In less than half an hour, 650 hungry boys will come flocking in for lunch. Raja, the head cook at the Ramakrishna Mission’s Students’ Home in Chennai, India, has everything under control.
The residential school takes in orphaned and destitute boys, and Raja cooks 120 kilos (265 pounds) of rice every meal to cater to their healthy appetites. It’s a job efficiently done, thanks to an innovative solar steam cooking system supported through a partnership between UNDP and India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.
In 2013, the 109-year-old charitable institution invested in a solar heating system that could fuel its kitchens, replacing fossil fuel with a clean, alternative source of energy captured from the sun.
Started in 2012 and financed by the Global Environment Facility, the project promotes the use of concentrated solar heating technology in a range of industries, commercial establishments, religious, and philanthropic institutions. It aims to promote and develop a viable and strong market for solar concentrators in order to reduce or replace the use of conventional fuels that degrade the environment.
Solar powered cooking systems such as those installed at the R.K. Mission are feeding more than 10 million people. Over the last two years, the rate of installation of solar concentrated heating systems has more than doubled in the country. Since 2012, 10,469 square metres of systems have been installed, saving 5.982 million units of electricity (equivalent to 645 tonnes of fuel oil) and reducing CO2 emissions by 2,976 tonnes per year.
The ARUN®100 system installed at the Mission is cleverly designed to capture the maximum heat from the sun and use it to continuously turn water into steam, which is piped to an accumulator and from there to the kitchen. The accumulator is a key innovation here, allowing for unused steam to be stored in a large insulated storage tank as high pressured hot water.
The innovation in solar technology means that not only is cooking quicker, thanks to the continuous supply of steam at constant optimum pressure, but that heat is available for cooking at any time, important for institutions like the Mission, which provides up to 3,000 meals each day. It’s a technology that also has proved invaluable in other ways, halving the consumption of liquefied petroleum gas and reducing expenditure by about US$ 8,000 every year.
ARUN®100 functions silently, spews neither noxious diesel fumes nor choking smoke, and takes up little space. The peak delivery of 540 kg of steam/day with 165 kg steam storage capacity makes it ideal for use in community cooking. Maintenance is simple, and web-based data logging equipment installed through a grant from the project helps remote monitoring of energy generated. Computerized monitoring of parameters helps ensure the systems run optimally and safety features guarantee risk-free operation.“We’re fully satisfied,” says Brother Chandrasekaran, in charge of the project at the Mission. “We have considerably reduced dependence on fossil fuels and there’s no pollution. ”Swami Satyajnanananda, Students’ Home Secretary, also notes the awareness-raising benefits: “We have been able to expose our young students to environment-friendly technology, something very important for the future of the world.
”To help overcome existing barriers in awareness and to promote the use of solar concentrators, the project has held 40 awareness workshops for 900 participants in different states, placed advertisements in dailies, supported the publication of recurrent magazines and newsletters (Insolthermal Times; Sun Focus), and launched a dedicated website (www.cshindia.in).The UNDP and Government of India partnership is providing support to institutions such as the RK Mission Home to encourage wider use of the technology, which has proved immensely popular for community cooking. Over the next three years, the project aims to install 45,000 square metres of concentrated solar technology based systems across India, saving 39,200 tonnes of CO2 emissions and 3.15 million litres of fuel oil each year.