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Looking for a solar-powered trolling motor?
Whether you’re a seasoned angler or a newbie to the world of trolling, harnessing the power of the sun can revolutionize your fishing experience.
Let’s explore the benefits, types, and top recommendations for solar chargers, so you can stay powered up for endless hours on the water.
- DuraVolt Solar Maintainer Charger (Best Overall)
- BigBlue 36W Folding Solar Panel Charger (Most Compact)
- Allto Solar 20W 12V Solar Panel Kit (Best Complete Kit)
- Renogy 30W 12V Solar Panel (Most Efficient)
- Suner Power 10W 12V Solar Battery Charger (Best Budget)
Will A Solar Panel Run A Trolling Motor By Itself?
The short answer is no. A solar panel is unlikely to power a trolling motor on a boat directly without a battery or converter.
Solar panels usually deliver a constant current but the amount of current depends on the voltage and size of the solar panel. It also depends on the amount of sunlight available. This means that there is nowhere to store the energy before it’s potentially delivered to a trolling motor.
There is also the risk of the current being delivered by the solar panel being too high for the trolling motor, causing overvoltage to the motor. This could cause the motor to burn out, damaging it from further use.
There Is One Way To Run A Trolling Motor Without A Battery
However, there is a way that you could potentially run a trolling motor from a solar panel without a battery. This will require a buck converter.
What is a buck converter, you ask? This is a device that converts the voltage from one supply to another. For example, the buck converter can take the higher voltage input from the solar panel and reduce it to make it suitable for the voltage output required by the trolling motor.
This lets you safely power a trolling motor from a solar panel without a battery. The extra voltage from the solar panel can also be converted into current, so it maximizes the energy from the solar panel.
Video: Trolling Motor Powered By Solar
Can You Charge A Trolling Motor Battery With A Solar Panel?
Yes, you can charge trolling motor batteries with a solar panel. However, you will usually need to have a large solar panel to be able to charge the battery completely.
Many solar panels can deliver a current that can maintain the charge on your battery. This means your fully charged battery can be kept topped up with power while you’re on the go, so you can extend your outdoor adventures.
To completely charge a battery, you will generally require many hours of sunlight in addition to a large solar panel. This could take longer than you expect.
For example, it could take a full day to charge a battery, depending on the size of the battery. It may even take several days.
Most portable solar battery chargers are not designed for fully charging a motor battery.
Here are some of the best trolling motor batteries.
Can A Solar Powered Trolling Motor Operate In All Weather Conditions?
For a solar electric panel to harness the energy from the sun, the sun needs to be out. Solar power relies on the sun and without the sun, the solar panels won’t be able to generate any energy.
On cloudy days, it will typically take longer to charge the battery or power any device. On dark winter days, there may not be any sunshine to generate solar power at all.
Here are some of the ways that I recommend for charging a trolling motor battery.
How Many Amps Does A Trolling Motor Take?
The amperage draw of trolling motors varies between brands and models. It will also depend on the voltage and pounds of thrust that the motor on your boat uses.
We talked about this more in our trolling motor battery life article.
Most kayak trolling motors will tend to use a 12-volt system. More powerful ones will use 24-volt systems. Anything greater than this will usually be too unnecessary for most kayaks.
The level of thrust also increases on motors with higher voltages. The higher the level of thrust, the heavier the boat it can power. It’s not related to speed. So the higher thrust does not mean the boat will go faster.
Remember, if you use a 24-volt trolling motor, you will need a 24-volt battery or two 12-volt batteries in a series.
What About Wattage?
If you use a 75 amp hour 12-volt battery you would ideally require a 70 watt 12 volt solar charger. However, this can still take over a week for the solar charger to charge your battery from empty to full. To charge it from about 50 percent to 100 percent may take around four days.
Using a solar charger with a lower wattage will take longer to charge the same 75 amp-hour battery.
Generally, a 15-watt solar charger can deliver one amp-hour for every hour of direct sunlight.
However, if it’s cloudy or the panel is not in direct sunlight, this will affect the amount of charge it can deliver.
How Efficient Is A Solar Powered Trolling Motor Compared To Traditional Motors?
Solar-powered motors may be the futuristic ideal but until powerful solar panels can be made in a super compact size, you might find you need to stick to traditional electric power for maximum efficiency.
Solar panels can be great for maintaining a charge on an electric trolling motor. The panels can deliver free electricity so in that sense, solar power is very efficient.
However, if you want to run an electric trolling motor solely using energy from the sun, you will probably need very large panels and plenty of patience. I don’t recommend trying to run a trolling motor solely with a solar panel.
Here are the top-rated chargers for trolling motor batteries.
FAQs About Solar Powered Trolling Motors
How Do Solar Powered Trolling Motors Work?
Electric trolling motors are powered by a battery. The battery power can be topped up by solar panels or fully charged over several days in sunlight.
You generally can’t run a kayak trolling motor using just a solar panel.
How Many Solar Panels Does It Take To Run A Trolling Motor?
To fully run a trolling motor, you would need a solar panel that delivers around 300 watts. However, this will depend on what size battery you have and the amps drawn by your motor.
To get enough wattage and reliability, you will likely need several panels and this is probably not practical on a kayak.
The higher the wattage, the larger the panel.
What Types of Boats Are Suitable for Solar Powered Trolling Motors?
Larger boats can be more suitable for using solar cell panels than kayaks, simply because they tend to have more deck space to mount a panel (or several).
Bigger panels can also be mounted to the roofs of large boats and there is also usually more space to store a larger battery.
What Are the Specific Maintenance Requirements for Solar Powered Trolling Motors?
Solar cell panels should be placed in full sunlight to absorb maximum energy. Maintenance for solar panels includes cleaning the panels regularly to optimize the amount of light that can be absorbed.
What Are the Environmental Benefits of Using Solar Powered Trolling Motors?
Besides being free energy, electricity harnessed from the sun is better for the environment than standard electricity.
Standard electricity in your home can often be derived from fossil fuels. Fossil fuels, such as coal and gas have a higher carbon footprint and are a natural resource that will eventually run out.
5 Best Solar Chargers For Trolling Batteries
1: DuraVolt Solar Maintainer Charger (best overall)
- Length: 16 inches
- Width: 14 inches
- Weight: 2.3 pounds
The DuraVolt Solar Maintainer is the best option for kayaks as it’s compact, lightweight, and easy to use. It’s designed specifically for marine use and it can be easily mounted to the deck of your boat to take advantage of the sunlight.
It can charge a 12-volt battery and comes with everything you need to do that. However, it’s not cheap.
This is primarily designed as a trickle charger to maintain the level of charge in your battery.
- Made for marine use
- Easy to install
- Compact and lightweight
2: BigBlue 36W Folding Solar Panel Charger (most compact)
- Length: 37.3 inches (14.1 inches folded)
- Width: 14.17 inches (7.6 inches folded)
- Weight: 3.6 pounds
This BigBlue 36W foldable solar charger is an extremely versatile product. This can be used to charge multiple electronics as it comes with various connectors, including USB-A, USB-C, and DC output.
One of the best things about this solar charger is that it can be folded, making it useful for kayaking and camping. However, it takes up a lot of room when it’s unfolded.
This solar panel can be used to directly charge phones, tablets, power stations, and, of course, trolling motor batteries. It has a built-in voltage regulator to deliver the correct current and voltage to the battery.
- Can charge multiple electronics
- Foldable solar panels
- Built-in voltage regulator
- Large when not folded
3: Allto Solar 20W 12V Solar Panel Kit (best complete kit)
- Length: 16.5 inches
- Width: 13.2 inches
- Weight: 3.2 pounds
This Allto Solar 50W 12V solar panel kit is a complete kit that comes with a 10-amp MPPT charge controller and a plug-and-play SAE connector cable.
This is designed to be a trickle charger that can help to maintain the charge on your motor battery.
It’s a pretty compact size that can be useful on a kayak. It’s also waterproof so you can keep your motor battery powered while you’re on the water.
However, this will take a long time to fully charge a 12-volt trolling motor battery.
- MPPT charge controller included
- Not great for fully charging
4: Renogy 30W 12V Solar Panel (most efficient)
- Length: 22.4 inches
- Width: 13.4 inches
- Weight: 6.2 pounds
The Renogy 30W 12V solar panel is an efficient solar panel that is designed to maximize the power of the sun even when there is cloud cover.
This is a solar panel only. You’ll need to purchase the connector cables and a charge controller separately.
This can charge a 12-volt trolling motor if there’s a lot of sunlight, though it’s not fast. It can also keep a battery topped up while you’re on the water to extend your fishing time.
A downside of this is that it’s not as compact as some of the other options.
- Works under cloud cover
- Can fully charge a battery
- Solar panel only
5: Suner Power 10W 12V Solar Battery Charger (best budget)
- Length: 16.3 inches
- Width: 9.4 inches
- Weight: 3 pounds
The Suner Power 10W solar charger is an affordable charger that can be ideal for maintaining the charge in trolling motor batteries. It’s also compact.
Being a 10-watt solar charger, this may not be enough to charge 12-volt trolling motor batteries completely.
It’s useful for maintaining all types of batteries, including AGM and lithium-ion.
- Trickle charger
- Not powerful enough for full charging
Harnessing power from sunlight can be a great solution for keeping your batteries topped up while you’re off the grid. This means you can keep your trolling motor connected and running, or hook the charger up to your other gadgets.
Remember, most solar panels won’t be able to keep a trolling motor running without a secondary power source.
Let us know about your experience with solar chargers and tell us about your setup.