This optimistic initiative aims to kick off a global wave of solar entrepreneurship with free construction guides for building high-powered solar concentrators with local materials.
Most of the time, when we talk about solar energy, we're probably referring to solar photovoltaic (PV) technology, which produces electricity from the sun's rays, and which is rapidly becoming a cost-effective way of generating clean renewable energy.
In the developed world, installing a rooftop solar array can be a worthwhile investment with a good return, but for many other people around the world, not only is solar PV too expensive to be practical, and too complex to be able to build from local materials, but it's also generating energy in the form of electricity, which isn't nearly as useful as solar heat, or solar thermal energy, is to them in their daily lives.
By using the sun's energy directly as heat, instead of converting it to electricity, solar energy becomes much more accessible and practical for a bigger portion of of the world's population. Whether heat is used for cooking or food preservation, or for water distillation or to drive a steam engine, or for making biochar or pottery, most of the fuels for creating heat are either fossil fuels or wood, both of which are burned and create pollution, while also being either expensive (petroleum) or in short supply (trees) at the point of use.
A social enterprise based in Tampere, Finland, called Solar Fire Concentration Ltd (SFCO), wants to make solar thermal much more accessible to many more people around the world, under an audacious mission of eradicating energy poverty. The team at SFCO believes they have the answer to breaking through the barriers to grassroots solar, in the form of plans for solar concentrators which they say can be built onsite with materials that are already available around the world.
The Free The Sun campaign, which just launched yesterday, aims to raise at least $68,000 toward the production and dissemination of a series of construction guides for the solar concentrators, and to further develop other application-specific versions of solar thermal devices (such as coffee and cacao bean roasters). The GoSol solar concentrator designs have already been tested and operated in places such as India, Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, Mali, and other locations, but this campaign could help low-tech solar reach a critical mass of adoption around the world ("spontaneous viral deployment").
According to the GoSol site, their solar concentrator "combines scalability, usability, and power," while also being designed to be built with "the simplest of tools and materials available everywhere." The basic version is said to deliver a clean (and free) heat source equivalent to 2kW of power, which is enough to cook for up to 20 people at a time, as well as to drive other processes, such as dehydrating or pasteurizing foods. With access to an affordable and easy to use solar thermal device such as this, solar entrepreneurs can build a business around the sun's energy, either directly or as a component of an existing business (such as adding a solar drying or roasting aspect to a coffee or cacao business).
"Not only is the technology ready now to be built and used by millions of artisans and entrepreneurs, it’s also a crucial time to have impact on climate change and energy poverty." - Eva Wissenz, CEO
Learn more about GoSol's mission and crowdfunding campaign, and make a pledge if you like what you see, at the website.