Alternative Energy Club – Solar Cook Out

The sun's heat and light provides us with a sustainable and renewable alternative energy source. Solar cookers provide a way to direct and amplify the sun's energy to heat and prepare food.

In July the Alternative Energy Club gathered at Lyon's Park for a Solar Cook Out! Two club members, Jonathan and Bob, brought their home made cookers to the park for a solar cooking demo that was followed by a picnic feast. We had a bright and sunny day, which was great for cooking.

Jonathan and Patrick both cooked food in the specially designed Avalon solar oven (pictured left). It is made of a wooden frame with a Plexiglas window to face the sun and the inside is lined with Reflectix insulation. To increase cooking efficiency, Jonathan and Patrick used mason jars and cooking pans that had been spray painted black on the outside. In about 2 hours the food from this oven was hot, but not completely cooked. In three hours of bright sun, Patrick's Thai Coconut Vegetable Soup was ready to eat, and Jonathan's homegrown organic vegetables were tender and tasty. The rice, however, required even more time.

Bob showed up several hours into the cook out with an experiment he was hoping to try. First, Bob placed a car tire on the ground to create the the foundation of his sun oven. Next, he placed a non-reflective ceramic cooking pot inside the tire ring. On top, he placed a large piece of Plexiglas, which he weighted down with two hammers. After about an hour, the canned baked beans were warm enough to eat, proving that fancy equipment is not required for solar cooking.

To further emphasize the simplicity of solar heating, Patrick used a black mason jar filled with a half gallon of water for his solar hot water demo. After the jar sat in the sun for four hours the temperature of the water reached 120ºF. This exhibit was designed to illustrate how easily water can be heated for cooking, dish washing or showering. Based on a solar hot water heater concept from the early 1900's, it clearly shows that all that is needed to create hot water is the SUN!

Alternative energy technologies do exist and have for the last century. Taking advantage of earth friendly power only requires a little creativity and flexibility, and we have even been able to do it on a shoe string budget. Off-grid living is teaching us self reliance, challenging us to capture and transform the elemental forces of sun, water, and wind as many ways as we can. The key to our eco-friendly existence is found in our close relationship to the environment around us and our embrace of simplicity as a way of life.

Patrick and I plan to reduce our dependence on propane by building and using our own solar oven. Though it takes many hours to heat food with the sun, we are working on decreasing our propane bill and look forward to independence from fossil fuels.

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