Solar Cookers

A speeding bullet shot from a firearm travels towards you at somewhere between 1000 to 3000 feet per second. If we blink 20-30 times per minute, that equates to roughly once every two seconds. Hopefully a person standing within 1000 feet of you is off target, because the bullet will be long gone by the time we are finished blinking. A similary impressive speed is the relative speed of sunshine.

Despite the fact that the sun is 93 million miles away from the earth, it takes a ray of sunshine just 8 minutes to reach earth from the surface of the sun (remarkably it takes the formative photon a million years to travel from the core of the sun to the surface of the sun). One of the most effective methods of capturing the sun, is using a simple solar (sun) cooker to exploit the concept of passive solar energy.

Passive solar energy is described in Wikipedia as “Passive solar technologies are means of using sunlight for useful energy without use of active mechanical systems (as contrasted to active solar). Such technologies convert sunlight into usable heat…Passive solar technologies include direct and indirect solar gain for space heating, solar water heating systems based on the thermosiphon or geyser pump, use of thermal mass and phase-change materials for slowing indoor air temperature swings, solar cookers, the solar chimney for enhancing natural ventilation, and earth sheltering”.

Cooking with the using a variety of possible solar cookers remains one of the most antiquated yet most effective forms of free sunshine energy capture known to humanity. Not only is the technique relatively simple, it is also remarkably inexpensive and simply requires an aspirant sun cook to either borrow, build or buy a solar cooker.

Talking about aspirant sun cooks although I never have read any specific mention about solar cooking when reading about the trials and tribulations of the indomitable Huckleberry Finn, I always summarized that he knew a thing or two about solar cookers. Maybe it was the curious company he kept, from his lifetime friend Tom Sawyer, to his new-found, surreptitious companion Jim, the runaway slave, or just the assortment of odd people who constantly popped in and out of his life.

Either way, in my mind’s eye, I could just imagine Tom and Huck catching and skinning catfish, and with gay abandon tossing these huge fish over their shoulders and trudging nonchalantly up to the regular Trading Store to barter and procure the necessary material to construct a sun cooker. After all what better way to end one their many frenetic days than eating a well-cooked solar meal out of their solar cooker, from the deck of their raft, of course!

Hillary Rodham Clinton in a speech at Cleantech Venture Forum VIII, on Oct. 25, 2005 said “Clearly, we need more incentives to quickly increase the use of wind and solar power; they will cut costs, increase our energy independence and our national security and reduce the consequences of global warming.”

Whist Hillary Clinton did not mention sun cookers or solar cooking specifically, there can be no doubt that these domestic instruments fall clearly within this remit and have a very specific role to play, not only in the urban first world but as, if not more importantly, in the huge rural tracts that make up the global geographic environment, especially in those countries where sunshine is abundant.

Hopefully in the not too distant future, solar cooking will no longer be seen to be the exclusive domain of poor communities living in remote areas of Africa, alternatively some sort of weird, complex pastime to be pursued by passionate, wide-eyed vocal greenies. Hopefully solar cooking and solar cookers will become somewhat more visible, accepted and enjoyed by mainstream society. Hopefully.