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Solar panel on building roof framed with green tree at Colorado State University campus, Fort Collins.
Solar Cookers International sells the CooKit solar panel cooker for $39.00 USD online here. Panel-style solar cookers are the first solar cookers that are truly affordable to the world’s neediest. The CooKit is made of cardboard and foil shaped to reflect maximum sunlight onto a black cooking pot that converts sunlight into thermal (heat) energy.
Solar cooks frequently report that the money they save on cooking fuel purchases is used to for many essentials, such as extra food, school supplies, and medical care. Without having to gather wood or dung, breathe smoke, and tend a fire – all associated with traditional cooking – solar cooking is easy and safe for people with AIDS and other illnesses, the elderly, disabled and young orphans. Solar energy is free and abundant in many areas of Kenya, providing a safe, clean, healthy supplement to traditional fuels. Co-developers are Roger Bernard of France and Barbara Kerr of the USA, with work also by Ed Pejack, Jay Campbell, and Bev Blum of Solar Cookers International. 35-minute instruction video of how to build a CooKit solar cooker, how to use it, and why Girl Guides and Girl Scouts are teaching the technology in fuel-short countries around the world.
If you can't find a large flat piece of cardboard, consider building a Fun-Panel solar cooker instead or build one of the variations below.
Printing the plans to size This diagram shows angles and measurements for making a CooKit exactly as Solar Cookers International manufactures them. The process is to determine how much larger the measurements on the plan are compared to what is printed.
Print - this should print the details out in the "normal" plan size which is reduced from the full size plan. Find distance on the printout, such as the width (122 cm, or 48 in) and measure with a ruler. You can also download this PDF file to print out the full-size template on 25 pages of 8.5 x 11 in (standard US Letter size) paper.
To make clean straight folds in cardboard, first make a crease along the line with a blunt edge such as a spoon handle, then fold against a firm straight edge. Make the slots a little too small and narrow so that they fit snugly to hold up the front panel. TO COOK A NOONTIME MEAL orient cooker so that it faces to the southeast, approximately where the sun will be mid-morning.
TO COOK A EVENING MEAL orient cooker so that it faces to the southwest, approximately where the sun will be mid-afternoon. FOR ALL-DAY COOKING orient cooker so that it faces where the sun will be at noon or early afternoon. Raise or lower the front flap so there is a small shadow, no more than half its width, under it. On windy days, large stones or bricks can be placed on the edges of the CooKit, as well as under the front panel.
Glass bowls and pie pans can be used to raise the pot off of the bottom of the cooker (note that the pot would normally be enclosed in an oven cooking bag when using a panel cooker). Wietske Jongbloed created a simple frame to allow the use of normal plastic bags (instead of heat-resistant oven cooking bags).
Jose Albano created this frame to protect normal plastic bags (photo shows frame with bag removed). Stephen Harrigan found that discarded plastic phone cards, which are readily available in Africa, worked well to strengthen CooKits in their most vulnerable areas. To remedy the moisture problem inherent in a product made of cardboard, the Solar Cookers International East Africa Office and colleagues have added notebook binding tape, also readily available in large cities or capitals to seal steno notebooks for students.
Nikwax has been used to waterproof and increase the durability of CooKits, reportedly extending the life of a CooKit by 50%.
Friends of the Old (FOTO) staff members bind the edges of new CooKits to make them more durable in Katito, Lower Nyakach, Kenya. Solar Cookers International's standard CooKit calls for a lot of curves, which can be hard to make with a hand held blade.
Considering the placement and orientation of solar energy collectors is just as important as considering which type of solar panel is best to use in a given situation. The more sunlight that hits solar panels, the more electricity they are able to generate, saving homeowners more money.
The general rule for solar panel placement is that when located in the Northern Hemisphere, solar panels should face true south.
Depending on how solar collectors are being used, it may also be beneficial to have a slight tilt away from due south. When solar collectors are used for heating and lighting specifically - particularly in the form of fenestration such as windows - it is actually best to have these collectors facing somewhat east.
If the solar panel has a fixed tilt angle and will not be changed during the year, there are some disadvantages.
For latitudes greater than 50° a special assessment may be needed to determine the optimal positioning of the solar panel. Solar panels can also be adjusted twice a year to account for the different winter and summer Sun positions. Finally, there is an option to change the tilt of a solar panel for each of the four solar seasons.

Sustainability Base at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., is an example of technology transfer at its best and may lead to game-changing solutions here on Earth. NASA's Ames Research Center and Sustainable Silicon Valley (SSV), Santa Clara, Calif., are partnering to showcase game-changing solutions to regional and global sustainability.
Last fall, NASA and SSV invited researchers, inventors and companies to submit their creative solutions for competitive review by a panel of experts from academia, research, business and venture communities. Electrical power required for the building is more than offset by on-site photovoltaic solar panels and solid oxide fuel cell technology from a Bloom Energy Box, an example of repurposed NASA space technology. A water recovery system, derived from one that was originally designed for the International Space Station, filters water used to flush toilets and urinals.
The new green building's landscaping includes California native plants and non-invasive, draught-tolerant species. At the Showcase of Solutions, attendees can network with others who share their passion and entrepreneurial spirit for global sustainability. With all the virtual-world CFD simulations I see it's always a thrill to see real-world applications of a similar configuration. For the Caedium v3 release in October 2011 I performed a CFD simulation of the air flow around a solar array similar to the one I observed in Manchester. The old cotton mills were built to last and have aged well, going through various incarnations of cotton spinning and weaving, retail, office, and residential use. The latest power source on this Manchester mill is in the form of a solid-state photovoltaic panel array without a need for any fluid motion - bad news for fluid mechanics you'd think. The prefabricated wood FabLab house features a photovoltaic skin that is customized for Madrid’s unique solar resources.
The European Solar Decathlon, a counterpart to the U.S-based decathlon, challenges entrants to design homes for specific climates and resources.
In 1994, a volunteer group of engineers and solar cooks associated with Solar Cookers International developed and produced the CooKit, based on a design by French scientist Roger Bernard. A heat-resistant bag (or similar transparent cover) surrounds the pot, acting like a greenhouse by allowing sunlight to hit the pot and preventing heat from escaping. Coming about twenty years after the first efforts to replace open fires with improved cooking stoves, the CooKit uses no fuel at all. With careful use and storage, a CooKit can be used for two years, reducing fuelwood consumption by two tonnes. Extensive field tests in the USA and in many developing countries confirm its performance, convenience, low cost, acceptance, and adaptability to diverse needs. This is a handbook published by Solar Cookers International that includes detailed plans for building a CooKit solar panel cooker. It's yours for a donation of $20.00 (US) to the Girl Scout Solar Cooker Fund (postage included). Then the plan is enlarged so that it prints the actual size - where all displayed measurements match actual lengths. This time adjust the scaling to the percent calculated in the last step (619% based on the values shown in step 4). You can then trace this template onto cardboard to make a CooKit with the exact dimensions and angles as the model sold by SCI. Choose a limiting dimension and use this size in the calculations in Step 4 rather than the size shown on the plan.
Note that when solar cooking conditions are very good, you may be able to cook without the use of a plastic bag around the pot. For best results, solar cooking requires continuous, direct sunshine throughout the cooking period. Steven Jones found that raising the pot on a wire frame improved cooking in a panel cooker.
It's early use was in refugee camps in Chad as a result of a collaboration between Nikwax and TchadSolaire.
Juan Urrutia Sanz of the Manos Unidas organization in Spain writes that his group promotes a variation on the CooKit shape that is easier for many people to make at home. South is generally a beneficial direction as solar panels will receive direct light throughout the day. For example, it has been argued that solar panels used to provide electricity for a home should face slightly south-west.
Generally speaking, the best tilt angle for summer is the solar power latitude, times 0.93, minus 21 degrees.
In the northern hemisphere, change for summer on April 18th and on October 18th for the southern hemisphere.
Change for winter on October 7th for the northern hemisphere and September 4th for the southern hemisphere. As one of the greenest buildings in the federal government, it is capable of anticipating and reacting to changes in sunlight, temperature, wind, and occupancy and will be able to optimize its performance automatically, in real time, in response to internal and external changes.
The grass is a special hybrid hydroseed mix that requires no mowing and little maintenance. This happened recently with a visit to Manchester, New Hampshire where I saw a solar panel array on a renovated cotton mill. To keep up with the changing times and demands the mills have used various power sources, starting out with on-site water wheels and steam engines, then steam turbines via coal and nuclear power stations, and most recently with natural gas-powered turbines. One of our favorites so far is the FabLab House, a solar panel-covered passive building designed by a team from the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia – read on for an exclusive first look!

It is built on three legs and has space underneath for natural ventilation and a shaded patio. Elegant and deceptively simple looking, it is an affordable, effective and convenient solar cooker. MS Paint will now automatically enlarge the plans so that they roughly match the original plans cm for cm (or inch for inch).
Printers normally require a margin, so make sure you overlap one page with another and fold appropriately so that printed lines are continuous. Therefore, if you have a 110 cm (43 in) wide pice of material you would divide the measured width on the plan by 110 instead of 122 (48 in). A bottom cylinder is supported by wire frame while a transparent cover, made of the same plastic material, makes access to the food very easy. These can be laminated together using local cassava glue (cassava is grown all over Africa) to form stiff panels, thus avoiding the need to import thicker cardboard. However there is a difference between magnetic south and true south that must be considered. Although these panels are collecting more energy when they face due south, the problem is they are not making this energy at the hours that it is really needed. Essentially, the closer a solar panel is located to the equator the more the panel should be pointing straight up. It is simultaneously a workplace, a showcase for NASA technology and a living prototype for future buildings.
PST Thursday March 7, 2013 at Microsoft Research Silicon Valley, building 4, Mountain View, Calif.
The showcase will provide an opportunity to exhibit impactful ideas and proposed solutions to humanity's grand challenges that highlight the payoff from investing in space technology and the value of tech transfer. In all these modes of power generation the motion of a fluid (whether it be water, steam, or gas) is the primary means of generating power. The air flow over the solar panels generates lift and drag forces that if not accounted for could cause the panels to detach and result in serious damage or injury to anything in their path. FabLab also features smart energy and temperature-monitoring systems, a garden, and a rainwater collection system on its roof. Stay tuned — more Inhabitat coverage of the Madrid-based European Solar Decathlon is coming soon!
With a few hours of sunshine, the CooKit makes tasty meals for 5-6 people at gentle temperatures, cooking food and preserving nutrients without burning or drying out. Note that you can either build your own CooKit using the plans below or you can order a pre-built Cookit from Solar Cookers International.
Families can save scarce, expensive fuel for when they cannot solar cook and when economically capable, add other, higher cost cooking improvements such as modern biomass, smoke hoods, biogas, or liquefied petroleum gas. This means the image should be magnified 6.19 times (619%) to match the values in the plans. When not in use, it can be simply folded lengthwise into thirds or folded flat into a 33 centimeter (13 inch) square. Join the eleven panels together with [5 cm] 2 in strips of worn out dress or shirt (using the cassava glue).
Magnetic south is the "south" shown when a compass is used, and this south points to the Earth's south magnetic pole. If the panels were pointed slightly south-west, in the direction of the setting Sun, this would mean that the panels would produce more energy in the evening, which are the hours when electricity is most needed.
The closer the panel is to the poles, the more they should tilt towards the equator.[2] There are several options for determining the angle a solar collector should be set at based on how frequently the angle is changed. Clearly then there's still plenty of scope for fluid mechanics expertise to help with the next generation of power generation. A single CooKit of normal dimensions (see below) is not able to cook a pot of food large enough to feed a large family. When using two plastic bags, one inside the other, temperatures can increase up to 20 °Celsius (68 °F) over what is reached using a single bag (source: SCN).
Protect the perimeter of the 11 panels with more [5 cm] 2 in strips ([2.5 cm] 1 in front and 1 in back to stop delamination of the cardboard).
Solar panels, however, need to face solar or geographic south, which is the direction towards the south pole.[2] If the solar panel is located in the southern hemisphere, the panel should instead face in the direction of true north. Although their total production would be decreased, it would increase the amount of electricity available when it is needed most.
Ideally, the panel angle is changed four times a year along with the seasons to best collect sunlight.
For the northern hemisphere, the summer adjustment should be made on March 30th while the southern hemisphere adjusts on September 29th. If this is not an option, however, there are certain angles that can be chosen to ensure maximum sunlight collection at all times during the year. This is done by a "poster print" and most computer printers and image programs allow you to create a poster print.

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