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Solar energy in the educational field with SOUL solar ovens (2006)

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The SOUL oven assembled, with summer and winter orientation.
Michael Götz directing one of the workshops.
Project sponsored by the subnation of Catalonia Government.
Members of the participating organizations with the ovens, showing the finished dishes just coming of the solar cooker.
A solar oven in a school, along with an explaining poster written by the students.

Food preparation with solar energy is one of the main tools of Terra Foundation to show renewable energies to the public. The long experience in this field and the organization of several related events like the Encuentro Solar (Solar Meeting) allowed for knowing many of the people involved in the design of solar ovens and cookers. With the aim of encouraging the use of solar energy amongst educational organizations, Terra Foundation spread kits to build solar ultra-light ovens designed by the Suisse expert Michael Götz . Two facts made the promotion of this solar technology amongst youth entities interesting: the need of handwork for the assembly and its great portability. The excellence of the design of these solar ovens and its usefulness to prepare a wide range of recipes make this solar ultra light oven a valuable pedagogic tool for schools and volunteering organizations in their trips or when they go camping. This project was carried out with an agreement with the Departament de Medi Ambient i Habitatge de la Generalitat de Catalunya (Environment and Housing Department of the Generalitat de Catalunya) that allowed to develop a very participative and interesting project with the objective of setting up 100 solar ovens to be used in public scheduled demonstration.

A great small self-built device

Michael Götz's solar ovens were named SOUL solar ovens (Solar Oven Ultra Light). The designer was contacted to prepare the material for 100 solar ovens that arrived in Barcelona in April. These solar ovens are usually sold as kits with pieces ready for assembly. The project wanted to take the opportunity of the action of assembly to give the participants an inside of how the oven works and make them value the quality of the materials. The materials of this oven are: aluminium, from reused printing sheets, for several parts including the cooking box and the lid that holds the reflector; FSC-certified wood for the body of the oven; sheep's wool as an insulation material, heat-resistant paint; glass to enhance the greenhouse effect inside the oven; and finally strong fabric for the exterior.

Learning through experimentation

The project was disseminated amongst youth association entities and the ones that take part in the Agenda 21 of Barcelona, such as environmental education organizations, centres of environmental information, etc. Between April and May, Terra Foundation and the entities that joined the project ran some workshops to build up the kits. The teams participating were very motivated and started to build their solar oven with their own tools and hands under the direction of Michael Götz and the members of Terra Foundation. The oven was distributed free of charge, but under some conditions such as to take part in the assembly and to assist with the finished oven to a practical demonstration. The workshops were very useful, since the participants were able to understand the reason for the selection of materials as well as the physical principles that make the solar oven work. The participants developed practical skills in making a DIY (do-it-yourself) project and they got to build their own machine to cook with the sun. A device made of quality and ecological materials. The participants committed then to take part in a meeting with all the solar ovens in the Festival Solar (Solar Festival) organized by Terra Foundation in September during the city's festivities.

The kit was presented with a handbook for the assembly and use of the oven, which includes the different steps to build the solar oven, but also how to make the best of the oven in sunny days. Finally, a selection of recipes and cooking tips gave some ideas of how to prepare different dishes.        

Objectives

- To promote solar technologies for cooking in the educational field (formal and not formal)

- To discover the principles of the greenhouse effect and to build a practical machine for solar cooking for use in educational entities.  

- To spread solar cooking and to facilitate an instrument for its practice in the activities of the entities.

 
A collective project well valued

Apart from the assembly workshop, the practical activities of training with the ovens were very interesting. There were two meetings to share the use of the solar ovens in public spaces, in the parks of Montjuïc, La Ciutadella, and the Forum in Barcelona). The participants brought their solar oven and the cooking ingredients to cook their recipes. In some aspects, the activity was also a show for the citizens that walked around these parks since there were many dishes being prepared. It was very enriching for the participants to see all the possibilities at the same time they received technical orientation to make the most of the ovens. While the ovens were working, the entities got to know each other a little better and to exchange experiences.

For the participants it was very enriching to see all the possibilities at the same time as they received technical orientation to make the most of the ovens. While the ovens did their job, the entities took the advantage of knowing each other better and to exchange experiences, at the same time that they had time for other activities. On the other hand, passers-by were caught by surprise with the display of coloured ovens on the grass, the smelling of delicious aromas, and they couldn't resist asking and becoming amazed by the experience. In those workshops not only people participating in the assembly were surprised. Some entities taking part were sceptical about the real efficiency of the ovens until they saw them working, yelling "This works!"

The success of this project has allowed the distribution of 100 portable solar ovens that are being used to show the cooking possibilities that the sun can offer and to transmit a new energy culture to the ones watching them working. This effort for the energetic culture of the renewable energies has been recognized with one of the five prizes "Premi Acció 21" that the Council of Barcelona awards every year.

You can see more images of the project here