Emission-free solar cooking

Posted on 27 August 2020.

Not only environmentally-friendly but also cheap and healthy, solar cooking is attracting more and more people wanting to reduce their environmental footprint and energy bills by exploring new environmentally-friendly options.

Grilling chicken skewers inside a large aluminum reflector or simmering fresh vegetables from the vegetable garden in a strange-looking oven on the terrace... That's what solar cooking looks like!

So what's the idea? It’s about converting the sun's rays into heat to cook a wide variety of foods. There are two main systems: parabolic solar cookers (also called solar barbecues) and solar ovens.

A solar barbecue is one of the most efficient techniques. It can be used like a conventional gas stove or an electric hob. Using mirrors, it concentrates the sun's rays on a single point, the hearth, where a pan, saucepan or other cooking utensil is placed.

Probably the best known model is the alSol 1.4, produced in Spain by Alsol. Easy to assemble and tough, the alSol stove is made with components that have been selected for their durability, such as its fully recyclable aluminum reflector.
Solar cookers, on the other hand, cook food slowly inside an insulated box, creating a greenhouse effect. Here, a reflector also helps to concentrate the sun's rays, but it is associated with a heat accumulation system.

The inside of the oven heats up slowly reaching a stable temperature of about 150°C in about 30 minutes. Cooking is certainly much slower than in a conventional oven, but just as efficient. One example is the Sun Oven, a classic solar oven developed in the USA in the early 1980s.

Nutrition with no emissions

These solar systems are emission-free cooking appliances that don’t emit CO2 because they don't burn fossil fuels. According to a study by the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (Ademe) published in 2017, if you were to use a gas cooker for one year it would produce nearly 38 kg of CO2. A family using a solar cooker can therefore hope to reduce not only its environmental footprint - especially since the sunshine is particularly generous in some countries, even excessive at certain times - but also its energy bill!

Another significant advantage is that the gentle solar cooking method also preserves food’s nutritional value.



A solution for Africa?

The impact of solar cooking can also be looked at in the context of developing countries. In sub-Saharan Africa for example, wood is the main source of energy. Households use wood and charcoal for cooking and heating, which is a factor in increasing deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions in some areas, and poses health risks to the population because of the harmful fumes it produces. Solar equipment, which is simple to install and inexpensive, could mitigate the problem.