Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Solar Caravan

In 2011, Crosby Menzies and his crew of committed solar activists are embarking on their Solar Caravan, trying to create a solar revolution in Africa. Join them on their website and through this blog. By visiting individual homesteads and schools in Botswana, the caravan hopes to spark a groundswell of public interest in solar cooking. This may help alleviate some of Africa's dependence on firewood and charcoal, and could be financed in part through carbon trading and monitoring programs.

There is a fear that the initial cost of this technology and the inability of local people to upkeep it will limit it's impact, but there is ample evidence to suggest that when rural people are given options like solar power and solar cooking solutions which work better than the current technology, it can be become widely adopted.

Have a look at this New York Times article about the impact of a solar power panel on a rural home in Kenya.

Observe in this video an electrical photovoltaic panel that this family already had in operation. When the Solar Caravan arrived at the village, the people already had a clear understanding of the power of the sun and within an hour were using the solar cooker on their own.

"This is something we can use", said Halalia Batulo, 62, as she stirred the sizzling vegetables in the pan over the cooker, "How do we get more of them?".

Positive contributions to the future of sustainable technology like these cookers is what people within the industry call a "leap-frog" technology. Instead of first moving from wood to electricity, and then from there to solar cooking like current adopters in the west, people like Halalia and her family can leap-frog strait to solar cooking, reducing the need for coal-based electricity and forest use in rural communities in Africa, while improving their standard of living.

It would be interesting to perform a cost-benefit analysis of introducing low-cost solar cookers like these compared to large coal power plants and maintaining expensive electrical cookers in sunny places like southern Africa. At the moment, it's estimated that electrical cookers account for about 38% of the daily electrical load in nearby South Africa. This is a number that will only increase as urbanization and development increases.

During the day solar thermal cookers like the one highlighted here can boil water in five minutes, and would reduce the amount of electricity (and the greenhouse gases associated with them) nations use, virtually overnight.

To learn more about Solar Cooking and how you can help distribute these systems, visit these sites:

Solar Cookers International


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