Cooking and Baking With Solar Energy
You know that saying, “it’s so hot outside you can fry egg?” Well, with the proper equipment and the right amount of sunlight, you can. Restaurants, bakeries, and innovative cooks all over the world have been harnessing the power of the sun to cook a lot more than just eggs. Solar ovens and solar cookers, which capture sunlight and convert it into heat energy to cook food, are providing an low-cost and environmentally-friendly alternative to more conventional cooking methods requiring fire and/or electricity to produce heat.
Why Cook with Solar?
Utilizing solar energy has two very important advantages over wood, gas, and electricity-powered cooking methods. Firstly, it’s very economical. Because the sun’s energy is given to us 100% free to use, there are no recurring costs associated with using solar-powered cookery after the initial purchase. Secondly, but just as importantly, solar energy is a clean, sustainable source of energy that doesn’t release carbon dioxide or harmful smoke into the atmosphere––making it great choice for our earth and our lungs.
Let’s take a look at a few examples from around the world of resourceful people using the sun’s energy to prepare tasty food and make money:
Sunny Day Restaurant, United States
In October 2014, renowned Spanish-American chef Jose Andres debuted his solar-powered pop-up restaurant, Sunny Day, at the Life is Beautiful festival in Las Vegas, Nevada. The restaurant utilized solar cookers to cook vegetarian taco fillings during the day and clean-burning ethanol to cook after the sun went down. A passionate social activist and proponent of solar-powered cooking technologies, Andres was part of a disaster-relief team called Solar for Hope that distributed parabolic solar cookers in Haiti following the devastating earthquake that rocked the Caribbean nation in 2010.
Delicias del Sol, Villaseca, Chile
Necessity is truly the mother of invention, or, in this case, of ingenuity. Located in the arid Chilean desert, the town of Villaseca became the site of an extraordinary restaurant called Delicias del Sol that draws people from all over the world looking to enjoy a delicious, sun-cooked meal. With very little wood in the region to cook with, the villagers turned to harnessing the strong desert sun as a means of preparing food. Since its humble beginnings as a small eatery that could serve no more than 24 guests at a time, Delicias del Sol has expanded its capacity with 20 solar ovens capable of cooking up healthy, eco-friendly meals for up to 120 guests.
Imani Women’s Group, Msumarini, Kenya
In a rural village on the east coast of Kenya, a group of women have found a resourceful way to earn money to help support their families. Using a large box constructed out of wood, foil, and leather, the women of the Imani’s Women’s Group run a small but thriving bakery. The box, built by local carpenter, uses heat from the sun to bake cakes in about two hours without burning any wood or using any electricity. The group began the bakery in 2014 with the help of a German development group called Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevölkerung and sells their cupcakes in the village for 10 shillings (about 10 cents) each.