Nearly two-thirds of the world’s population does not have access to modern forms of energy. Close to three billion people across the globe use wood, coal or dung to cook their food. Solar cookers are a simple, proven and cheap solution to this problem.
You don't need to be an engineer to build a solar cooker. Most of the time, a piece of cardboard, a pair of scissors and some aluminum foil will do the trick. It’s simple and available to everyone. A cardboard box can be used to make a box cooker1 and a folded windshield shade can be turned into a curved concentrator (parabolic) cooker.2
Makeshift Yes, Gadget No
Solar cookers are easy to make. Fitted with concentrators and positioned to face the sun, they typically reach a temperature of 150°C. Food cooks slowly, but because solar energy is free and abundant, the cookers offer significant cost savings. They also provide other advantages:
- In addition to cooking food, they can sterilize water.
- They protect women’s health by reducing respiratory and eye diseases caused by exposure to smoke from burning wood, coalCoal is ranked by its degree of transformation or maturity, increasing in carbon content from... and dung.
- By eliminating the need to gather wood, a chore that can require long hours of walking, they make life easier for women.
- They prevent deforestation, desertification and carbon dioxide emissions. A single cooker can cut greenhouse gases by one ton per year.
Different Types of Solar Cookers
There are three basic models:
- Box solar cookers are equipped with a solar panelA collection of photovoltaic cells connected by wires and covered by glass or a plastic film that protects the cells in bad weather... that heats the pot.
- Panel cookers feature several flat panels that concentrate the sunlight.
- Curved concentrator cookers (parabolics) concentrate the sunlight on the center of the concentrator where the pot is placed.
Cooking time depends on the type of equipment used (parabolic reflectors are faster), the amount of available sunlight and the quantity of food to be cooked.
Various NGOs are dedicated to promoting solar cooking. Some organizations are involved in Africa, at refugee camps in Kenya and Chad, schools in Rwanda and villages in Burkina Faso, while others are supporting initiatives in India or among the Andean communities of Peru and Bolivia.