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Energy COOL: Frying in the Sun

July 26th, 2007 · 6 Comments

There are many tremendous technologies, processes, and such out there that can help us move toward a prosperous and sustainable energy future.  These range from urban bike programs to energy efficient public housing to finding out Bolivian cookersjust how easy it is to cook with the sun. Or, as advertised here, Frying in the Sun.

ANNOUNCEMENT  There is a major Solar Cooking Demonstration in Washington, DC, by the US Senate Friday afternoon, 27 July. Information within the diary.

The Energy COOL series is dedicated to discussions of such ‘cool’ programs, options for moving toward a better energy future.  

Solar cooking is one of these, a renewable power source that offers real opportunities for making a difference globally.

Now, if you want to learn more about it, there are links later in the diary, but first, there is an opportunity to see them upclose and personal if you are in the DC area. (And, by the way, a chance to get some free food.

Public Demonstration of Eight Solar Cookers
U.S. Capitol Grounds
Washington, D.C.

  • Friday, July 27, 12 – 6pm
  • Upper Senate Park by the fountain

Okay, you can get a chance to see them. But, so what?

According to the EPA, almost three billion people still cook every day with traditional solid fuels (primarily wood, charcoal and animal waste).  Their numbers are expected to increase substantially by 2020.  The vast majority of these people live within thirty degrees north or south of the equator where the sun shines much of the year.  The World Health Organization reports that over 1.5 million people die of respiratory disease each year by inhaling the fumes of their cooking fires.  In developing nations millions of women and their children (who should be in school) spend hours each day foraging for fuel, resulting in denuded land, soil erosion, flooding and reduction in forest cover.  Refugee women in the Darfur region of Sudan risk beatings and rape when they leave their camps in search of firewood.  Cooking with fire also causes serious burns and eye damage.

In addition, the deforestration for cooking and the ash from cooking fires have a real impact on Global Warming. From Wood stoves are big culprits in climate change:

Cooking stoves fuelled by wood or crop residue are contributing to climate change significantly more than expected, say researchers. …
When released into the atmosphere, the black, noxious particles — which are darker than those produced by grassland or forest fires — absorb light and increase atmospheric temperatures.

“They can absorb energy and keep it in the Earth’s system when it would otherwise escape,”

Okay, want to stop global warming, then stopping excessive wood (and charcoal?) cooking is one of the things to do.  And, well, solar cooking is a path toward achieving this.
Back to the press release for the Hill event:

Solar cooking can dramatically reduce these problems. The benefits of using solar cookers whenever the sun is shining, in addition to smoke-free cooking, include:  job creation; technology transfer; capacity building; decreased deforestation; reduction in CO2 emissions from cooking fires; preservation of forests and ground cover; sterilization of medical instruments; reduction in respiratory, lung, intestinal and eye diseases; and the ability to pasteurize water for drinking.  Solar cooking, when used as part of an integrated cooking program can reduce fuel consumption by more than 75%!

And think about that.  The solar stove is a substitution of a one-time capital expense for the potential of a 75% cut in energy use, saving money (e.g., a real savings in the Cost to Own) while truly offering the opportunity for improved living conditions for many people around the world, while helping to slow Global Warming.
What are we waiting for. Let’s get these things out there.

More than one million solar cookers are in use in China and India alone.  Solar cookers of various types are also used on a limited basis in many parts of Africa, South Asia, Central and South America. Seasonally, they are used as far north as Afghanistan and Nepal and as far south as Chile.  Even American ice fishermen in the Great Lakes region use solar box cookers to cook on sunny winter days.  

Alright, they are out there.  Sort of.  There are literally 100s of millions (if not billions) more people around the globe who would benefit from solar cookers (for cooking food, purifying water, heating water for bathing). And, well, the Globe would benefit if they had them.
The press release finished:

Millions more could benefit from this simple technology—if only they knew about it!

That is only partially true, the knowledge isn’t necessarily enough.  
Solar cooking is not a core part of the US government’s approach to foreign aid … actually, it really isn’t part of US foreign aid. And that is beyond shameful, it is simply foolish.  Solar cookers support many of the Millenium Goals and can foster improvement in many domains at the same time.

Coincidentally, the Christian Science Monitor has two (connected) articles on solar cookers today.  Simple sun-cooker takes off as a way to help Darfuris and Darfur refugees tap the sun’s power to cook.  This is a powerful story and an example of how a relativelyrefugee camp small non-profit (Jewish World Watch) has managed to seize onto a concept, stick with it, and make a real difference in the world.  Solar Cookers for Darfur refugees in Chad has reduced deforestration, given a business enterprise for women in the camp, and reduced rape incidents as woman do not need to spend their days searching for firewood.  

activists … nationwide … have raised money for a project that addresses the rape, mutilation, and murder of Darfuri women – now among at least 2 million Sudanese displaced by the conflict. The aim: Supply families with solar cookers and teach women in refugee camps new cooking skills so they don’t have to burn wood.

Solar cooking is effective.  In your backyard, in Indian military units, and in refugee camps.

Solar cooking is being Energy Smart!

SOME SOLAR COOOKING ORGANIZATIONS / OPTIONS

Within their website is Solar Cooking Archive, a major resource, with many (MANY) links.

  • Solar Household Energy, Inc:  A non-profit that ” seeks to harness free enterprise to introduce solar cooking where it can improve quality of life and relieve stress on the environment.”  They have developed an excellent system, the HotPot, which they are seeking to spread throughout the developing world. (Americans can buy a HotPot via SunOven.ORG — $99.95.)
  • Sun Ovens International, dedicated to “Saving Lives by Preserving Forests Around the World”.  Has a very large system Village Sun Oven(Villager Sun Oven) “designed for large-scale feeding situations that require cooking great volumes of food quickly.”  This can hit 500+ F cooking temperatures.  For Americans, there is the quite excellent Sun Oven, which folds wonderfully and can be easily moved around for barbecueing, traveling or otherwise. Want to cook a 15 lb Turkey while camping, the Sun Oven can do the trick without any campfire.
  • Tulsi Hybrid Oven is a combo electric, solar cooking system that enables one to plan a meal, even amid cloudy weather. The claim is roughly a 75% reduction in electricity use. This is a system that can cook at home, be taken on picnics, or support an off-grid life.  A recent review of solar cooking options gave the Tulsi five stars.

Although it is portable, hybrid stovethe Hybrid Solar Oven is a little too heavy to carry up into the woods. But if you don’t want to be sitting hungry wishing the clouds would go away, this solar oven is the best bet you can make. It uses the sun when rays are available, and switches to electric power from a normal 120V outlet when clouds move in.

Well, if you want to spend just a few dollars to build one and test it out, check out
How to Build A Solar Cooker. There are many easy to execute plans, many of which should cost just a few dollars to make.  (And, well, some are a bit fancier.  Check out the Cob (photo show) and imagine it finished with tiles, would make a pretty fancy backyard barbecue, no?)Now, back to the Solar Cooking Demonstration.

I went today. It was great. Got a chance to seek lots of different cookers, talk to dedicated people, and taste some great food — all cooked solely with the sun’s rays.

And, in the coming months, I’ll have the chance to be cooking with many of these systems myself and come back to let you know whether I master the art of cooking with the sun.

Ask yourself:  Are you doing
your part to
ENERGIZE AMERICA?

Are you ready to do your part?

Your voice can … and will make a difference.

Be ready to speak.

Tags: solar cooking

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Design for the other 90% … « Energy Smart // Sep 18, 2007 at 5:49 pm

    [...] fires kill two million children a year from inhaling smoke?  How many could be saved with more solar ovens? And, well, not that those From Wood stoves are big culprits in climate change: Cooking stoves [...]

  • 2 Solar Cooking at WIREC « Energy Smart // Mar 2, 2008 at 5:40 am

    [...] the moment?  A prayer for sun inside a conference room Monday, 3-5 pm, as some of the best in the solar cooking “industry” (is it right to call it an industy, I wonder) will combine for a presentation [...]

  • 3 Energy Cool: Spend a week WIRECing « Energy Smart // Mar 7, 2008 at 8:06 am

    [...] the moment?  A prayer for sun inside a conference room Monday, 3-5 pm, as some of the best in the solar cooking “industry” (is it right to call it an industy, I wonder) will combine for a presentation on [...]

  • 4 Lighting up the Developing World // May 8, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    [...] ever-more attention being given to Black Carbon, ’simple’ technology solutions like solar cookers and more efficient stoves have ever more appeal.  In the same realm of ’small’ can [...]

  • 5 Solar Cooking at the Farmers Market // Jun 7, 2010 at 5:37 am

    [...] 7th, 2010 · No Comments If embraced, solar cooking has the potential for providing a meaningful Silver BB in the fight to mitigate climate change, in [...]

  • 6 Stoveman … // Jun 27, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    [...] poverty reduction assistance. And, the effort should encompass integrated cooking that includes solar cooking, heat-retention cookers, water purification systems, and biomass stoves. This combination offers [...]

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