Solar power initiative casts new light on sustainable energy

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Midrand - A Johannesburg-based company is harnessing the power of the sun giving communities and families the ability to cook, boil and even fry food at no expense to the environment.

Using carefully placed aluminum panels bolted together in a parabolic or half moon shape, Crosby Menzies, a solar cooker specialist, is through the "Sunfire 14" giving communities the ability to harness the heat of the sun to cook their food in a carbon emission free way.

Speaking to BuaNews at the National Climate Change Conference on Tuesday, Mr Menzies highlighted that solar cookers are a direct climate mitigation strategy that give off no carbon emissions and can be rolled out in mass to poor communities reducing significantly, if not totally, the need to cut down trees for firewood.

Mr Menzies first rolled out 80 solar cookers to rural communities in KwaZulu-Natal in 2007, and is currently in talks with the Limpopo and Mpumalanga local governments for the roll out of solar cookers to poor and poverty stricken communities.

Another successful project was undertaken in Zambia in March 2008, where Mr Menzies was approached by the Zambian government to assist many rural and poverty stricken communities in harnessing solar power.

In the typical South African sun, the solar cooker has the ability to boil 1 litre of water in 8 minutes, and can be used in instances in which outbreaks of waterborne diseases force communities to boil the water before consumption.

Mr Menzies highlighted that solar cookers could be used to boil water, among other things, particularly in Zimbabwe and the Limpopo where cholera outbreaks have been reported.

The solar cooker unit costs R2 000, while a smaller unit costs R1 500, he said.

Companies, he added, could sponsor or donate solar cookers to families and communities as part of corporate social responsibility programmes. He also appealed to government to come aboard in the roll out of solar cookers.

The solar cookers have a life span of between 7 to 10 years, as the aluminum panels are treated with an anti-corrosive and anti-rust agent, he said.

Energy Officer at the Department of Minerals and Energy, Lufuno Makwevho also told BuaNews the department is currently rolling out the Clean Development Mechanism Awareness Campaign which encourages businesses to minimise their carbon emissions in the production phase of their business.

"For example, there was a company that produced bricks, and instead of burning the bricks using coal, we got them to use natural gas.

"The department is also rolling out energy saving light bulbs, which reduces the country's reliance on Eskom, as Eskom uses coal to generate electricity," Mr Makwevho said.

Similarly, the City of Cape Town has, as part of its Integrated Metropolitan Environment Policy (IMEP), encouraged green building through the development of environmentally and socially sustainable building practices.