Over the years, human civilization has evolved by leaps and bounds with the development of science and technology, and so are the types, techniques, fuels, and technologies of cooking. In the recent decades, the world has seen a significant transition in the form heat energy source for household cooking starting with the use of solid fuel (traditional biomass) to liquid fuel (kerosene) to gaseous fuel (LPG) to now most modern electricity as cooking fuel (electric resistive and induction-based cookstoves).
Solar PV cookstove is a workable modern cooking solution that fulfills the 5C criteria of Convenience, Control, Cost-effectiveness, Clean, and Compactness, that is, it provides convenience of indoor cooking, good control over cooking temperature, is cost-effective for users, and clean energy source, which has positive health and sustainability implications and is compact for installation and use, making it ideal in both urban and rural settings.
The transition towards more modern and clean cooking solutions is desirable and happening, however, the pace in terms of its reach to most of the rural households around the world remains slow, let alone it reaching to the last mile households. The statistics given below indicate the gravity of the situation:
The use of traditional biomass cookstoves causes incomplete combustion compounded with poor ventilation thus, exposing users to high levels of indoor air pollution and have severe adverse health impacts. Household air pollution, from burning kerosene and wood, harms women’s and children’s health. Each year, close to 4 million people die prematurely from illness attributable to household air pollution from inefficient cooking practices using polluting stoves paired with solid fuels and kerosene according to the World Health Organization.
This prototype cookstove developed under the is completely powered by 1 kW solar power and 7 kWh Battery capacity for operating during dark hours which can fulfill the daily cooking energy needs of a family of five members in a day, which ranges between 3 - 3.5 units. It has two – 1,000 W induction cooktops and 500 W resistive cooker. The energy requirement can be reduced to 10% further by using insulated vessels. It provides the convenience of cooking during non-sunshine hours as well as the solar energy could be stored in batteries, thus coping with an overarching challenge the solar cookers have faced since past many years. Also, its design could be customized to fulfill the entire cooking needs for different family sizes. The cookstove has demonstrated versatility in cooking all varieties of food items, matching the performance of LPG-based cooking including rice, roti, dal, milk, eggs, tea etc. It can facilitate various types of cooking including frying, boiling, griddling etc. This improved innovative cookstove would go a long way in reducing indoor air pollution and tackling high firewood consumption, thereby, improving the quality of millions of people, especially women and children, in rural areas.
This prototype won the “Solar Chulha Challenge 2018” organized by ONGC under Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas. The mandate of the challenge was to come up with an affordable, clean, efficient and reliable cooking prototype that could be further developed and made accessible to both rural and urban households. The solar PV cookstove won the first place and was awarded the prize money of INR. 10 lakhs by the Honorable Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Shri. Dharmendra Pradhan. With the further expected reduction, the cost of batteries and PV modules, the solar PV cookstove could become one of the most preferred cooking solutions in near future.
The prototype has already caught the attention of the academia and the policymakers. The first solar PV cookstove has been installed at the Governor’s House, Raj Bhavan in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh in the presence of the honorable Governor of the state, Shri. Ram Naik, on August 1, 2018. The demonstration of the cookstove received accolades and appreciation by the honorable governor as he quoted this development as “appreciable, clean, and cost-effective in long term”. The fact that this solar PV cooks stove is better and safe than any other induction and works equal to LPG, was esteemed by one and all.