Sun-Sourced Stove Cuts Pollution in Chinese Himalayas Sun-Sourced Stove Cuts Pollution in Chinese Himalayas

Sun-Sourced Stove Cuts Pollution in Chinese Himalayas

by Sarah Stankorb

March 6, 2013

Beijing’s blackout smog has been making global headlines, but in China, more than half a million people die each year due to indoor air pollution—often the result of wood-burning cookstoves. Felling trees for cooking has led to rampant deforestation and a way of life where scarcity of fuel, expense of coal and the unreliability of biofuel has left villagers fearful about their future options for cooking food and heating their homes.

For nomadic and agricultural communities in the Himalayan plateau, those difficult health and economic realities have been made easier with an engineering marvel that steals an idea from every kid who’s ever tried to start a fire with a mirror or magnifying glass. The SolSource, one product in a line of solar energy technologies developed by One Earth Designs, is a light-weight, portable cookstove that features five reflector panels that look something akin to a satellite dish with a pie piece-shaped sliver missing. 

Supported by a tripod frame, the dish can be turned 360 degrees and titled so the sun hits every panel. Rather than depending upon photovoltaic technology, the SolSource collects and concentrates light at a middling point in the dish, over which users can place a stove pot. The cook stands, safe from potential burns and bright light, in the cut-out, pie-piece shaped area. No electricity is used. As John B. Lindquist, One Earth Designs’ market development manager, explains it, “It’s just like a really powerful magnifying glass.”

In a pilot program last year, the Chinese government bought and distributed 800 SolSource S1 model cookstoves to nomadic villagers in the province of Qinghai, and is evaluating the impact of the stove on people’s lives. Though impact data is still being collected, early responses show dramatic changes in daily life. Women no longer have to spend hours each day collecting wood, coal, and dung to fuel their fires. Some are saving money. Others are spared law-breaking to find fuel. As Lindquist notes “in many cases they are actually having to steal the wood… [because] you can get fined for chopping down wood in many areas.”

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Sun-Sourced Stove Cuts Pollution in Chinese Himalayas