The sun is our largest source of free energy, generating thousands of times more power each day than we can use in a year. We need to develop ways to collect that clean, renewable energy to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and lower the emission of greenhouse gases. One Earth Designs has made strides in that direction with SolSource, the most efficient solar cooker on the market today.
One Earth Designs and SolSource began in the Himalayas in 2007. Dr. Catlin Powers, while still an undergraduate, traveled to Qinghai in northwestern China to study climate change. She knew enough of the Tibetan language to be able to explain to the curious nomads who lived in the area that she was studying “smoke in the air.” They were still puzzled: The air was clear. Their tents were filled with smoke from cooking. Catlin found that the air in the tents in the sparsely populated rural area was 10 times more polluted than Beijing with the exhaust from its five million cars, fumes from the coal being burned in outlying regions, and the dust stirred up by new construction. She was determined to find a solution for the indoor air pollution, as well as the challenges the people were experiencing due to deforestation.
Catlin then met Scot Frank, a graduate of MIT who was teaching engineering at the University of Qinghai, concentrating on the concepts that his students could use immediately to improve life in their villages, such as installing wells, fixing tractors and building greenhouses. Catlin and Scot were like-minded in wanting to use the invaluable local knowledge combined with modern engineering and design principles to find clean energy solutions. The result was One Earth Designs, a nonprofit with a mission to help people live within an ecological balance that preserves our natural resources. The organization now includes an international and multidisciplinary team of scientists, practical thinkers and creative designers to effectuate these goals.
In Qinghai, Catlin and Scot initiated community projects that resulted in technology that resonated throughout the world. One such project is SolSource, solar-power cookers that cleared the tents in the Himalayas of those noxious fumes and now can be found in our backyards and at camp sites and beaches.
The curvature of the SolSource solar reflector (of durable and patented self-healing polymer) is the perfect design to capture the sunlight and direct it to the cookware, heating it up five times faster than charcoal, while the reflector itself remains cool. You can grill, fry, slow-cook, boil, saute, steam and pressure cook with the cookware you use every day, from a lightweight pan to a heavy Dutch over. The only requirement is that the cookware be rated for temperatures up to 550°F.
The SolSource was among the favorites at Bite Silicon Valley, a conference to call attention to the myriad possibilities when the food industry intersects with the tech industry. The solar-cooked tacos won rave reviews!
There are two styles of SolSource available. The SolSource Classic is for use in the backyard as a permanent installation, although the size and weight allow it to be moved when necessary. The SolSource Sport is portable. Fold it, put it into its compact carrier, and off you are to the beach, boat, park, campsite. Never has tailgating been such fun with such delicious food!
Catlin went on to receive her master’s and doctoral degrees in environmental health from Harvard University, where she now teaches in addition to her duties as CEO of One Earth Designs. Her research has resulted in two solar energy patents and twelve international innovation awards, including the US EPA’s Sustainable Design Award for SolSource.
One Earth Designs continues to work toward increasing access to clean air and water for everyone, providing clean and efficient energy to low-income communities, and helping Asia reduce its carbon emissions.
*UPDATE: SolSource Solar Cooker is no longer available. One Earth Public Benefit Corporation (doing business as One Earth Designs and seller of SolSource Solar Cookers) ceased operations as of January 1, 2020. Their non-profit branch will continue to carry out our global social impact mission through humanitarian projects and the continuing evolution of solar-thermal technologies alongside our partners worldwide.