This paper investigates the energy performance of off-grid residential hybrid renewable electric power systems, particularly the effect of electric load profiles on the ability to harvest available solar energy and avoid the consumption of auxiliary energy in the form of propane. The concepts are illustrated by an analysis of the energy performance of electric and propane-fired refrigerators. Off-grid electric power systems frequently incorporate a renewable source, such as wind or solar photovoltaic (PV), with a back-up power provided by a propane fueled motor/generator. Among other design decisions, residential consumers face the choice of employing an electric refrigerator with a conventional vapor compression refrigeration system, or a fuel-fired refrigerator operating as an absorption refrigeration system. One interesting question is whether it is more advantageous from an energy perspective to use electricity to run the refrigerator, which might be provided by some combination of the PV and propane motor/generator, thereby taking advantage of the relatively higher electric refrigerator Coefficient of Performance (COP) and free solar energy but having to accept a low electrical conversion efficiency of the motor/generator, or use thermal energy from the combustion of propane to produce the refrigeration effect via an absorption system, albeit with a much lower COP. The analysis is complicated by the fact that most off-grid renewable electrical power systems utilize a battery bank to provide electrical power when it is not available from the wind turbine or PV system, so the state of charge of the battery bank will have a noticeable impact on what energy source is available at any moment in time. Daily electric load profiles combined with variable solar energy input determine the state of charge of the battery bank, with the degree of synchronization between the two being a critical factor in determining performance. The annual energy usage and fuel input depend strongly on the ability to make use of the renewable sources in real time to avoid battery bank conversion losses and dumping of excess electrical power, as well as to have sufficient battery storage capacity to minimize the need for operation of the motor/generator to meet electric loads which occur during periods when the renewable energy is not available.
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