Emily Pilloton

SUN-POWERED OVENS For China and Darfur

by , 07/11/07

Solar oven, sun powered oven, operation blessing, humanitarian design, green electronics, green appliances

Inhabitat believes that sustainable design isn’t just about what things are made of, but how they’re made, how they function, and whose lives they improve now and in the future. Operation Blessing, a non-profit committed to “breaking the cycle of suffering” has taken the age-old technique of harnessing the sun’s heat to cook food, and turned it into a viable design for off-the-grid, minimal-resource third-world demographics. In the Gansu Province of China, and soon in Darfur camps, the sun-powered parabolic solar oven allows the suffering and hungry to cleanly cook and boil water and without firewood, using only that always-renewable energy source: the sun. The oven’s design is also a great example of using ancient technologies in modern ways to address social problems.


The ovens are made of concrete and resemble a television satellite dish covered with reflective mirrors. They are easily pointed at the sun and the mirrors focus the energy on a cooking platform. It only takes minutes to achieve a cooking temperature, which will ignite a piece of paper held in front after only a few seconds. These ovens are easy and inexpensive to manufacture and can be used to cook and dehydrate foods for later consumption, and also to sanitize drinking water and medical equipment. Because the ovens use solar energy, there is no cost to operate them.

The technology is certainly nothing new- dating back to the ancient Greek philosopher Diocles, who invented the parabolic mirror (200 B.C.). In 1515, inventor/artist Leonardo da Vinci improved on the concept and invented a parabolic mirror device to concentrate heat and boil water for industrial use.

But the application is certainly ground-breaking. “In Gansu, like in many other poverty-stricken regions around the world, firewood is as precious as water,” said Operation Blessing president Bill Horan. “There are virtually no trees here, and so little rain, that the only bath most people take in their whole life is on their wedding day. These solar ovens are based on ancient technology and they are eco-friendly – a totally renewable energy source.”

+ Operation Blessing

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8 Comments

  1. Top Enviromental News &... November 7, 2007 at 8:03 am

    [...] read more | digg story [...]

  2. John August 17, 2007 at 2:17 pm

    Hey Patricia Meeks,

    What you’re looking at isn’t as much “PR” as it is the day-to-day work of an humanitarian org boasting 99.3% organizational efficiency.

    http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm/bay/search.summary/orgid/4265.htm

    Such federal grants assist humanitarian programs… not Pat Robertson, “Congressmen,” or alleged mismanagement more than 13 years in the past. You’re narrow and uninformed.

  3. Andrew July 13, 2007 at 5:52 pm

    What a coincidence that the problems in Dafur are supported by the Chinese… Funny.

  4. RK July 12, 2007 at 10:04 pm

    I just came back from Tibet where all of the “poor” Tibetans used solar power to boil water and heat food. The Chinese were able to pay for gas to cook. The first photo shows the “stove” in use in Tibet. That sucker gets hot.

  5. Patricia Meeks July 12, 2007 at 3:59 pm

    I shudder at this PR from “Blessings”. You might have missed the fact that The Faith-Based Initiative, courtesy of US taxpayers, just awarded Pat Robertson $14,000,000 for his “charity work”. While this may be a good product or a noble cause, I would never willing put a dime into any of his charities — they just land up filling the coffers of Congressmen, Obviously his tactics work — look at the size of his reward! Now, how many solar cookers can you buy for Darfur with $14,000,000 if you donate that money to a non-political charity.

  6. Ricardo Reis July 12, 2007 at 5:40 am

    One of the most innovative pionners of this type of technology was Padre Himalaya, a portuguese priest who developed and worked on solar furnaces. Unfortunately he was not backed up by goverment or industry and so we all lost with this… Check for instance

    http://madbookseller.blogspot.com/2007/04/father-himalaya.html

  7. john July 11, 2007 at 9:57 pm

    Operation Blessing was founded by Pat Robertson and has some unsavory history including an investigation by the Virginia Attorney General’s office which concluded that Operation Blessing “willfully induced contributions from the public through the use of misleading statements…”

  8. sunnyday July 11, 2007 at 3:50 pm

    You really should be writing about the hotpot: http://www.she-inc.org/

    Also that first picture shows irresponsible use of a solar oven, no eye protection.

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