Solar Charging Batteries

Charge your trolling motor batteries without depending on an electrical outlet.

When I wanted to add a trolling motor to my technical poling skiff, I faced a dilemma. The boat storage facility where I keep the boat has individual stalls but no electrical power. I didn’t relish the thought of disconnecting the battery and lugging it home for recharging after every trip. So after a little on-line research, I came up with a simple solution: solar power.

Coleman 20-watt crystalline shatter- and weather-proof 12-volt solar panelDave Lear

My 55-pound thrust MotorGuide Xi5 trolling motor runs off a single 12-volt Odyssey gel battery. I purchased a Coleman 20-watt crystalline shatter- and weather-proof 12-volt solar panel for $89.99 ( I also added the companion Coleman 30 amp Digital Charge Controller to regulate the voltage and protect against overcharging. The controller ($129.99) works for gel or lead acid batteries.

I built the wooden frame for the controller and mounted it to the brace inside the stall.Dave Lear

Some scrap lumber and a visit to the home improvement store finished the shopping list. A piece of square aluminum tubing provided the framework to mount the panel flat on top of the storage shed roof. A handful of sheet metal screws and bolts, waterproof butt connectors, a roll of cheap electrical wire used for outdoor accent lighting and a pair of battery clamps completed the circuit.

Wooden clothes pins and a cheap utility hook neatly stow the connections when not in use. I added red and black heat shrink to the clips to quickly identify the polarity of the leads.Dave Lear
The set-up works perfectly. After backing the skiff into the shed, I connect the leads to the battery and prop the hatch lid open with a piece of PVC pipe.Dave Lear

By the time I return for the next trip, the battery is fully charged and ready to go. I have less than $240 invested in the system, which can also be used to charge the starting battery. The panel has survived two hurricanes unscathed, so I’m looking forward to countless more hours of trolling motor power ahead—supplied free by the sun.