Siemens Stiftung: How hard was it to get support when you started your project? What would be your advice to someone with an idea but who doesn’t know how to make headway?
Roland: This was actually very difficult! Personally I would recommend trying to get support from industry, a sponsor or a VIP person who can promote your project. I’d also recommend getting advice from a lawyer and bookkeeper.
What was your motivation in working with solar energy products? Why does your concept concentrate on solar cooking?
Roland: My interest is based on Nature – Darwin, and science, mechanical engineering and social engagement… so it was a perfect match to create something in renewable, sustainable energy.
Solarcooking was an evolution from a much larger project in desalination (international patent) and thermal collectors with lenses and mirrors, using parabolic mirrors in these collectors gave me ideas…
Cooking with the radiation from sun is something that has existed for a long time. What is it that makes the concept of SuniCook unique?
The unique features of the SuniCook I would like to stress are the following:
- Assembly is very easy, it takes less than 25 minutes and can be done without tools!
- High performance: we reach 250°C central zone, +/- 650 W in our parabola of 1 m2 (clear sky).
- It can prepare meals for up to 10 persons.
- Very user-friendly with a sundial.
- Sustainable material with a lifetime of more than 5 years
- Safety: due to a deep parabola only, the inside heats up.
- Price NGO : fair and lower than competitive parabolas worldwide (110 €/SuniCook for >100 SC).
What impact does an invention such as the solar cooker have on a person’s daily life?
Roland: The project and SuniCook fits into the category of “Energy Solidarity”. It is therefore a benefit to the population, biodiversity, the climate and economy.As far as the social aspect is concerned, it works towards improving the health of local people in developing countries and getting children to school because they don’t have to spend valuable time gathering wood. Environmentally-speaking it works against deforestation and desert farming. This also means that it reduces the amount of C0² reduction.
You say that you combine the provision of technical equipment and expertise with projects on awareness and campaigns on energy issues and climate change. How important is it to follow this twofold strategy when attempting to create change?
Roland: This is dependent on our major goal of spreading the cookers, and therefore, solar cooking to whereever it really matters!
We want the device in our regions (North EU), energy savings in South EU and survival in developing countries: a fight against deforestation, desert farming and in West Africa 1/3 of their budget is spent on charcoal or fossil fuel.
As far as technical equipment and expertise goes, our slogan is “less is more”: The sunovens must be simple to install without tools or instructions, there are only a few images to show how it is built and I’m very proud that we managed this simplicity.
Awareness of climate change is really important because more than 2.6 billion people still cook on wood or charcoal (trash sometimes). With a rise in gas prices, many people are switching back to wood or charcoal. In rural areas there is hardly any wood to be found. Searching for wood is a job for the women and children. Especially for children, the time-consuming gathering of wood up to 6 hours each day leads to truancy and illitaracy.
There is also an impact on the environment with a reduction of about 1 ton of C0² per SuniCook per year. This is considerably more when using more of our cookers…
In what regions is your product used right now? Are you planning to expand your activities?
Roland: At this moment we are focusing on Senegal, Mali, Mauritania. However, due to our special improvements such as turning the position towards the sun, this cooker can also be used at the equator around the world.
The solar cooker is very robust and can even be carried around in a shoulder bag. Why is this a useful item and what benefits are there for individual mobility?
Roland: The total weight of our SuniCook is only +/- 9 kg (without cardboard box with dimensions: 120X49X15cm).
Therefore we see more opportunities in Eco Tourism, mobile homes, campings, socializing places, vintage shops, schools, youth movements …
Do you believe that groups such as the “empowering people. Network” can be beneficial to developmental work? How can you benefit from the Network personally?
Roland: The Siemens Stiftung Award is a great opportunity for our NGO because solarcooking should be part of a large vision finding the most efficient industrial and commercial synergies to combine the social and environmental mission with its basic economical dimension.