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A Report on deployment of Parabolic Community Solar Cookers, for Mid-Day-Meal Scheme in Rural Schools.

Submitted by Radha Kunke 25th September 2012 9:43

Summary

The objective of this project is to provide a clean and efficient substitute for fossil fuel based cooking solutions (like fuel wood and LPG) for the mid-day meals cooked in schools in the Ahmadnagar district. Being a zero emission solution, the solar cooker ensures a smoke-free environment for the cook. Currently, 23 solar cookers have been installed in Sangamner and Akole talukas of Ahmednagar district. A few of these cookers were installed at the beginning of 2011 and have given us almost a full year of data of their usage. The other cookers, also installed during the course of the year, have given us plenty of additional data to validate our findings. 


Dinner is served!

Methodology

The project was initiated in December 2010 by WOTR, and the following steps were undertaken during the execution of the project.

a) Technology selection: During 2010-11 WOTR worked extensively on selection of appropriate gadget for community solar cooking at schools. Many manufacturers were visited, existing users were interviewed, and interactions were had with many concerned working in solar cooking technologies. Different options under consideration were SK-14 dish cookers, Scheffler concentrators, SK-23 solar community dish cooker and PRINCE-40 solar community cookers. After a careful study of all options, it was decided to deploy PRINCE-40 solar concentrator for the pilot installation.

b) About the cooker: PRINCE-40, an approved technology by MNRE, is a square dish concentrator of 4 sqm aperture area. The unit is manually tracked and is available in a DIY (Do It Yourself) kit form. The cooker packs up in two small boxes and transportability is excellent. The design has won Innovation 2009 award by the Alumni association of IIT Bombay. The cooker is manually tracked every 20-30 minutes and has a special clutch to hold the reflector in any desired position. It has wheels which are used for tracking as well as shifting the cooker if needed.

c) Pilot project: First unit was deployed at ‘Shiswad’ village in Akole district of Sangamner in January 2011. The solar cooker was assembled by staff of WOTR. The unit was working well and was demonstrated to teachers of other schools. Few minor issues like use of galvanized nut bolts, washers, issues with better painting practice, provision of locking arrangement etc. were reported to the manufacturer and were taken care of in further supplies. 
Second unit with minor modifications as suggested was delivered and installed at Veldari hamlet of Pimpaldari village. Along with this process, an installation training camp was organized by WOTR where 7-8 of the field staff of WOTR and villagers were trained in the assembly process. Normal fixing time for one solar cooker is 3 hours for 3 people.

d) Project Scale up: After satisfactory performance of the solar cookers and acceptance of the technology by the end users, the project was scaled up and 21 more solar cookers were installed. 

Adaptation Options

During 2010-11 WOTR worked extensively on selection of appropriate gadgets for community solar cooking at schools. Many manufacturers were visited, existing users were interviewed, and interactions were had with many concerned working in solar cooking technologies. Different options under consideration were SK-14 dish cookers, Scheffler concentrators, SK-23 solar community dish cooker and PRINCE-40 solar community cookers. After a careful study of all options, it was decided to deploy PRINCE-40 solar concentrator for the pilot installation.

Key Messages

  • Saving in fuel – as the world debates on strategies to address issues such as depletion of fossil fuels and their growing costs, this project is a simple yet firm step towards making these schools self-reliant in terms of their energy needs.
  • Awareness of issues such as Renewable Energy and Environment – children from schools using solar cookers have gone home and discussed these with their parents.  There have been many instances of parents enquiring about these cookers, costs, sizes etc from the teachers.  Hundreds of school children see the food being cooked on solar cookers and eat the same food in their lunch. This brings in confidence in these students that technology is there, which works. We perceive this as one of our biggest gains to teach our future generation, by practicing green technology for their own use.
  • Reduction of CO2 and other green house gases – Schools have reported LPG saving of 15 to 25 kg per month. This is equivalent to saving of CO2 emission of 45 to 75 kg per month.
  • Economic benefits – Considering LPG saving as above, financial saving varies from Rs. 500 to Rs. 1000 at subsidized rate and Rs. 900 to Rs. 1600 per month at market rate. 

The use of parabolic solar cookers offers potential for reduced forest conversion due to less firewood gathering, and potentially, improved forest management, if it is well supported. The use of such practices can be regarded as a way to maintain the natural biodiversity of ecosystems to reduce their vulnerability to climate change indirectly and can be considered as a ‘no-regret’ measure due to the multiple benefits that the practice offers such as the potential to save time for other activities (as there would be reduced reliance on firewood), which would be especially relevant for women, and the potential to improve the health condition of many women. 

Lessons Learnt

WOTR is pleased with the initial response of the project.  There is definitely the opportunity to take this to a larger area as many schools in the vicinity of our project villages have been enquiring about these cookers.  We have received considerable interest from the local administration and district authorities.  The district collector of Ahmednagar, Dr. Sanjeev Kumar, highly appreciated the initiative after having personally seen a few of our project locations and has taken a keen interest in exploring possibilities of scaling up this project to a wider network of schools in the district.  Many of the ashram schools have also shown plenty of interest in this project.  Considering their firewood usage is more than 10 times that of a day school or aanganwaadi, the savings in terms of firewood can be huge if this is successful.