Yea, a 50 watt panel could, theoretically power a 'fridge like the Nova Kool, but, in practice, it doesn't work that way.
5er is set up for boondocking
. With its 105 watts of roof-mount solar panels, all-LED lighting
(only a few of which are on at any given time), large fresh tank, both a (no electricity required) Wave 3 heater as well as the standard Scamp furnace
, electric water pump, propane 'fridge, and water heater we can and do camp for days without hookups. We also use our house battery
to charge our laptop, cell phone, and camera batteries, and we have a 12-volt AM/FM/DVD/TV we occasionally use. Most of the time we use our electricity-free Wave 3 heater to keep our trailer warm and only turn to our furnace
, which draws 2.8 Amps when it is running, to quickly heat up our trailer after we get home and when we're somewhere wet. (The Wave 3 puts a lot of moisture in the air, which fogs the windows
and makes it damp inside in rainy or high-humidity climates.)
Most days our 105 watts of solar provide ample power to boondock without any compromises, other than not being able to use the microwave
and having to manually water our drip coffee maker, but some compromise is necessary when camping in campground with lots of trees, on days when the skies are heavily overcast, and when we camp off-season.
This May, late in the month, we camped at 8000+ feet at the Grand Canyon North Rim, but even though the sun is both strong at 8000 feet and up long in May, we were coming up very slightly short because of all the trees. If we stayed much longer we could have balanced our power consumption by unplugging our AM/FM/DVD/TV, which has a parasitic power draw .13 Amps (1.5 watts/3 Amp-Hours a day) when its turned off but plugged in. If we depended on a Nova Kool 'fridge we would have needed to make other compromises, like not using our furnace to quickly warm our trailer and not using our laptop, and even then might have come up short, even though we were in Sunny Arizona.
There are many times when solar power
can be a loosing battle. Camping in the even more heavily trees and very damp Olympic Rain Forest, where the trees catch almost all the sunlight and Wave 3 becomes an indoor rain maker. Camping off-season, in late-Fall or early-Spring when the sun's angle is low and the hours of sunlight short. Camping on heavily overcast days when solar panel efficiency is compromised by 75% . . . even a thin layer of clouds can reduce panel efficiency by 33%. During the dark winter months in the northern US, where we live, our solar-power trailer doesn't stand a chance and we're restricted to short stays or need hookups.
The take-away from all this should be that solar panels are part
of an energy use strategy, but they aren't the whole
strategy. Our power-use strategy includes selecting sunny campsites when the weather is cold, installing LED lights
, choosing and using non-electric appliances like our propane-powered 'fridge and Wave-3 heater whenever possible, snuggling under a heavy down quilt at night, remembering that sometimes we have to turn off parasitic power draws like the entertainment console and be careful about using and charging our laptop and other devices.
A Nova Kool 'fridge does not fit with this strategy.