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Solar Cookers International

Founded over thirty years ago, Solar Cookers International (SCI) is a nonprofit organisation dedicated to spreading solar cooking skills and awareness across the globe, with a particular focus on areas with a lot of sunshine and few sources of cooking fuel.


Tens of thousands of organisations and individuals all over the world have learnt about solar cooking through the work that SCI has done and, on this page, we’re going to take you through what solar cookers are and why they’re important.

How do solar cookers work?

A solar cooker is, as it sounds like, a device which uses the energy of the sun to cook or heat food materials. It can also be used to pasteurise drinking materials such as water. The cookers work according to the following principles:

  1. Concentrating solar rays: Solar cookers usually work by using a mirrored surface to concentrate sunlight into a small area which can then be used to cook. On a sunny day, baking temperatures of anywhere from 65°C to 400°C can be achieved.
  2. Converting light energy to heat: Sunlight is concentrated onto a receiver (a cooking pan) and the receiver converts it into heat energy. In order to maximise the efficiency of this conversion, materials that retain heat, such as matte black pots and pans, are used.
  3. Trapping heat: In order to reduce convection (heat transfer), which will allow heat to escape, solar cookers must isolate the air within the cookers. This is often done using a glass lid, which in turns also aids the absorption of light.

Several hundred types of solar cooker have been made by various manufacturers, and SCI’s own range of products for solar cooking and water pasteurisation is available for purchase on its website.

In practice, solar cookers can be used for oven or stovetop cooking in a similar way to how you would use a standard cooker, except in the more frequent need for the use of a lid. Food cooked in solar cookers must also be cut into smaller pieces than you would normally use when cooking in a traditional oven, as this will help it cook through faster.

Solar cookers offer a clean alternative to traditional cooking methodsUnlike traditional methods of cooking, solar cookers are 100% renewable, which we’re big fans of. You may not get enough sun in your area, however, for this to be a practical option. For more 100% renewable energy options available to you, see our guide.

Why do we need solar cookers?

Put simply, we need solar cookers because in some places solar energy is far more plentiful than standard cooking fuel (or the money needed to buy it). Since its establishment, SCI has helped over 30,000 families in eastern and southern Africa to cook using the energy of the sun.

This has freed countless women and children from the burden of having to travel for hours to gather firewood for cooking and carry it back to cook with. SCI’s work in spreading information and support around solar cooking is intended to make the process of feeding families in developing countries with hot climates cheaper and easier.

Let’s take a look at the specifics of what SCI does in this regard:

What exactly does Solar Cooking International do?

SCI spreads information about solar cookers in a number of ways, including:

  • Through its publications, which include an annual report and various newsletters.
  • Through its information exchange networks
  • By conducting research.
  • By offering technical assistance with solar cooking devices.
  • Through its acclaimed internet resource, the Solar Cookers World Network website.

SCI also aids other promoters of solar cooking with its advocacy on the subject to governmental and non-governmental organisations all over the world, as well as through its consultative status with the UN.

Want to play your part in promoting solar cooking?SCI welcome support from individuals and other organisations in carrying out its objectives. You can join it as a volunteer via its website or contact its team at scinfo@solarcookers.org with any inquiries you may have.

More about SCI

SCI was established in Sacramento, California in 1987 when Barbara Kerr and Sherry Cole, two women who had pioneered solar cooking since the 70s, partnered with other supporters (a total of 17 solar cooks) to form an organisation for the promotion and development of solar cookers.

After its establishment, SCI began hosting the Solar Cookers International Conference for a dialogue on solar cooking, sponsoring the first conference at the University of the Pacific in California. Later conferences were held in Costa Rica, in India and, most recently, in Granada, Spain.

The work of which SCI is most proud is its development of the CooKit, which was adapted from a French design and has been used by the organisation in many projects around the world.

It set up a production base for the CooKit in Nairobi, Kenya, from which it has been able to supply solar cooking projects in Nyakach and in the Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya; in Aisha refugee camp in Ethiopia; and in several communities across Zimbabwe.

SCI continues to conduct solar cooking projects in these areas, the most recent being Sunny Solutions, which sought to bring solar cooking skills and supplies to 6,000 residents of Nyakach through micro-enterprise run by small-scale entrepreneurs in the region.

Timeline

Here’s a timeline of significant events throughout SCI’s history, including some of its most significant achievements.

  • 1987 - Established in Sacramento, California.
  • 1992 - Hosts its first international solar cooking conference at the University of the Pacific in California.
  • 1994 - Hosts a second international conference at the University of Costa Rica.
  • 1995 - Begins managing solar cooking projects in Kenya and other African countries.
  • 1997 - Hosts a third international conference on solar cooking, this time at Coimbatore, India.
  • 2002 - Wins the Ashden Award for its aid work in Kenya.
  • 2006 - Wins the World Renewable Energy Award.
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