16 May 2008

Cameroon: Austrian Engineer Introduces Solar Cooker

So it was kind of a marvel on Friday, May 9, when people in Limbe tasted rice cooked with solar energy.The rice was cooked on a solar cooker designed, made and brought to Cameroon as a sample for future mass production by an Austrian electronic engineer, Hebert Maigreiter.

Maigreiter told The Post that bringing the solar energy cooker in Cameroon was based on the conviction that it could go a long way to help reduce the pressure exerted on the forest by those who rely on it for wood as fuel for cooking.

"The idea on this is manifold. On the one hand, you can tell people that protecting the environment is a worldwide issue. On the other, it will help people to save a lot of money that they would have had to spend on buying wood," the engineer said.

The sample solar cooker measures 60 cm in diameter and Maigreiter said it has the capacity of producing energy to the tune of 120 to 130 watts.The cooker is a kind of a basin-shaped apparatus equipped with solar energy conductors. The heat conducted from the sun then converges at a focal point and then beamed upwards to the bottom of the pot.

Maigreiter, who is presently in Cameroon, said he will be coming back at the approach of the dry season to produce more of the cookers. Given that the sample he presented to the Limbe public could only produce an amount of heat enough to cook small quantities of food, he said he would design cookers that can carry larger pots.

In terms of its capacity and cooking duration, he said, on a sunny day, the cooker can produce energy enough to last for seven to eight hours of cooking with a pot with a diameter of 30 cm and of a similar height.

Maigreiter said the daily cutting down of trees for fuel could drastically be reduced with the use of solar energy. As to how much it would cost one to buy the cooker, he said it would cost an average of FCFA 100,000. But that he could as well design cheaper varieties. Besides, he said the cookers could last up to 15 or even 20 years if they are well maintained.

Though the technology can turn quite a good number of people away from the forest, it however, has the draw back that it can only be used during the dry season. Besides, the cooker must be placed directly under the sun in order for it to be able to have a steady supply of energy.

"Start cooking by one hour after sun rise and stop cooking by one hour before the sun sets," Maigreiter said.He, however, said it has the advantage that your food cannot get burned as would happen when cooking with energy from wood, electricity or gas. He added that the cooker can also be used for medical purposes.

"You can also use it to prepare water for medical use. You boil it up to kill germs and have it free from any infections," he said.As to the origin of this technology, Maigreiter said it has existed for centuries and presently it is widely used in South Africa, India and many countries in South America.

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