Volume 31 - October 24, 2011 - Noteworthy Information

A Bright Alternative: Austro-Indian Solar Cooking Initiatives

bridges vol. 25, April 2010 / Feature Article

By Simone Pötscher

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For centuries, humankind has worshipped the sun, but today we also harness it for energy. In India, the transition from worshipping Surya to also using its power for cooking was brought along by the technical expertise of Austrian physicist Wolfgang Scheffler, when he introduced his improved parabolic concentrator solar cooking concept to Deepak and Shirin Gadhia in 1994. Together with this Indian (solar) power couple, an amazing success story began, showing how technology transfer paired with hard work on the ground can improve the lives of many in rural India. A project that started by providing single solar cookers more than a decade ago led to the 2009 opening of the world's largest solar steam cooking system at the Shirdi Sai Baba Shrine, Maharashtra, where this environmentally friendly technology now cooks food for up to 50,000 people per day.

The dangers associated with daily meal preparation

1_kitchen_small.jpgSmoke and sooth development caused by cooking with fire wood.

Women cooking on mud stoves fueled by burning wood, dung, or crop residue, is common among three-quarters of the population in India, and some 2 billion people around the world, mainly in developing countries. According to the World Health Organization, 400,000 of India's population dies prematurely every year due to effects of biomass fuel used in households. Exposure to smoke and poisonous fumes from burning biomass in poorly ventilated homes is a major cause of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases in women and children. In addition to its devastating effects on health, using traditional cookstoves for meal preparation also has a negative impact on the environment: In India, one major contributor to deforestation is the use of brush, branches, and trees for firewood. "We are currently using about three kilos of wood per person every day, which is a major problem," states Deepak Gadhia, founder of Gadhia Solar Energy Systems Pvt. Ltd., one of the leading manufacturers of solar systems in India.

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