Solar Cooking

Most people to some extent are entrepreneurial by nature. In fact I have yet to meet the person who does not either enjoy making money or at least saving money. Solar cooking not only achieves …

Most people to some extent are entrepreneurial by nature. In fact I have yet to meet the person who does not either enjoy making money or at least saving money. Solar cooking not only achieves this naturally, but by the very nature of cooking with the sun perpetuates the concept of cooking without using electricity, and therein reinforcing the embedded opportunity cost saving.

There is an unavoidable initial cost of either purchasing a commercial solar cooker or purchasing the raw materials to construct your own solar cooker, but that is a once off cost that is easily recouped assuming you cook a reasonable proportion of your meals in a solar oven. A fun approach to this would be to cook the majority of your weekend meals in the solar oven when you are not under routine weekday time pressures associated with work and domestic time deadlines.

Whilst one will never become a millionaire in this fashion, it is still nonetheless exciting to realize that cooking with sun actually puts money back into your pocket and comes with the added bonus of an absolutely nil carbon footprint.

Solar cooking over the weekend using solar energy exclusively can also become a full family activity with even children getting involved, provided of course that there is appropriate supervision.

Budding solar chefs can sometimes underestimate the admittedly limited, but real inherent dangers associated with solar cooking. A solar oven left standing in full sunshine can develop extremely high internal temperatures and inexperienced users can inadvertently burn themselves by accidentally touching the internal reflective material of the cooker.
Similarly a parabolic reflector left unattended and uncovered in full sunshine can concentrate and reflect sunshine on to any form of wooden structure in close proximity to the reflector, thereby causing a fire.

If the ultimate business model is to have nil fixed costs and an entirely variable cost structure, than solar cooking and solar ovens have to be an excellent example, albeit on a small, domestic scale.

After all to cook for free with no associated electricity cost has to be the ultimate form of cheap solar and a no-brainer. Whist you admittedly do not have the same level of control and predictability that you do with a conventional oven or stove, you do have numerous benefits with solar cooking with a solar oven which include, but are not limited to the following:

Economical: No electricity is required first-and-for most. There is a once-off, small cost in acquiring the solar cooker and thereafter no overhead cost implications.

Skill: Most solar cookers are easy to use and do not require an advanced level of technical skill. A basic education on how to use the solar cooker is necessary and thereafter the user can use the cooker day in and day out on a regular basis.

Slow-cooking concept: The process dynamic is slow cooking. The food cooks properly over an extended time and due to the low thermal flux dynamic food does not burn. Despite the longer cooking times in comparison to conventional cooking, solar cooked foods retain and preserve the vitamin and nutrient content of the food as well as, or even better than foods cooked by conventional methods.

Wikipedia describes the advantages of slow cooking as being: ” Cheaper cuts of meat with connective tissue and lean muscle fibre are suitable for stewing, and tastier than stews using expensive cuts, as long slow cooking will soften the connective tissue without toughening the muscle. Slow cooking leaves the gelatinised tissue in the meat, so that it may be advantageous to start with a richer liquid. The low temperature of slow-cooking makes it impossible to burn food even if cooked too long…”

No fuel requirement: The raw material is sunshine which is abundant and free (although not necessarily always available). As a consequence there is no fuel requirement which reduces and potentially eliminates deforestation and related health disadvantages such as smoke-pollution.

No need to walk long distances to find and retrieve fuel, for example wood. It has been recently extrapolated that one solar cooker saves approximately the equivalent of 2 tons of trees per annum.

In terms of the macro environment greater reliance on sunshine and reduced reliance on burning fuel translates into a reduced greenhouse effect, reduced reliance on fossil fuels, an improved contribution to reducing global warming and a lower carbon footprint loading.

A further specific benefit of solar cooking is the reduction of black carbon emissions. Black carbon is a consequence of incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and biofuels and is particularly prevalent in Africa as a consequence of open fires. Black carbon emissions are postulated to be disproportionately detrimental to the greenhouse effect and particularly severe on human health.

Water sterilization and pasteurization: Water can be heated and pasteurized using a solar oven thereby sharply reducing the risk and occurrence of water-borne diseases such as cholera, enteritis and diarrhoea. In areas where communities live in close proximity to water the use of a solar still, be it a domestic model or a commercial model, can generate pure, uncontaminated water on a daily basis.

Portability: Certain of the makes of solar cookers, for example the box and panel solar cookers, are light weight and can be easily folded up into a compact unit and transported. In many instances the solar cookers weigh less than 11lbs (5 kg).

Longevity: Most commercial solar cookers are assembled and constructed from robust materials which if properly cleaned and maintained should last for an extended period of time. An additional benefit is that most cookers do not have a multiplicity of moving parts or interlinking components, hence minimal maintenance requirements.

Lee Elliott is an Author on Solar Cooking and related solar cooking activities. As an Author on the subject, he is at the forefront to provide solutions to information related to solar cooking and using solar cookers.