Thursday, April 14, 2011

solar peanuts

A brief interruption from solar lighting for some photos from my adventures with solar cookers yesterday...

I'm spending this month in Bangalore, working with Selco, arguably India's most successful (and certainly one of its oldest) small-scale solar lighting social enterprises. More on Selco later. But in the past few weeks here I've also had the chance to meet with a number of incredibly passionate, active Indian youth working on rural sustainability challenges. Ravi Theja Muthu fits this mold; at 20 years old, he's the founder of CLeaIN, the Climate Leaders India Network, a youth network working on a range of rural-focused climate solutions throughout Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

Yesterday Ravi and I headed out to Bysanvaripalle, a "smoke-free village" roughly 150 km outside of Bangalore. Andhra Pradesh's renewable energy agency (NEDCAP) and Deepak Gadhia of Gadhia Solar worked together to outfit the entire village with biogas plants and solar cookers.

We started out with a brief pit stop to deliver efficient wood-burning, smoke-free cookstoves to a neighboring village, RenumakulaPalli:

Then on to Bysanvaripalle. I had seen solar cookers before, but this was my first time seeing them in action! The technology is quite simple (basically, just sun reflectors) but it's astounding to see the sun's heat so easily harnessed to cook food. We arrive to a feast waiting for us on various solar cookers -- from Maggi noodles...

to a second course of lentils....

to carrot halwa for dessert....

and finally some roasted peanuts to top it off!

The local tailor also uses his solar cooker to heat up his iron!

Visiting Bysanvaripalle yesterday was inspiring. Yes, improving livelihoods and providing access to clean energy in Indian villages is a huge challenge. But some of the technology is incredibly simple, effective, and right at our fingertips. And I left with an endless supply of deliciously sour, sun-dried tamarinds!


  1. Love it! The iron in the solar cooker is especially great (though less delicious).

  2. Saw these in western China/"Tibetan autonomous Region". So simple. So do-able. And at high altitude, (14,000' +) REALLY powerful.

    You having fun?

    David Ropeik (

  3. They look cool! how long does it take to boil water?

  4. Depends on the brightness of the sunlight! If it's really shining, I bet water would boil in just a few minutes. We put some newspaper on one of them and it caught on fire immediately!

  5. this is a great start of the new era of no smoke cooking in rural India!!!

  6. Good products these are. For more solar energy driven products, go to for best prices. Had great experience there :)