PV cooking in Rwanda

Introduction and Mission

We are Beth, Ryan, Tom, and Mitsu and our goal is to explore the viability of introducing Photovoltaic cookers in communities like the Sunzu Village in Rwanda.

Name Number Email Major Year
Mitsu Smyth (858) 357-3581 mitsuyoshismyth@gmail.com Kinesiology 4th
Beth Hotchkiss (509) 570-6501 bhotchkiss4@gmail.com Civil Engineering 3rd
Ryan Hodgens (916) 218-2450 ryanhodgens@yahoo.com Business 3rd
Tom Smylie (415) 497-3360 tsmylie@gmail.com ANG 3rd

Pictured above: Ryan, Mitsu, and Beth checking out the competition (conventional solar cookers).

What is Photovoltaic cooking?

Photovoltaic energy can be used to cook food anywhere on the planet (as long as there is sunlight). It involves a cooking apparatus (in our case it is a 5 gallon drum, insulation, and an even larger barrel) and solar panels. The solar panels are used to generate enough electricity to heat up the cooking device and, in turn, be used to cook food. The idea behind PVE cooking is that it is safer than conventional methods and more sustainable. The sun is a giant ball of hot gas that is emitting immense amounts of energy that, if harnessed, can reduce our dependency on other fuel sources. Introducing solar cookers to the world is a small step forward toward a sustainable, safe, planet.

Why PV Cooking in Rwanda?

2.7 billion people around the world use biomass as their primary fuel for cooking food (www.worldenergyoutlook.org/resources/energydevelopment/). And, as it stands now, biomass is the primary fuel used for cooking in rural areas of Rwanda. Traditional cooking methods employ a stove created using a 3 stone ring and small pieces of wood to fuel a fire. Cooking in these areas is conducted indoors and the associated smoke is a major cause of health problems and soot deposition in homes. Along with health issues, deforestation and pollution are primary concerns when looking at the current situation of cooking in Rwanda. The introduction of photovoltaic cookers may have the potential to reduce smoke related health issues, combat deforestation, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions into the environment. Our group aims to look at the cultural aspect of introducing this technology and whether or not photovoltaic cookers can provide an effective solution for the issues mentioned.

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Current Situation

Video that illustrates the reality of indoor cooking:

Health Problems associated with the 3-stone Cooking System:
There are a myriad of health concerns that are associated with the inhalation of smoke from indoor cooking fires. For example, lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema are attributed to the smoke from traditional cooking methods. Usually, it is women and children who are most affected due to the traditional role of women cooking and children (especially daughters) helping them in the kitchen. They are at most risk for exposure to particulate matter that can cause sickness. Indoor cooking using a 3-stone system is equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes per day.
Source: WHO Indoor Air Pollution

One study by researches from UC Berkeley found a link between pneumonia and smoke from cooking fires. Kirk Smith, a professor at Berkley’s School if Public Health stated that this study “is critically important because it provides compelling evidence that reducing household woodsmoke exposure is a public health intervention that is likely on par with vaccinations and nutrition supplements for reducing severe pneumonia.” For more information about this study follow the link: Source

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This graph plots the number of pneumonia deaths in children ages 1 month to 5 years old against the Human Development Index (HDI). Source: Gapminder.org

Gapminder Analysis:
As the graph shows, the number of pneumonia deaths per 1,000 births slopes downward as countries become more developed. The countries with the highest number of pneumonia deaths in children are typically in Sub-Saharan Africa where indoor cooking is most prevalent. Household woodsmoke gives people more direct and intense contact with particulate matter. This has been linked to higher rates of pneumonia. Rwanda has a relatively high death rate for pneumonia in children ages 1 month to 5 years (14 per 1,000 births). We are honestly (and unfortunately) not very surprised by this because the use of indoor cooking is prevalent in Rwandan society. The country that is nearly off of the graph in terms of pneumonia deaths in children per 1,000 births is Afghanistan. After some research, it would appear that it is so obscenely high because of two reasons. 1. Indoor cooking is the predominant method of cooking in the country. 2. The winters are bitterly cold (much colder than they get in Africa). The two combine to create a perfect storm for pneumonia to terrorize the country. If indoor cooking/heating with fire was eliminated, the pneumonia death rate for children would be much lower.

An article from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill talks further about potential health hazards and potential solutions to improve indoor cooking: Health Concerns with Indoor Cooking

Deforestation in Rwanda:
Rwanda Deforestation Information
“As of 2010, approximately 17% of Rwanda remained forested”
The government plans to revive the forests in Rwanda. Their goal is to increase forest cover to 30% by 2020. While deforestation remains an issue in Rwanda, the government is taking some positive steps to preserve current forests and reverse the damage. Implementing cookers that reduce the need for wood could help aid this reforestation effort.

Economics of Wood Fires and the 3-stone Cooking System:
Wood Resource Cooking in Rwanda
“The traditional three-stone stove is the most common technology in the rural areas, with the Ministry of Energy reporting that it is used by about 96 percent of the rural population.”

Economically, it is not very efficient for Rwandans to grow Eucalyptus (the primary woodfuel in the country) as firewood. See table below. However, eucalyptus has an extremely cheap startup cost of $157 USD so poorer farmers can get involved. This is due to factories like Nyankoba Tea Factory incentivising farmers to grow the crop by raising the price of a stere (1m^3 of wood) to 1500 KSH and giving farmers free seedlings. However, these incentives have not worked exceptionally well because there is simply more money to be gained from other such as rice, cassava, and bananas. Although the majority of the country (96%) is using Eucalyptus as firewood, it is not the most economically sound venture. If solar cookers were to be introduced nationwide, farmers could generate more income per hectare by producing different crops.

In 2011, 62% of Rwandans make ~$1.25 or less a day and 82% make $2.00 a day or less. 78% of the labor force is in agriculture. With the solar cooker proposal, we would like to increase the amount of jobs available in the business services sector which amounts to less than .3% of the working force. Also, the solar cookers could potentially allow Rwandans to save money because they are no longer reliant on wood for stoves.

A brief look at the Rwandan Labor Market Profile:
Labor Profile

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Source: Rwandan Woodfuel Economics

Avenues of Innovation

What has been done already?:
Various groups have designed cook stoves to reduce the amount of smoke and increase efficiency. These stoves have been implemented in different countries with varying levels of success. The new designs offer a better stove but these stoves still require fuel to be burned and cannot eliminate the potential for indoor smoke 100%.

Here is on example of an efficient cook stove:
Community Driven Cooking Example: India

PV Cooking Solution Explained:
What we propose is a radically different approach using a fast growing technology: photovoltaic energy. By utilizing solar energy as the primary energy source and converting that into heat, the need for combustible fuel is nearly eliminated. This reduces the potential for indoor smoke and the resulting sicknesses that can arise from inhalation. Furthermore, the design of the PV cooker allows a small photovoltaic cell to create enough heat to thoroughly cook foods. This is achieved by insulation and makes the unit far more efficient than conventional solar cookers.

Currently, Cal Poly professor Pete Schwartz has been developing his own PV cooker at Cal Poly. For more information, check out the “Schwartz Photovoltaic Solar Cooking Video”!

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Pictured above: Here we have Pete’s PV prototype that can cook a chicken and vegetables thoroughly in 2 hours!

Economics of Pete’s PV Solar Cooker:
Currently, the prototype PV cooker that Pete Schwartz and his team at Cal Poly have made costs around $200 USD. This is a large financial cost to someone in Rwanda where the average yearly income is $644 USD (the cooker would cost almost 31% of yearly income or ~114 days of work). For a Rwandan, putting down $200may pose a problem because of the high relative cost and cheaper option to continue using firewood. Adopting the PV cooker would have to be shown as an investment because after the initial price there would be no more recurring costs. However, firewood is decently inexpensive in Rwanda at 1500 Ksh ($14.38 USD) per stere (1m^3 of Eucalyptus). Given that information, a family of 4 incurs a cost of about $~.15 USD a day. Given that the initial cost of Pete’s solar cooker is $200, the repayment period of the cooker would be approximately 3.65 years.

While this may seem like a doomed endeavor due to cost, there is speculation that the price of photovoltaic cells will decrease significantly in the next 5 years. The prototype is being designed with the future in mind and may have its costs driven down with better manufacturing and technological advances.

Business Plan for the Implementation of Solar Cookers:

  • Create a local enterprise that can source materials and build the cookers to meet the needs of the specific community
  • Create relationships with local suppliers to enhance the supply chain for needed materials
  • Expand into other communities by having a separate local business start up there
  • Finance the enterprise via microloans and other combinations of capital such as the carbon market

Please note that this business plan is by no means complete. Research will be needed in future quarters to modify and adjust the plan to make it appropriate.

Things to Consider:

  • Possible rejection of technology by Rwandans
  • Possibility that our assumption regarding the decrease of PV price over the next 5 years is incorrect
  • Carbon market is unpredictable
  • Storage of energy for night time cooking will require more investment and raise cost

Direction of the Project Now

Currently, we are looking to make contact with a group or person in a small village called Sunzu to establish a collaborative connection.
Sunzu Village Project
The intent would be to find someone who is passionate about this technology and its potential to impact the people of the community. The next phase would be educating this person about the PV cooker and developing it further with their input.
Pictured above: Sunzu Village in Rwanda
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Pictured above: Some happy children in the Sunzu Village in Rwanda
Stake Holder Analysis:

Stake Holder Interests at Stake Effect of Project on Interests (+,-,0) Stake holder Importance (?, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) Degree of Influence
(?, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
Men happier wives = happer husbands ? 2 3
Women cooking habits ? 5 5
empowerment ? 3 2
Businesses opportunity for startups + 2 2
Environmentalists clean Earth + 1 1
Hospitals health of patients + 1 1
NGO’s help local community ? ? ?
Pete opportunity for research + 3 5
Us opportunity for student learning + 1 3

Current Challenges:
The team has been experiencing communication difficulties. This has hindered the team’s ability to identify potential stakeholders in the project and thoroughly investigate all of the potential uses for this technology. As a consequence, the team’s Stake holder Analysis may not be representative of the project in the future. The team has been making some good efforts to contact different parties via email and Facebook. We hope that our efforts will eventually be successful.

I’d put my statement above the table of contacts.
Could you provide a reference for this claim?
very good, can you make this website a direct link?

WOW, what are those two countries at the top? That’s 5% !!! Please state these countries and offer a thought about why they are so high.

Somewhere early on, you should define what PVE cooking is. You can refer to my webpage and/or the youtube video that explains it, but there should be some statement about what it is.
…and how many people world wide?
Could you provide a reference for this claim?
very good, can you make this website a direct link?

These two web addresses, what are they? Please make a brief statement with a direct to the one above indicating that it is where the data come from. The one below should be an image? I don’t know what it is.
WOW, what are those two countries at the top? That’s 5% !!! Please state these countries and offer a thought about why they are so high.

These two web addresses, what are they? Please make a brief statement with a direct to the one above indicating that it is where the data come from. The one below should be an image? I don’t know what it is.

Who’s Pete? what’s a PV solar cooker? You can put direct links to my department website and to the video explaining the technology. I see you explain this below, but you need to at least say that you do explain it below, or put a brief statement about what it is above.

This is too low. I think you are quoting a projection to 2025. However, it’s important to note that we are exploring something that will be inexpensive int he future. You might just refer to the PVE Ghana site, providing their number. You should also consider that a PVE cooker will not replace ALL the firewood.

Very good website so far. Please make some changes – read the USAID document and incorporate a plan to work with people in Rwanda (or Uganda). Move all my comments in red to the very bottom of your website so I can refer to what I wrote, but the reader won’t be inconvenienced by my comments. Add a brief conclusion. Please add Statekholders analysis. At present, this would receive a “B+”, but should be an “A” as you finish up. Feel free to refer to the Ghana PVE site, and some of their findings, calculations and findings. Make websites direct links.