How to Install Solar Panels on a Bimini

Item # X-HT-300145

Solar panels are a great asset on any boat, whether you’re a day sailor or a full-time cruiser. They provide clean, ready energy for your boat and, depending on the size of panel you choose, can provide electricity for everything from keeping your batteries charged to running appliances. There are many different types of solar panels and variety of ways in which to mount them on your boat. In our video tutorial, we’re going to demonstrate one way to install flexible solar panels on a bimini top.

Flexible solar panels installed on a bimini top

The solar panels installed in the video are for a soft bimini top onboard our Powerboat Makeover project, which belongs to Brian, a manager at Sailrite®. Brian’s main goals for his solar panels were to have the panels be secure enough on the bimini that they wouldn’t flap in the wind, while at the same time being easily removable so the bimini can be folded if necessary. To accomplish this, Brian created reinforced frames on the bimini top for the solar panels to lock into via Loxx® Pull It Up fasteners.

The frames for the solar panels are designed to blend into the bimini top, while providing reinforcement for the top itself. They feature highly abrasion resistant Shelter-Rite® vinyl strips underneath a Sunbrella® Marine Grade cover to prevent the corners and sides of the solar panels from chafing the Sunbrella bimini top. In the video, we also demonstrate how to create a reinforced opening in the bimini top to accommodate the solar panel wiring. We also discuss the importance of proper placement of the solar panels on a soft bimini top to ensure that water will still be able to freely run off the top.

This is just one possible way to install solar panels that suited the needs of Brian and his boat. Techniques from the video can be adapted to better suit your particular vessel.

Video Chapters

  • Positioning Panels on Bimini – 0:41 min.
  • Cutting & Sewing Facing Strips – 3:06 min.
  • Creating Facing Frame – 10:55 min.
  • Installing Tenax Fasteners – 21:38 min.
  • Patterning Solar Panels on Bimini – 30:36 min.
  • Sewing Facing Frame to Bimini – 34:17 min.
  • Creating Passage for Cables – 46:59 min.
  • Installing Solar Panels on Bimini – 57:57 min.
  • Materials List – 1:01:06 min.

Materials List

  • Shelter-Rite® Vinyl Fabric (we used Black #1120121)
  • Sunbrella® Marine Grade Fabric (we used Marine Blue #4678-0000)
  • Seamstick 3/8" Basting Tape for Canvas
  • V-92 Polyester or lifetime thread (we used Sailrite® PTFE thread in Black #107130)
  • Loxx® Pull It Up Fastener Button #3000078
  • Loxx® Pull It Up Fastener Locking Key #630002
  • Loxx® Pull It Up Fastener Cloth-to-Cloth Stud #3000002
  • Nylon Black Hook 1-1/2" #103405
  • Nylon Black Loop 1-1/2" #103407

Tools List

  • Clear Acrylic Ruler 6" x 24" #102400
  • Comfort Grip Rotary Cutter 60mm #9655
  • Self Healing Rotary Cutting Mat 24" x 36" #120257
  • Sailrite® Canvas Patterning Ruler #107040
  • Scribe-All Water Soluble Marking Pencil (we used white #120681)
  • Sailrite® Edge Hotknife Package #103800 (110 Volt)
  • Sailrite® Ultrafeed® LSZ-1 PLUS Walking Foot Sewing Machine #300602
  • Deluxe 5-1/2" Magnetic Sewing Guide #103597
  • Gingher® Scissors #19104 (right-handed)
  • Soapstone Fabric Marking Pencil #102766
  • Stayput Spin Cut 3/8" (9.5mm) Tool #103440
  • Premium Cutting Block 5" x 5" #103651
  • Multi Use Pins 1-1/2" #102985
  • Straight Edge
  • Drill