Harnessing the Sun to Power Our Future

Installing solar panels provides a unique opportunity to help develop young trainees learn STEM subjects whilst reducing our carbon footprint.

Harnessing the Sun to Power Our Future

  • 5 min read

For over 36 years, Helen Mary R has been taking groups of young people out to sea on life-changing voyages. Launched in 1986 and going strong over three decades later, our rugged vessel has inspired over 5,000 young people under the steadfast care of Morvargh and the Rona Sailing Project before us.

At over three decades old, keeping Helen Mary R ship shape is a perpetual endeavour. Each winter, we meticulously refit to maintain her structural integrity, mechanical systems, and compliance with regulatory standards. This refit is no small feat for our small nonprofit, requiring months of preparation and fundraising.

This year, we hope to improve Helen Mary R's environmental footprint and enhance her educational mission by installing solar panels, black water sewage tanks, and a power monitoring system aboard.

By harnessing the sun's power, we'll reduce engine runtime for battery charging needs. The new sewage tanks will allow us to contain and dispose of waste properly. Trainees will also gain hands-on experience tracking solar production and analysing the carbon emissions saved compared to diesel power generation. Upgrading to solar supports our commitment to sustainable operation, environmental responsibility, and engaging young people.

Helen Mary R’s old Perkins diesel engine accrues over a hundred engine hours annually. Motoring between ports when the wind is not in our favour or charging our domestic battery bank necessitates the engine running at least a few hours daily.

We've tackled water pollution by adding black water tanks to contain waste responsibly. CO2 is our next challenge. We aspire to make our voyages impact the ocean as minimally as possible while creating life-changing opportunities for our trainees.

Installing solar panels will help achieve both aims. Harnessing the sun's rays prevents kilograms of CO2 from being released by slashing diesel usage. Sustainably powering Helen Mary R will inspire our young crew and teach them the worth of environmental protection. Trainees will monitor energy production, learning firsthand how renewable sources will shape their future.

The first challenge is funding their installation.

Benefits of switching to solar power

Installing a Victron solar panel system with a capacity of 430 watts will drastically cut diesel usage for our battery charging needs. The solar array is projected to produce approximately 1kWh daily. With an average engine runtime of 3 hours daily to charge batteries, we potentially produce 9.9kg of CO2 per hour! If we can cut this, we will reduce annual emissions by 10.93 tons!

Solar power supports our drive to make as little an impact on the environment as possible. We can eliminate at least 120 engine hours by powering our charging needs with solar. We can preserve clean ocean air instead of consuming 500 litres of diesel, and our carbon footprint will no longer include 10 tons of CO2 at the hands of Helen Mary R this season!

Engaging Young People

Installing solar panels provides a unique opportunity to help develop young trainees learn STEM subjects and inspire them to learn about environmental protection innovatively. Young people will get an unparalleled first-hand experience with renewable technologies that few of their peers can access. We hope to inspire a new generation of young people devoted to building a sustainable future by sparking their passion for renewables today through hands-on learning.

Young people will directly monitor power generation to report on sustainability. Hands-on engagement elements will include:

  • Trainees will take hourly readings from the Victron monitoring system to record real-time solar power generation. They'll analyse logs and trends.
  • Tracking engine runtime, fuel consumption, carbon emissions data, and solar production. They'll compare these figures to calculate emissions specifically saved by solar usage and analyse the environmental benefits.
  • We'll create a dedicated section on sustainability within our annual report that showcases the solar analytics and quantifies the reduced environmental impact thanks to the solar upgrade.

Through active participation in data capture, analysis, and reporting - young sailors will build an intrinsic appreciation of renewable technology's role in reducing environmental footprints. These experiences will help us to inspire the next generation of climate leaders within their communities.

The Victron Solar System

We hope to install a Victron solar array consisting of:

  • Two 215W Victron Mono Solar Panels (£107 each)
  • One Victron SmartSolar MPPT 150/35 Controller (£165)
  • 100m 6mm Cable Reel (£112.50)
  • Ancillary parts and connectors (£200)

Why Victron? Victron Energy is a highly well-known and respected brand with enormous experience in the marine sector. We are slowly transferring to using Victron products aboard, and they have proved to be excellent bits of kit! 

The total budget for purchasing and installing the solar panel system is approximately £1000. This covers the £591 equipment costs and labour and service fees for installation. We hope to engage Adam from ADR Marine again to help with the installation. Adam has partnered with us on technical projects aboard Helen Mary R and consistently provides quality service and reliability - we can't recommend him enough!

Totus Engineering's 3 Summit Challenge

This year, on 12th July, an intrepid team of challengers from Totus Engineering will be undertaking the immense task of scaling the combined elevation of 3 of the most famous summits – Mount Everest, K2, and Mount Kilimanjaro, a total of 23,354m! To complete this task, Team Totus will be trekking up and down Brown Willy on Bodmin Moor, the highest point in Cornwall, 170 times. With a team of just seven people, each person will be required to cover the distance of a marathon, ascending and descending at least 24 times. All in support of our efforts to add renewable energy to Helen Mary R!

With each step they take on Bodmin Moor's rugged terrain, they'll be inching closer to supporting Morvargh's mission of inspiring and educating young minds about renewable energy, marine conservation, and reducing carbon footprints. If you can, please contribute to their fundraising campaign.


Please reach out if you’re interested in supporting us!

Matt & Vicky Barraud


Morvargh Sailing Project is a Community Interest Company registered in England No: 07132688. Registered address: Willow Barn, Lower Bodwen, Redmoor, PL30 5AT


Fowey, Cornwall




+44 (0)7481 546577

Vessel Location:

50°20'00.8"N 4°37'46.9"W

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