Student-built solar ovens arrived at the Lakota and Hopi communities this summer. Both communities run Renewable Energy Training centers and were very receptive to adopting solar ovens into their daily routine. The ovens help reduce the need for propane or electricity to cook with, and cooking outdoors helps keep indoor home temperatures cooler in the summer. Almost anything that can be baked or slow cooked, can be made in a solar oven. The ovens basically are insulated boxes with glass windows. A black metal floor absorbs the incoming solar radiation and conducts heat to the pot and food. The insulation keeps the heat in the box. A single reflector bounces more solar rays into the window and box, helping to increase temperature in the oven. The reflector lid also acts as protection for when the cooker is not in use.
The oven project originally was hatched in Sebastopol at the Solar Schoolhouse. Tor Allen, Director of Rahus Institute and Solar Schoolhouse, along with David Casey, Ecology Action and Math Teacher at Analy High School, worked together several years refining the basic design, while conducting community workshops and testing out the ovens. Marna Chamberlain, science teacher at Piedmont High School, decided to make solar oven building a class project after she built one herself at a Summer Institute for Educators hosted by Solar Schoolhouse. After grant writing and additional fundraising, the whole 9th grade class (~200 students) came together on two days in the Spring of 2014 to build ~ 50 ovens. Inspired by the Piedmont action, woodshop teacher Bear Begelman of Acalanes High School in Lafayette, decided to build another 40 ovens. Bear’s class built and sent a dozen ovens to Afghanistan via the Trust in Education organization. Running into to logistical challenges of delivery the rest of the ovens, Solar Schoolhouse stepped in to find new homes with new friends at the Lakota and Hopi communities.
Late in July, Henry Red Cloud hosted a solar electric training at the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Participants from many Native American communities throughout the west came together to learn about photovoltaic (solar electric) technology and to install additional solar capacity to the local radio station. In this setting, a dozen solar ovens arrived and were immediately put to use baking a variety of items. Several workshop participants went home with a solar oven to share with their own community.
Further south, in Northern Arizona, Jacobo Marcus was leading a Natural Building Course in the Hopi Community as part of Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture. The goal was to build a passive solar strawbale home, outfitted with a standalone photovoltaic system to supply electrical power. The passive solar knowledge taught in the class are the same basic ideas utilized in building a solar oven. A test unit sent early in the summer was immediately put to use, cooking something to eat everyday during the summer. At the end of August, 36 solar ovens were delivered and are being distributed throughout the community. The Hopi Food Coop will be sharing experiences among themselves using the solar oven going forward.
Super thanks to all that supported fundraising via Indiegogo earlier this summer, to help pay for adding glass to the ovens, testing, quality control, and for shipping the ovens!