute or polystyrene are both excelent insulators as both have pockets of air that do not conduct temperature well, in the designed cars the panels are many times attached to a metalic (mostly aluminium) plate that acts as a heat sink and radiator.  Designed car designers have also been know to use heat transfer paste on the back of the panels to more efficiently conduct the heat.

So when looking to mount your solar panel please consider what may be the best way to do this AND also what are the costs and benefits that each option may incur.