When people think of solar energy, they often think of using it for the sake of replacing commonly-known sources of energy. However, did you know that solar energy can also be used for cooking? Solar ovens are increasingly popular as tools for cooking, and it’s possible that they could shape the future of the culinary industry and become mainstream in everyday cooking.

What are Solar Ovens?

Solar ovens are devices that gather sunlight and create heat to cook food without other fuel sources. They are also an affordable and sustainable cooking method that can be used in isolated communities and rural areas in the developing world. The solar energy that these ovens use is a clean, renewable source, which also helps prevent deforestation, fossil fuel usage, and greenhouse gas emissions.

Picture of a Solar Box Oven. Photo from: https://gosun.co/blogs/news/box-solar-oven-advantages-and-disadvantages 

There are three primary categories of solar ovens: box ovens, panel ovens, and parabolic ovens. Box ovens reflect sunlight directly into an enclosed container. Panel ovens create heat through strategically positioned surfaces and direct it to a separate container. Parabolic ovens use a curved surface to concentrate sunlight to a single point. Most ovens can be moved easily, set up anywhere with sunlight, and DIY versions can be made at a low cost.

Solar ovens gather sunlight and direct it into an enclosed surface, where the trapped heat gathers. The exact process varies depending on the design. However, all solar ovens require highly reflective materials (such as mirrors, polished metal, or aluminum foil) to be set at particular angles to gather light properly. Solar ovens also need to retain heat well by separating outside air from the air inside the cooking vessel. For example, box solar ovens often have a glass lid to allow sunlight into the oven and, in a process similar to the greenhouse effect, which retains heat inside.

Some of the benefits of solar ovens are that they can work without electricity. This makes them a great option for hurricane preparedness kits and situations when areas could be without power for an extended period of time. Since solar ovens do not require a fire, they are considered safer than burning wood or other materials. 

Even though there are obvious advantages with using solar ovens, there are also some disadvantages. While there are dual electric/solar ovens available, with an electric hot plate at the base for overcast days, most solar ovens will not function at night or when it is too cloudy. Additionally, just because the solar ovens use solar energy does not mean there are any risks. Parabolic solar ovens reaching intense temperatures frequently require close supervision. It is also important not to seal cooking jars too tightly or they could explode while in the oven. 

What impact could they have globally?

There are some businesses whose products center around using solar energy, such as GoSun. GoSun creates many solar-powered products including coolers and solar panels. They were founded in Cincinnati Ohio and they have worked with dozens of nonprofit organizations to provide discounted solar cookers and other solar products to those that need them most. Additionally, they also provided over 2,500 units at substantial discount to NGO’s throughout the U.S and the World.

Photo of Sun Ovens International’s All American Sun Oven. Photo from: https://www.sunoven.com/product/all-american-sun-oven/ 

Sun Ovens International is another company that creates solar ovens and other related products. They assist entrepreneurs to make and market their ovens in the country in which they will be used and in implementing projects to help orphanages to gain self-sufficiency through the sale of bakery goods sun-baked in these ovens. 

There are also smaller companies and businesses trying to implement solar cooking into their products. For instance, Kivu is India’s first gluten-free and vegan cookie brand that bakes their cookies using solar ovens. Dr. Minal, the founder of Kivu, hopes to spread the Kivu brand all across the world, and chose to use solar ovens to decrease the use of wood stoves, which can damage the eyes and lungs of people that use them over time. 

How can they be implemented in Canada and KW? 

Glenergy Solar Cooker. Photo taken from https://glenergy.ca/pages/glenergy-solar-cooker 

There are also other companies in Canada that create solar cooking products. For example, Glenergy created a solar cooker that concentrates sunlight and captures it as heat inside a glass vacuum tube. The food goes on a tray that slides into the tube, allowing it to cook meals without the use of fuel or electricity.  The user can control the temperature by adjusting the aim of the cooker, or by adjusting the optional reflector extensions. The humidity inside the cooker can also be controlled by adjusting the cooking tray. With a drastic increase in using solar ovens, it’s possible that they could be the future of how we cook in our daily lives. Could they become the absolute future of the culinary world, even in our daily use? Let us know what you think on social media by tagging us with @SustainableWat!

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