Although winter drought has detrimental effects on some parts of the world, it gives us the opportunity to be creative and explore solar technology. Solar cookers deliver a high quality energy solution at a low cost. They are ideal appliances to help households combat the increasingly dramatic affects of climate change by reducing carbon emissions themselves.
SunFire Solutions is one of Southern Africa’s most successful and longest running solar cooker manufacturing and distribution agencies, founded by Crosby Menzies in 2004. Menzies’ experience working in sales and marketing for the Wall Street Journal online in London (2001) motivated him to return to South Africa and learn about various aspects of sustainable development.
Menzies briefly founded and ran an African arts and crafts website and worked as a permaculture consultant before encountering bright shiny dishes that magically cook using only pure sunlight. They changed his life. Since then he has gone onto become a leading solar cooker expert in the region representing Africa in the Solar Cooker World Wide Network.
Integrated Cooking Solutions
SunFire promotes solar cooking as part of Integrated Cooking Solutions (ICS’s) which include solar cookers, fuel-efficient stoves and retained heat cookers or ‘SunBags’ Integrated Cooking Solutions deliver huge financial saving while simultaneously offering users some of the most environmentally friendly, carbon free cooking appliances on earth.
Menzies has the following motivations for using solar technology:
- each day the sun sends 10-15000 times more energy to earth than we currently use
- each year 2 billion tons of wood are ‘energetically utilized’ for cooking purposes
- fuel wood accounts for 15-18% of primary global energy consumption, more than nuclear and hydropower combined
- today, the majority of rural Africans suffers from increasing firewood shortages
- the first solar stove use was reported in June 1878
- the hottest solar cookers reach over 300° C and boil one litre of water in 4 minutes.
- an average family in Southern Africa can save 3000 litres of paraffin, 300 kg of liquid paraffin gas (LPG) or approximately 3 tons of firewood per year using a solar cooker
- there is an estimated 3.5 tons CO₂ reduction per solar stove per year (on an average 40% solar stove use per year).
Improving the lives of communities
SunFire’ services include assisting NGO’s, government departments and private sector role players such as conservation, rotary and health organisations to design and implement projects that improve the lives of communities throughout Sub-Saharan Africa using these state of the art cooking appliances.
‘Awareness of solar cooking has rapidly improved,’ Menzies said. ‘However, access remains a primary barrier keeping solar cookers beyond the reach of the majority of individuals and communities we would ideally like to reach.’
SunFire continues to explore new avenues to make ICS more readily available to an estimated 240 million Southern Africans living without access to basic energy services. ‘Southern Africa is the largest region on the planet without electricity. ‘Solar cooking is applicable to both electrified and un-electrified homes and is enjoyed by anyone who likes good food and lives in sunny climates.’
Actively halting deforestation
According to Crosby several generations have successfully lived in harmony with forests and the environment by using what we would call alternative energy. ‘Solar cooking, when included as part of integrated cooking solutions, can actively halt deforestation which is responsible for biodiversity loss. A landscape without trees is a very poor landscape indeed.’
‘Solar cookers also provide unrestricted access to clean drinking water. They can be assembled and disassembled within 20 minutes and used to cook everyday for at least the next 10 years. Why not consider including them in your projects today?’
According to Menzies the additional benefits of solar cookers are:
- save time by reducing women and children’s workloads (time that can be used for school)
- purify water when not needed for cooking
- keep cooking for 10 years free of charge once technology is installed
- eliminate indoor air pollution, (the 4th largest cause of death in Africa causing lung and eye diseases)
- save money – the poorest households spend use up to 25% of their monthly income just to meet monthly cooking fuel needs (this is still on the increase)
- protect our inherited environment by reducing fossil fuels’ affects on climate change
- halt deforestation and allow for reforestation programs
- sunlight cooks healthier food; just ask anyone who has tried
- reduce risk of fires and burns or children swallowing fuels like paraffin
- create a new industry with many job opportunities
- reduce national expenditure leaving South Africa to import fossil fuels
- can be financed through the carbon markets bringing income for investors.