It’s not unusual in Bolivia for families to have a solar cooker (see pictures below). This is a great way to cook your food with free energy. There are lots of different ways to create solar cookers. There’s also lots of easy DIY ways to use solar energy to heat greenhouses, purify water and even dehydrate food. Solar cooking is not as easy or convenient as using a microwave, or even gas/electric stoves and ovens. It takes time to warm up and it cooks slower. Obviously it works best in areas that get strong sun for most of the year. You also have to aim the cooker at the sun and rotate it during the day as the sun moves through the sky.
Solar cookers are a great way to reduce your energy consumption on a household level, but is it really practical on a larger scale as a solution. I recently read about a restaurant in Chile that used only solar ovens to cook its food. They feed about 70 people a day this way. At World Hunger Relief the raggedy one would sometimes cook community lunch using a solar cooker and the Lorena stove (a low-tech efficient stove that uses wood for fuel) in about 3-4 hours. Not to mention the solar powered tacos coming to a corner near you.
The solar cooker is on the roof at our host family’s house in Cochabamba, Bolivia.
Cochabamba is a little higher in altitude and the sun is much stronger. You can’t tell in the picture but the contents of the pot are bubbling.