By concentrating sunlight on a small area, this device can hit cooking temperatures in a matter of seconds, and it requires absolutely no fuel.
Although solar-generated electricity certainly has its place, and meets a specific need, it's just one way in which we can use the free energy that streams down on us from the sun, and unfortunately, it also seems way more desirable to our modern gadget-centric society than the simple method of using solar energy directly, through devices such as solar cookers, solar ovens, and solar water heaters. And that, to my way of thinking, is a bit of a bummer, because using direct solar energy is a lot more accessible, affordable, and eco-friendly than any solar gadget. However, we're a long way from the energy end-game, and there's still plenty of room for more of us to wise up to the power of solar in all of its many guises, whether we're talking about delivering low-carbon cooking and water purification in the developing world or providing additional heat and zero-fuel options to modern America.
One product, which Sami originally covered here on TreeHugger back in 2009, could be an excellent addition to just about any household (or business) located in areas with abundant direct sunlight. While the original SolSource was a 3-in-1 solar device, capable of not just cooking food, but also generating electricity and purifying water, the latest version (said to be the result of building and testing 54 prototypes) is a dedicated solar cooker that has the potential to bring solar home in a low-cost and effective manner.
The SolSource solar stove is said to heat up "five times faster than a charcoal grill, deliver a whopping 1,000 watts of power, and harness sunlight seven times more efficiently than an average photovoltaic solar panel," which puts it clearly in the realm of the practical and accessible, without having a huge eco-footprint. That's something which solar chargers are still trying to achieve - sure, they're practical, and available nearly everywhere now, but they also come with a significant footprint for the materials and manufacturing.
Here's a quick look at the SolSource:
"SolSource reflectors provide unparalleled performance. Light-weight, 3D formable, and self-healing, SolSource reflectors survive sandstorms while maintaining their 92% energy efficiency."
While the places where the SolSource stove can have the most impact are most likely to be in the developing world, especially where deforestation and indoor air pollution are major issues (or just air pollution, period), this solar device could also be a great backyard addition (replacing a charcoal grill, for example) or as an off-grid accessory.
At a basic price of $499 (or a bundled price of $569 with a grill pan and cover for the stove), it's not out of reach for many people, who probably wouldn't even blink an eye at the price of modern backyard BBQ grill. Granted, it's still not priced as attractively as an impulse buy, but considering that there are no additional fuel costs for the life of the device, it seems fairly priced to me. The only drawback, which is the same for most solar technology, is that direct sun is required. This means after-dark cookouts aren't possible, and cloudy and rainy weather will keep the stove out of commission until the weather changes.
Find out more about this solar cooker at One Earth Designs.