Solar energy: it’s free and is always there

07 September 2012 | Article

More than half of the world's population currently relies on wood, charcoal or other biomass for daily cooking while the sun provides free fuel all the time. Have you noticed?

Solar cooking is a new topic for IUCN, but very relevant. Three billion people cook with wood and biomass around the world. Of course, this has many repercussions for the environment and people’s lives.

Dorothy Zbicz, from the US-based organisation Solar Household Energy explains what solar energy is about. “This is not photovoltaics, but energy taken directly from the sun, concentrated and used for cooking.” Her organisation together with Grupo Jaragua from the Dominican Republic, have submitted a motion to the IUCN Congrss on the use of solar energy.

Grupo Jaragua is using solar cooking in community centres in the Dominican Republic where collecting wood for chocolate production was threatening the habitat of endangered species. The message they want to convey to Congress participants is that many environmental problems can be addressed by solar cooking.

Solar cookers can bake, braise, stew and fry food. The three most common solar cooker designs are parabolic, box and panel cookers. Both organisations have projects in different parts of the world including Chad, Bolivia, China, and India.

“We would like the conservation community to become more aware of the potential of solar energy as a very clean solution, especially in stressed ecosystems, where collecting wood is causing a lot of damage,” said Zbicz.