Jul 262012

In a recent post, we mentioned a video on the Global Post website about transport developments in Mexico City. Global Post has published another short video in the same series, that is equally interesting and valuable as a teaching resource:

My first experience of a solar-powered stove was during an environmental education workshop in the state of Michoacán some 25 years ago. I was underwhelmed by its performance, but the more modern (and much more efficient) designs featured in this video definitely merit a much closer look.

The video focuses on the work of Gregor Schäpers, a self-taught solar engineer, and his company Trinysol, that makes solar-powered stoves and boilers. The company, located in the village of El Sauz in the state of Hidalgo, a short distance north-east of Mexico City, is a good example of the development of appropriate technology.

One of Trinysol’s first projects was working with a women’s cooperative in the village of  San Andrés, who produce a sweet  syrup from green agave plants. The process involves hours of cooking, and therefore requires a large input of energy. Prior to the installation of Scheffler reflectors and solar-powered hotplates, the women relied on gas.

Solar reflectors, San Andrés.

Schäpers has since set up hundreds of solar-powered boilers, and dozens of solar stoves in the region. Some are designed for individual families; others are suitable for small-scale industrial use, for example to provide energy for bakeries (panaderias) or tortilla-making plants (tortillerias).

According to the figures offered in the video, it costs about 4,000 dollars to build and install heating for a panadería, but can save the owners up to 5,000 dollars a year in energy costs. The investment is therefore fully recouped within a year. The system should last for 30 years, so a solar-powered system represents a significant improvement to the economics of many small businesses, giving them the opportunity to expand or allocate more of their scarce resources elsewhere.

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