Ground breaking work in the solar cooking field is currently being carried out by Dr. Michael Grupp from Synopsis, a French-based renewable energy research and development NGO, in collaboration with the GTZ implemented Programme for Biomass Energy Conservation (ProBEC), based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Synopsis is developing a meter that will be installed in solar cookers and heat retention devices that can track actual use of the appliances in real time.

The use of solar cookers can provide a substantial reduction of green house gas (GHG) emissions caused by domestic cooking in developing countries. However, the acceptance of solar cookers has often been insufficient as well as hard to establish in a credible way – up to now, there was no reliable way to determine if solar cookers are actually used and to what extent. The “use-meter” will record the number of meal portions prepared on the solar cooker which, by comparison to baseline emissions, yields actual GHG reduction figures caused by the respective household. The avoided emissions can be sold via that voluantary carbon market and the money used to lower the price of the energy efficient appliance.

The Synopsis Use Meter (SUM) is a fully automatic device. In in its mass production stage, it will be a matchbox-sized, autonomous box integrated into the cooker case. Read-out can be either manual or automatic, for integration into reward schemes such as payback of the investment for the cooker acquisition or free (grid or PV) electricity.

The SUM meets the following functional requirements:

  • Determination of the quantity of food being cooked, the cooking temperature and the cooking time. The reading shows the number of “meal-portions” prepared in the solar cooker.
  • Qualitative monitoring of solar irradiance and precise crosschecks between parameters in order to make sure the cooker was actually exposed to and heated by the sun during the cooking process.

Synopsis carried most of the initial development cost of the meter but the GTZ implemented Programme for Biomass energy Conservation (ProBEC) is funding further work to make the meter a reality. “This could be the breakthrough that solar cooking has been waiting for” says Dr Michael Grupp, the brain behind the concept.


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