A trip to a local farmer's market yesterday introduced me to an innovative solar technology: Solar Ovens. Imagine my surprise when I saw one of these - about ten feet high - sitting on a cart next to a bakery stand. Inside the oven's glass door hung a temperature gauge reading 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and beneath that, a pan of puff pastry triangles browning. The oven itself looks like a gawky satellite dish.
The young bakers running the stand bought the solar oven and use it at their commercial bakery space in East Oakland, where the sun shines clear year round. (they have regular bakery ovens inside for rain and fog). The bakers also sell the home versions: $225 shipped for an appliance that folds up to the size of a small suitcase (or large microwave oven).
The technology was developed by a Rotary Club member in the Midwest interested in a project for developing countries; Sandia Laboratories in New Mexico helped refine the design.
One of the many benefits of the oven is to help reduce deforestation worldwide. People can use solar power for their cooking needs instead of stripping the countryside for fuel.
Here in California, a solar oven makes sense in many ways. We can use it in our sunny urban back yard at any time, or take it along if we happen to go camping. If a big earthquake knocks out our gas lines (or worse) we can still cook. With the price of natural gas going up, and the percentage of imported gas climbing, we may soon find solar cooking economically necessary. Furthermore, any technology that reduces the use of fossil fuel is a good thing.
Read the Sun Oven FAQ.
Bay Area readers who want to see the Solar Oven in action should go to the Friday Farmers' Market in Old Oakland. The Solar Bakery stand is right in the middle of Washington Street at 9th. They also sell at a farmer's market in San Jose on Sundays, at the La Rochelle Winery on Evergreen.