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SolSource uses the heat of the sun to cook your food

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June 18, 2013

Cooking on the SolSource solar-powered grill

Cooking on the SolSource solar-powered grill

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We've already seen the Solar Kettle, which uses heat from the sun to boil water. Now we have a product called SolSource that also harnesses the sun's heat, but instead of boiling water, it can cook anything you would put on a regular grill.

The team at One Earth Designs began working on this product with a group of nomads in the Himalayas. It went through 13 prototypes before it ultimately arrived at its final design.

SolSource looks much like a satellite dish. The user points the metallic surface towards the sun, and it reflects the heat back to the cooking surface, thus making it hot enough for cooking. The team claims it is able to cook a burger in about six minutes, which is about the same amount of time it would take on a charcoal or propane grill.

In addition to grilling burgers and other standard grill food, SolSource can be used to bake, fry and boil, which means that in the right weather conditions, it can be the primary cooking device for a household. An additional key fact pointed out by the designers is that SolSource doesn't create any emissions.

One Earth Designs is seeking funding for its solar-powered grill on Kickstarter. Backers looking to receive their own SolSource are required to make a pledge of US$249. The team plans to sell the grill at retail for $399, so getting it through Kickstarter makes for a pretty good deal.

The Kickstarter pitch video below provides more information and shows the SolSource grill in use.

Sources: One Earth Designs, Kickstarter

About the Author
Dave LeClair Dave is an avid follower of all things mobile, gaming, and any kind of new technology he can get his hands on. Ever since he first played an NES as a child, he's been an absolute tech and gaming junkie.   All articles by Dave LeClair
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15 Comments

Wonderful design...

Several decades ago there were a number of projects giving similar solar cookers to people in poor countries to help them to not turn their entire vegetation into cooking fuel.

They found out the hard way that people there like to eat in the evening.

Concentrator dishes ended up being used as washing basins and for other purposes.

BeWalt
18th June, 2013 @ 01:05 pm PDT

Can somebody tell me what is NEW about this? I don't see anything I haven't seen a few hundred times, starting from when I was a small child.

Don't misunderstand me. I think solar cooking, while it does have limitations, is a great idea. I just don't see what's new or different about this particular implementation, that wasn't available 30 years ago.

Anne Ominous
18th June, 2013 @ 02:37 pm PDT

Way to expensive.

Slowburn
18th June, 2013 @ 05:14 pm PDT

I think they have been reinventing the wheel! Efficient and clever, but ultimately doomed when the clouds roll in - or as one comment said: a pity some people want to eat in the evening (after travelling or working all day). They mention working with nomads, does it fold up small to easy carry? I also wonder why they dropped the last segment of dish in the final design. A lot of effort but cannot be used even close to 24/7 and not a lot at all in some months.

The Skud
18th June, 2013 @ 08:07 pm PDT

I doubt that people in poor country would spend half of their annual income to pay for a stove that is usable half of the time. When it’s cloudy, they go hungry? Beside, food cooking is messy, how it’s going to be keep clean? With water? But in Nepal mountains it’s consider a luxury to take a shower per month for most or the local population. Drinkable water is scarce; you think they are going to use it for cleaning the stove?

brickandfanal
19th June, 2013 @ 03:47 am PDT

I have to agree with most of the other posts. Too expensive. It looks very bulky so wouldn't be good for camping. If BeWalts comment is true then it's worthless for helping families in low income areas.

It's a neat concept though. If they at least make it portable it would be good for site camping.

VirtualGathis
19th June, 2013 @ 05:25 am PDT

Nothing new under the sun here!

Bigbrother Iswatchingu
19th June, 2013 @ 05:43 am PDT

The concept of a solar cooker has been proven. I sold them in my store 18 years ago for $35, compact/ weighing a few pounds. But if all you want is a "green" grill, you should build one, save a lot of money, and it would be cheaper, more efficient, just not mobile.

The SolSource is very poorly demonstrated/described here. What justifies its price? How is it superior to much cheaper ovens? Weight? Is it mobile? How does it do in gusting wind? Set up time? Capacity? Limits to one dish and maximum weight of kettle?

Were they thoughtless or afraid of being copied?

Don Duncan
19th June, 2013 @ 03:43 pm PDT

Hi everyone,

I'm Scot, one of the people behind this project. You all bring up very relevant and important questions, which are not in conflict with my own views. This article is a great intro to the product, but can't possibly answer every question you raise so I'll attempt to answer some of your questions here. I'd recommend you visit our website http://www.OneEarthDesigns.com for additional information, beyond what I describe below.

To begin with, solar cookers have been around ever since Archimedes! There have been hundreds of designs, at least. Sun shines around the world, enough so that if 1 hour of sunlight could be harnessed, it would power humanity for a year.

But, why aren't solar cookers around everywhere everyday? Cost, portability, durability, ability to cook local foods, safety, etc. have all been concerns. Many of these we have addressed in SolSource for Himalayan and US market users, and we've also field tested SolSource in more than a dozen countries - from India and Nepal to Mexico and Myanmar - with great success. What we've seen so far is that some small customizations will be necessary before it works perfectly for every place :)

We worked with Himalayan nomads and farmers for more than 3 years to create a design that works well for them; durable and can last for more than 10 years, according to accelerated weather testing; portable yet sturdy, you can stake it down for the wind but still carry it over one shoulder; can support pots up to 40 lbs in weight; sets up in less than 30min; etc. Nomads are using the product now and they are loving it. The reason we put it now on Kickstarter and look to expand is because we've received so much interest around the world for SolSource. As a small company, it's very hard for us to handle small orders, shipping, etc. plus with increased sales we can reach more people around the world who need it. The price listed here is what it costs to get the product to people in the US. Of course we don't want to make an expensive product that we pray will help people; we need your help to drive the cost down and provide cost offsetting so that people around the world who need it can access it! So, thank you in advance for your support!

Are we reinventing the wheel? I don't think so. Nomads in the Himalayas approached us to create SolSource because none of the other fuel options or solar cookers were working for them. We also imported every solar cooker we could find internationally, and none of them worked, either. They cost (without shipping) from $35 to $500 but they just didn't work for what people wanted them to do. They would fall apart in a few months; they weighed 200 lbs and weren't portable; or they would catch cooks' sleeves or houses on fire; and so on. These were some but not all of the points we addressed in creating SolSource. We wanted to create a solution that really works well, conveniently, and easily with no needs to sacrifice quality of life. In particular, the reflective material was an innovation that is 3D formable, highly reflective at over 90%, and very light weight. Someone asked why is there a panel missing, or a V-cut in the back? This is to allow easy access to the food without blocking the sun -- our users have found they really like this design aspect.

I could go on for many pages talking more about the features and functionality, but honestly, this is just the first step in creating a household power plant. My background is in engineering from MIT and my co-founder is a scientist from Harvard. From local Himalayan nomads to rocket scientists to design experts, we've brought in all the best minds we could find in the world to address the need for clean energy. Certainly this product alone will not work 100% of the time, right now. But, we found it is already saving 70% of fuel for the nomads using it, saving $50 in fuel per month on average. As one person mentioned, it would be surprising if people spent half of their income on fuel. Well, some people do! It's incredible, and wrong! If this product can save them money in 6-12 months and pay for itself, then everyone is being helped, including the planet! Just to note, we are also developing a thermal battery system so you can cook at night or the next day, as one person suggested. A solar concentrator alone is not perfect, but compared to other options, SolSource is something people all around the world have seemed to really like and enjoy. Do you have any ideas or skills you can contribute to help achieve more success? Up next we will deliver electricity generation, heat storage, water purification, and more!

Again, I think the questions and comments you have all raised are important ones that I would be skeptical of myself if I were in your shoes reading only the short description above. I've spent a lot of time thinking and working on this question, and my end goal is to successfully create a really useful product. If I haven't fully addressed your concern here, or you would like more information, I am happy to personally respond to you myself. You can find a Contact form on our website (mention my name in your request) or you can contact me by Facebook. I'd love for you to contribute to our work if you see there is a fit.

Thank you!

Scot

Scot Frank
19th June, 2013 @ 11:10 pm PDT

You might combine this solar cooker with a hot stone cooker. that way the stones could be heated in daylight, and used to cook or bake, 24/7. I have a hot stone cooker now, but the stone must be heated in the oven before use.

kellory
20th June, 2013 @ 04:09 am PDT

I have used the Sol Source in Washington DC, and I like it very much. In April 2013, popped popcorn for several hours on the Mall to demonstrate the power of a Sol Source on a partly cloudy day during an EPA Sustainability expo. The Washinton Post liked the Sol Source so much that they featured a photo of us using it in their Friday April 19 edition. Since I am the editor of the Solar Cooker Review, I don't promote any specific type of solar cooker and I don't sell them. I do test and rate a lot of solar cookers and I strongly believe that this zero emissions technology should be widely available in the developing world.

Here’s my response to the comments that solar cookers can't be used for the evening meal. Yes they can. There is a simple device, which you can make at home, called a retained heat cooker (google it). It can be made from a basket, a box or even a hole in the ground stuffed with straw, leaves, crumpled newspaper, old blankets, pillows, etc. If you cook a pot of food on a solar cooker or over a fire, and you don't want to eat it immediately, you can place the boiling pot of food in your retained heat cooker, surround it with at least six inches of the above described insulation, cover the container, come back several hours later, open it up and the food will still be steaming hot. Special forces guys use this technique when they're on field exercises and don't want to make a fire at night. Women in refugee camps do this and our great grandmothers did it all the time (they called it fireless cooking).

You can also boil water with a solar cooker, put it in a thermos and use it for hot coffee at night or the following morning.

Finally, here's my response to the comment that you can't solar cook 24/7 every day of the year with a solar cooker—so why have one. If you had no electricity or cooking gas, had to hike for miles to find wood (since you and your neighbors have already used up all the trees in the neighborhood) and then carry it home for your cooking fire several times a week, wouldn't you appreciate having a device that allowed you to significantly reduce your need to gather that wood? If you could have access to a device that would cook food and boil water for 6-8 hours per day, 8 to 10 months per year, wouldn’ you find that useful?

It makes no sense to cook over a wood fire during the day, when you can cook for free with sunshine.

Let's continue this discussion. Solar cooker technology is critical for the two billion people who still cook every day over open fires. In the U.S. it may someday also be critical for us. Take a look at some of the 'prepper' websites. These guys love solar cookers.

Patricia Mcardle
20th June, 2013 @ 04:11 am PDT

Scot Frank - it is interesting that you are using heat storage as a concept for the future. I wonder if you have looked into phase change materials that change at the 'slow' cooker temperature or around 70 deg celsius. Paraffin waxes would fit the bill for this type of system of storing heat and also regulating the temperature to a level high enough for slow cooking but not burning or drying out the food. No good for roasting of course but stews which require no watching while cooking it would be ideal.

fireflies
20th June, 2013 @ 05:09 am PDT

Years ago, when spinning aluminum for C band satellite dishes, My engineering department made a solar furnace just for fun.

With a vacuum cleaner hose attached to the center hole, we drew a sheet of Mylar onto the surface of the parabola held by contact cement. With a diameter of 10 feet, and a gain of about 40db, we weren't quite prepared for the results. A broom handle placed in the focal point would blacken and burst into flame within a few seconds. Having a solar heat source with that much power at ones disposal opened up the opportunity for a bunch of nerdy guys to explore the envelope of experimentation with many, "life as we know it", changing results. The company microwave oven fell into disfavor when it was discovered that a hot dog, thrust into the "savory sweet spot" would, in seconds, be a nice toasty brown and juicy inside. Over the next few weeks, we added quite a few enhancements, the best of which were tracking motors that kept it pointed directly at the sun.

I eventually put a stop to the experiment when, at a company picnic, the designated "chef du jour" emerged with a visually shocking, yet hilarious sunburn on exactly one half of his face. (I'm talking boiled Lobster red). I don't know what happened to that particular dish but I do have a couple more stored up in my airplane hangar waiting for the right moment. Thank you, Scot and company, for rekindling my interest. By the way, I don't think your price too high at all. Considering the cost of materials, labor and marketing, it is quite reasonable. All the best.

pickypilot
20th June, 2013 @ 06:20 am PDT

I think that the team has put in a huge amount of effort. I'm from South Africa and the majority of rural people still use firewood which they have to go for miles to collect.

This would be a great solution for a country like ours with huge amounts of sunlight daily.

Evan Frickel
20th June, 2013 @ 08:44 am PDT

Thanks, everyone, for your comments, feedback, and thoughts.

@fireflies: we have looked into this and we'd like to learn from your experience. Can you contact me directly by Facebook or my website, please?

@pickypilot: what a fun and exciting story! when the focal point is outside the concentrator horizon this can happen. Where are you located, I'd love to see what you've done? My team will be going on a road tour in July and it would be great to meet you.

@Evan: we've had a lot of interest from South Africa and hope to bring SolSource there. If you know of others who are interested, it would be useful to compile names.

Scot Frank
20th June, 2013 @ 07:09 pm PDT
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