Produce electricity on cruising sailboat

Electricity generation solutions

Several technological solutions exist to produce electricity on sailboats. Each of them have their own characteristics, advantages and limitations.

The fuel power generator

groupe electroThe fuel power generators produce electricity thanks to a fuel engine through an alternator. It works with fuel and can produce a consequent electrical quantity. It can be removable or fixed in the boat.

This solution which is the oldest one uses fossil fuels and is not renewable, posing problems for the environment, flammablepollution, olfactory nuisances, a high cumbersome and important weight.


Renewable energy solutions


H240 3D petit

The hydrogenerator produces electricity during the navigation, it transforms water flow energy into electricity thanks to an alternator. This energy is renewable (boat speed created by the wind).

Hydrogenerators are very effective to reload batteries during the sail navigation. Electricity can be produce with a high and predictable production, with a reduced cumbersome

This solution can cause a drag during the navigation and does not work normally during anchorage.




The solar pannel

panneau solaire voilierThe solar panels convert solar energy into electricity thanks to photovoltaic cells. Lot of products exist, they can be flexible, semi-rigid or rigid.

Solar panels efficiency are degraded when they are installed on sailboats because their orientation and inclination are not optimal. In addition, it is mandatory to have sun and they are very sensitive to shadowing, even partial. They are bulky and need some addition equipments for their installation. Their electrical production can maintain the float voltage of batteries.

The solar panels are however a good complement with another solution to produce electricity.



The wind generator

éolienne voilierThe wind generators use the apparent wind to produce renewable electricity through an alternator. They can be fixed on a mast or gantry.

This solution is one of the oldest one and allows a production during anchorage. Some limitations to take into account:  complementary bulky and expensive elements are nedded to fix it. The noise and vibration can be discomfortable. In addition, the wind generator does not produces during wind down because it works only with apparent wind.

 The fuel cell

A fuel cell produces electricity thanks to a chemical reaction (hydrogen oxidation).

This technology can be a solution for the future to produce electricity, especially on sailboat, but today the price is still very expensive, that's a hurdle for its development.


Storage of generated electricity

Batteries are required to store the electrical energy received from the generator(s) in order to dispatch it depending on electrical devices demand. The batteries provide a real-time and on-demand reply to your boat electrical requirements.

There are several type of battery technology. The main ones are described below.

  • Open lead acide batteries, the most common and oldest technology for cruising sailboat. The electrolyte fluid level has to be checked on a regular basis.
  • Sealed lead (or lead-calcium) batteries, they require less maintenance due to the fact that no liquid level check is nedded. The chemical reaction ensures battery operation for the lifetime indicated by the manufacturer.
  • AGM and gel batteries. The liquid electrolyte is replaced by a gelled solution, there is no risk of leakage or liquid level issue, the performances are higher and the liftetime is better. But this type of batteries are heavier and more expensive.
  • Lithium-ion batteries. This technology leads to less bulky and lighter weight products, with improved storage capability and more charge and discharge cycles. The major constraint to their development is a high selling price.