Backwoods Solar Electric Systems


Independent Electric Power Systems for the Remote Home — Solar Electric, Wind, Hydro

We are a family business, living with our products for over 20 years, and offer the knowledge to help you set up your off-grid home energy system. Free Consultation. Questions are personally answered.

Our catalog includes a planning guide to help you understand how to put your energy system together—its applications and sizing. We offer lower than usual prices on Solarex and Siemens PV modules and Kohler generators. Our Trace inverters include free battery cables. We carry Sun Frost, Nova Kool, and ConServ refrigerators, specialized appliances and lighting, and a range of meters and controls: Heliotrope, SCI, Pulse, and TriMetric.

Most items in stock for immediate shipment. We accept VISA, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover

Steve & Elizabeth Willey • 1395-HP Rolling Thunder Ridge • Sandpoint, Idaho 83864 Phone: (208) 263-4290 • Fax: (208) 265-4788 • E-mail: [email protected] • Web:

We are a family business, living with our products for over 20 years, and offer the knowledge to help you set up your off-grid home energy system. Free Consultation. Questions are personally answered.

Most items in stock for immediate shipment. We accept VISA, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover

Steve & Elizabeth Willey • 1395-HP Rolling Thunder Ridge • Sandpoint, Idaho 83864 Phone: (208) 263-4290 • Fax: (208) 265-4788 • E-mail: [email protected] • Web:

Golden Genesis Company is Proud to Become Kyocera Solar, Inc.

We are NOT an Oil Company ... We are NOT a Utility ... BUT WE PROVIDE ENERGY.

Kyocera is a global producer of high technology solutions. Our commitment to solar and other renewable sources of electricity began in 1975 with the creation of Japan Solar Energy Corporation. Since then we have grown to become the Worlds Largest Manufacturer of solar electric modules, producing 29 megawatts last year.

We believe in solar energy. Our corporate headquarters is powered by more than 200 kilowatts of solar modules and features many integrated systems that are both energy saving and innovative.

As the new millennium approaches, we are strengthening our commitment to preserving the world's resources and broadening the positive impact of solar electricity. To that end, we proudly announce our merger with Golden Genesis Company - a world leading manufacturer and marketer of solar electric systems.

^ Ky DCER3


7812 EAST ACOMA DRIVE SCOTTSDALE, AZ 85260 480/951-6330 800/544-6466 FAX 480/951-6329

Olli Kuusisto

©1999 Olli Kuusisto

Olli Kuusisto's solar-powered Solveig at rest in a cove in Finland.The custom mast prevents shading the 620 watts of PV.

When we first tested our boats, everything worked, but they were too slow. The speed was only about 2 knots. After a little thinking, we bought a couple of glass-fibre reinforced nylon propellers for model planes. They were 10 inches (25 cm) long and very thin. It was almost unbelievable, but with these props, the speed of the boats almost doubled. Now we always take the original props off all electric outboard motors and change them to model plane props. These props do have one weak point—they gather sea-grass very easily.

hen my good friend Jorma Ponkala and I started experimenting with solar boats some ten years ago, we heard one claim quite often: Solar boats are unrealistic in Finland. There is too little sun! That's true in winter, when the sea and lakes are covered by ice, and nobody is boating anyway. But in the summer, the sun almost doesn't set.

The Beginning

Jorma started by building himself a 17 foot (5 m) submarine-shaped boat for one to two people. He put together a 200 watt, 24 volt electric outboard motor and put 200 watts of solar panels on the deck.

My first boat was almost 17 feet too, built of plywood and intended for all kinds of experiments. The motor was a 12 volt, 250 watt unit. It's installed on rubber feet to avoid noise and the shaft comes out through the transom. I also have 200 watts of PV. These boats are very practical in the inner part of our archipelago. They are very shallow draft and light, making it easy to pull up on the shore for the night. This lets us sleep peacefully without having to be afraid of sudden storms.

Solar vessel Aton moored in a Finnish archipelago.

Solar vessel Aton moored in a Finnish archipelago.

Christina Mether and Matti Kukkonen.

Solar boats are the watercraft of the future, with the following characteristics:

• Energy autonomy; the "fuel" is renewable energy such as solar, wind, and pedal power.

• Economy; solar energy is free. Solar panels, electric motors, and battery technology are decreasing in cost.

• Noise reduction; the solar boat is silent. You can listen to the sounds of nature, talk, or enjoy quiet music while the boat is moving.

• Ecology; an electric boat is a real ZEV (zero emission vehicle).

• Comfort in use; the solar boat has lots of space for its size, because the electric motor is small and there is no need for a smelly fuel tank or oil changes. The boats are very easy to handle.

• Range of use; the solar boat is suitable for different environments—the open sea, lakes, rivers, and canals.

For four summers my family enjoyed gliding around in the archipelago of southwestern Finland. What a fantastic feeling to move forward without any noise or smell of gasoline! It was possible to listen to the real natural sounds of the surroundings and observe wild birds. After these positive experiences, we started planning family-sized solar boats.

Solar Boat Solveig

In the planning of Solveig, the basic point was that it had to be as ecological and energy-efficient as possible. For most people, however, ecology is not reason enough. In order to be attractive, Solveig had to be cheaper than ordinary boats, and of course she had to suit my personal financial situation as well.

The hull was built of glass-fibre reinforced plywood and ecologically heat-impregnated wood. This non-toxic new impregnation method makes domestic pine resemble mahogany. I have noticed that a plywood boat is dry and comfortable in use compared to a glass-fibre boat. Plywood is a cheap, strong, light, and locally available material too.

Although Solveig is an electric boat, it would have been foolish not to take advantage of the wind almost always blowing on the sea, if it could be harnessed without disturbing the solar qualities. The mast was placed as far back as possible on the cabin roof, leaning slightly backwards to avoid shading the PVs on the forward deck. In this way, the area of the sail could be significantly increased.

My original intention was to use the boat on shallow rivers, canals, lakes, and on the open sea. In the part of the southwestern Finnish archipelago where I'm living, there are many beautiful routes. But in many cases, the bridges from one island to another are too low for conventional sailboats. Therefore, the mast had to be collapsible.

A bronze mermaid adorns the prow and can be used to tow Solveig.

Boat builder Matti Kukkonen, who had the responsibility of actually building the boat, constructed an ingenious and simple mechanism that made it possible to instantly lower and raise the mast. The mast was placed on the cabin roof in a steel case (called a foot) about 8 inches (20 cm) high.

When you want to lower the mast, you open the handle on the side of the case and take the rope coming from the stern and mast top. Let the rope glide slowly through your hand and the mast will come down. When you have to raise the mast, you push it up a little bit by hand, pull in the rope and the mast comes up. Close the handle, hook the rope in the stern, and then you can raise the sail.

Because the boat had to be really shallow-going too, a centerboard could have been used. But we chose to build a long, broad keel-box where the six used 125 amp-hour batteries could be placed. In this way, the batteries don't take any room in the boat and also stabilize it when sailing. The electric motor doesn't take much room either. The

Aton's unique look is the outcome of a solar-focused design.

with electricity. I'm building a little combination electric/wood stove to cook food and warm the boat in late autumn. It can also be used as a sauna-stove. But in the autumn there is very little sun to harness, so I have thought of buying a 500 watt wind generator to offset burning wood for heat. Maybe it's too interesting to plan and build new accessories. I have to be careful not to build my beautiful boat too full of ingenious things.

speed regulator was placed in a little hand-sized box with a cable so that the steering could be done any place in the boat.

For me it was very easy to christen this boat. Solveig is a very old Scandinavian name that means "the solar path." The symbol next to the name is a sun-cross from Viking times. But most important—my daughter's name is Solveig, so I had no real choice.

Art is very important to me, and I have many artist friends. A solar boat is clean and comfortable and it's more than natural to have art onboard. The mermaid in bronze in the bow, made by the Latvian sculptor Viktor Suskevic, is not only beautiful, but also useful for towing the boat. Inside is a beautiful little aquarelle and in the aft window on one side (the toilet window) I have a leaded stained glass work. On the other side, passers-by can see three flying angels guarding my boat. This is a hologram by artist Reima Nurmikko.

I still have a pedal-powered generator aboard to produce energy for critical situations. In practice, it has been used to get some physical exercise on longer voyages.

Soon I'm going to try my new little solar heater I built for my wife to take hot showers. All cooking will be done

Captain Jorma Ponkala at the helm of Aton. The centerboard hides under the table.

Captain Jorma Ponkala at the helm of Aton. The centerboard hides under the table.

Solar Boat Aton

My inventor friend Jorma Ponkala's new solar boat design is really interesting. The stern resembles an aircraft and the rest is a little like an aircraft carrier with a big surface area. The smooth surface provides room for a large solar array (if there's enough money, of course). At the aft, the roof can be opened and the end of it moves backwards, letting the open air in for the crew to enjoy. The hull was designed using specialized software.

Jorma is an expert in lightweight building and he chose a layer structure of injected polystyrene foam. Interior and exterior surfaces are of epoxy and glass fibre. The result is a super-light and unsinkable boat.

The boat doesn't have a mast, but there are plans to build a telescopic mast for a wind generator and a wind prop, or to use a kite sail. The wind prop is going to be used in shallow waters, where it's impossible to use a water prop. The centerboard is hidden under the table.

Jorma's boat is slightly bigger than mine and he has built a little electric sauna-bath in the boat. It is in the middle of the boat and is only about two square meters in size. The sauna stove is made of one 30 by 30 cm (12 x 12 in) soapstone plate. It draws 1,200 watts at 24 volts. The chemical toilet is situated under the sauna bench. It takes about a half an hour for the sauna to become warm enough for Jorma's family. The energy consumption is not a problem because it's not used every day and only for an hour at a time.

In the bottom of the boat there is a glass window through which you can admire the underwater world if the water is clean enough. But usually it isn't. The water in the Baltic sea has steadily turned dirtier. The window can be opened and it's possible to take a swim. Because the boat draws only 25 cm (10 in) of water, a low collar around the window is all that is necessary to prevent water from flooding the floor.

Jorma has built a 24 volt electric oven for the boat, and a freeze-box. The Ponkala family loves to pick berries

Solar Boat Aton Specifications

Solar Boat Solveig Specifications

Solar Boat Aton Specifications


October 1998

Builder & owner

Jorma Ponkala


7.85 m (25.8 ft)


2.35 m (8.7 ft)


0.25 m (9.8 in)

Cruising speed

5 knots, maximum 6 knots


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